Thursday, July 14, 2016

Weekend to the Midlands

The Midlands is a short 90  minute drive from Durban. Perfect for a weekend away or even a daytrip.

My husband and I decided on a whim one Thursday evening to head to the Midlands for the weekend because I had an entire weekend off, which does not happen often.

Early the Saturday morning we jumped in the car, ready to explore. It was a cold and rainy weekend, perfect weather to head inland ! The Midlands is beautiful this time of the year with the orange/brown autumn leaves dominating the scenery. It was awesome to wear a winters coat for the first time in months because you rarely need it in Durban.

"We" (my husband) were on the hunt for craft beers so our first stop was at Bierfassl for "breakfast" aka beer tasting. Bierfassl is an Austrian/German  restaurant and pub established 15 years ago.  They offer over 35 craft beers from all over the world including local brews for Notthingham Road Brewery.

My husband enjoyed the tasting platter of Notthingham Road Brewery. It is six beers for R45.  He usually prefers the largers but the darker ales really impressed him. We were the only people in the restaurant but we were there rather early. It seems like a popular spot as the majority of the tables were reserved for lunch. We had breakfast here. It was fine but nothing exciting. I think to really enjoy their food you must go for the authentic German lunch which is only available from 12:00.

Enjoying the beer tasting


A breakfast burger and bacon pancakes topped with a cheese sauce

After enjoying the beers from the Nottingham Road Brewery we wanted to visit the source. About 2 km from Bierfassl  is the Nottingham Road Brewery company at Rawdons Estate. It is a small space with a shop where you can buy the beers, beer bread, beer cheese ect. It was a really cold day so we were not keen to stand on the deck and taste beer but if the weather behaves the deck outside the brewery can be a great place to sip on a few cold ones.

Outside Nottingham Road Brewery

Next to the brewery is the Boars Head pub which was very inviting with its roaring fireplaces. We stopped here for some wine and beer. The husband then also enjoyed some of the rugby that was on. (I was reminded often that it was a big weekend of sport : / )

The roaring fireplace was the best!

We were on the road again and passed by a variety of curios shops, deli's ect which is especially present on the Nottingham Road. I've visited the Midlands before and one of my highlights was the Blueberry Café so  naturally this was our next stop. It was after all tea time :)
It is a beautiful space surrounded by fields where the majestic nguni cattle roam. Adjacent to the restaurant is a small shop where you can browse and spend on stylish leather and wood items. The last time I visited we purchased beautiful nguni placemats.

Inside the cosy Blueberry Café

Just look at that uninterrupted view!

So in keeping with them name we wanted to indulge on blueberries so for "tea" we enjoyed blueberry cheesecake and scones served with a blueberry compote. The cheesecake was very sweet and if you know me,I can handle sweet stuff. The scones however were light and fluffy!

It was tea time and wine time somewhere in the world :)

Delectable treats!

Before you leave remember to visit the bathroom :). The scenery is definitely something special.
We headed towards our accommodation for the evening situated near Mooi rivier. I was very excited about where we were heading. Hartford House has been on my radar ever since they were featured on the Eat Out Top 10 list .

Hartford house was established 130 years ago. It situated on a prestige's horse farm. As soon as you enter the gate you will instantly feel relaxed. Pair that was great hospitality and beautiful comfortable rooms one night here will feel as if you spent a week. On arrival we enjoyed some MCC and the rest was history... let the weekend begin :)
Beautiful lounge area

Outside dining area

One of the pool suites

We booked in at one of the pool suites. It's a stand alone suite with a wood burning fire place, massive shower, bathroom and a lovely couch where I spent the entire afternoon lounging in the sun and finished my book. Check out their website for all the accommodation options and tariffs. Option range from rooms in the hotel to lakeside suites perfect for families or a group of friends.
Our lounge area

Beautiful bedroom

Where I spent most of my afternoon

If you can't stay at Hartford house visit them for a 2(R190) or 3(R270) course lunch or afternoon tea served at the Tijnhuis. It is a place you cant miss out on.
The Tijnhuis

Great to stroll trough the garden and see where they grow their produce they use for meals.

We saved ourselves for the 5 course dinner. When we checked in I saw the menu and this foodie could not contain herself with excitement.
We started off dinner with some MCC in the beautiful lounge. Then we were welcomed by Chef Constantijn Hahndiek who explained all the culinary treats that awaited us.

Nothing like a glass of MCC to start off the evevning

I was very intrigued by this menu because there were ingredients on it I have read about multiple times but have not had the opportunity to taste such as pak choi and black pudding. It really was a culinary experience where I learned so much.  Below is the 5 star menu

Artisanal bread served with butter and chicken liver pate
Butternut and Chicken soup
So as you can see this is not your typical butternut and chicken soup. This was actually a butternut consommé which was so clear and loaded with flavour served with juicy chicken roulade. This was one of my favourites because of the excellent consommé!
Scallop served with black pudding, parsnip, barley and sharon fruit
I love watching cooking shows and black pudding is a regular ingredient seen especially on the British cooking shows. For those who don't know what black pudding is, it is  essential blood sausage. I've never had this before so I was excited to taste it especially because it is also commonly paired with scallops. This dish also produced my entertainment of the evening when I explained to my husband what he was eating :) I really enjoyed the combination and would definitely eat it again!
Tuna fresh from the Northcoast served with lemon grass, rice crisp and pak choi
The majority of ingredients used at Hartford House are either grown at Hartford self or imported from local suppliers that are within a certain range of kilometres of the farm. We were spoilt with fresh tuna from the north coast which paired perfectly with a lovely lemon grass broth
Wildebees served with garlic pureé, quince, burnt carrot and cocoa nib
This was the only dish that did not receive a 5/5 because the meat was a bit tough although cooked perfectly medium rare. The cocoa nib was also too bitter for my liking.
TWG Rooibos
  This homemade rooibos ice cream was out of this world. Really one of the best ice-creams I have ever eaten. This paired perfectly with a smooth and airy chocolate mouse topped with sugary meringue


After this mind blowing meal we were in for one last treat. Chef Constantijn  used liquid nitrogen to make a  paprika flavoured type of honeycomb. The most entertaining part was watching all the other guest "fuming" at the mouth!

Chef in action

Happy diners :)

Thank goodness after this delicious meal our room was only a few meters away.

The next morning we went for a walk on the estate followed but another delicious meal. There was a breakfast buffet table with fruit, cheeses, meat and pastries. From the menu we indulged on homemade nutella crepes and a full English breakfast.

Some of the beautiful horses in the farm

The estate has a few walking paths you can enjoy

The jetty near the laskeside suites.

Delicious homemade nutella served in pancakes topped with crispy bacon

Although we only visited for one evening we felt as if we rested for a week which is enough evidence that a visit to Hartford House is one extraordinary experience. We can't wait to go back!

I am heading to the Midlands again in August and can't wait to tell you about the other must visit places!

For now thank goodness it is almost weekend :)

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