Gwynne Conlyn visits the stately De Hoek hotel in Magaliesburg to dine at The Conservatory, the more formal of the two restaurants on the beautiful grounds, which serves classic European dishes with twists of modernity and nods to Asia.
Serious about food, award-wining executive chef Michael Holenstein concentrates hard on maintaining – and indeed constantly improving – the standards of his à la carte menu. The choices are scrumptious and even include Swiss-inspired homemade chocolates.
The dishes are classic European but with twists of modernity and nods to Asia. Everything is fresh and done from scratch; for example, brioche and breads are baked onsite.
Start with the creamy veal risotto and move on to roast free-range duck breast with five-spice rub and a spicy plum sauce. It might be difficult to choose: one of the other main course options is a grilled rib-eye steak with café de Paris butter and merlot sauce. Vegetarian diners should seriously consider the heavenly red onion tart.
Leave some space for the unforgettable bread-and-butter pudding, consisting of panettone, banana bread and orange teacake instead of the same old stale bread. There’s also the delight in indulging in chocolate truffles with your coffee or tea.
As is the case with his Bridge Bistro (the other, more informal dining space at the De Hoek hotel) Michael Holenstein handpicks wines to suit each menu. Expect top-drawer local and international choices, including French Champagnes. There is also a cozy residents’ bar that’s ideal for pre-dinner cocktails.
The service is friendly, old-school and absolutely dedicated to the cause.
French doors lead out onto gardens and a pretty pool. Watch the guinea fowl parade up and down the steps.
The hotel caters towards a variety of events. Michael could also design a special menu for guests on request. The main hall can be used for private lunch or dinner parties, and the addition of some stylish suites (perfect for small conferences) in no way detracts from the quiet elegance of this country retreat.