Venues

Hartford House

Hartford House
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  • Location 033 263 2713
  • Phone Number Hlatikulu Road, Mooi River, KwaZulu Natal
  • email info@hartford.co.za
  • Website URL http://www.hartford.co.za
  • Opening Hours

    Breakfast:

    Lunch: Monday to Sunday 12noon to 2pm; Tijnhuis: Wednesday to Sunday 11am to 4pm

    Dinner: Monday to Sunday 7.30pm till late (dependant on in-house guests)

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Cost
Five-course tasting menu R575 (R895 with wine)
Ambience
Classic elegance
Food
Fine-dining food, Modern
Payment
Amex, Mastercard, Visa
500

Critic's review

Shirley Berko

Food
There’s a long-established legacy behind the food at Hartford House. The culinary pedigree created by previous head chefs like Richard Carstens and Jackie Cameron creates an enormous expectation to be fulfilled. But it’s evident that head chef Constantijn Hahndiek sees it as an inspiration.

Literally off the beaten path, the location of Hartford House may be considered limiting for ingredients but, in fact, its proximity to some of the best produce and producers in the country has inspired some sensational dishes.

The menus for both lunch and dinner are reinvented daily, influenced by season, honouring the main ingredients, and balanced according to what is available.

For lunch, the simplicity of the terrine of the day belies an astounding complexity of flavours. The pork terrine is succulent, its saltiness offset by the acidity of the accompanying homemade pickles and the sweetness of the aioli. A crispy pancetta chip gives the crunchy texture and umami flavour that effectively balances out the rest of the dish. ‘Perfectly balanced flavours’ is a clichéd turn of phrase that gets dragged out often, but in this case, the dish embodies this concept.

The free-range beef cut of the day for lunch mains is generously portioned, beautifully plated and deliciously cooked. But do save space for dinner, because that's where the culinary magic happens.

Dinner is a degustation of five courses, with or without wine pairings. It is an immersion of imaginatively prepared food, experimental flavour pairings, boundary-challenging cooking techniques and plating masterpieces.

It can be easy to forget the objective – serving food to eat – and the danger of over-complicating dishes in lieu of showing off techniques is inherent with such a meal, but chef Constantijn instinctively resists the temptation and knows exactly when to rein it in. Few things are served that don’t harmonise on the palate. While the number of ingredients incorporated per dish is ambitious, nothing is added that doesn’t work.

A starter of conservatively titled Smoked Indezi underplays in name the flavour fanfare it delivers. Creamy rooibos-smoked Indezi River Creamery goat’s-cheese curd blooms with delicate petals of lightly pickled beetroot and dried pear chips, resting on a velvety bed of beetroot purée and dotted with herb flowers. A second course of poached geelbek is a Japanese-inspired broth unlike any other. The fish is tender enough to dissolve on the tongue. It rests unassuming at the bottom of the bowl, covered in charred sweetcorn and freeze-dried sweetcorn drops. Hot dashi is poured over it all, anointing the fish and dissolving the pearls. The ribbons of ulva seaweed come unfurled and the combination of flavours and textures on the palate is fantastic.

The rest of the courses that follow are as reverential to their ingredients as the first two. The sweet courses are an homage to chef Constantijn’s guilty pleasures with a dish of the same name. His love of a popular liquorice candy is translated into Rhubarb Allsorts, plated to emulate the sweets he loves: soft marshmallows with liquorice centres, candied ribbons of rhubarb, strawberry coulis and quenelles of quince ice cream.

To eat at Hartford is to treat yourself to a dining experience that reflects some of the most prodigious cooking talent and lovingly cultivated and reared food in the province.

Drinks
The wine list is multi-award winning, offering vintage, rare, local and international wines. GM Duncan Bruce’s knowledge of wine is extensive. Juices are freshly squeezed and cold pressed, using fruit and vegetables from the kitchen garden and orchard.

Service
General manager Duncan is on hand to attend to the needs of diners and guests, and staff are friendly, efficient and accommodating.

Ambience
Set on a sprawling stud farm, the restaurant has breathtaking scenery. Carefully manicured lawns and gardens roll out to the edges of dams. Hartford House is a beautifully decorated British colonial-style house, and the dining and lounge areas are a cosy and welcoming respite on cold days.

And...
Recently, the Tijn Huis was opened just across from the house. Named for its location and the chef, it's nestled in the garden, overlooking water features and the dam. It’s open for tea, light lunches and pastry indulgences, and is a perfect setting for chilled G&Ts on summer afternoons or dinners under the night sky by the large braziers.

(September 2016)

Eat Out critics arrive unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our editorial policy here.

  • Ambience
  • Service
  • Food
  • Lynda Ingham-Brown

    Food
    Hartford House’s peaceful setting is certainly a drawcard, but the food is definitely the biggest star of the show here. Chef Constantijn Hahndiek champions local produce to great effect on his menu. Dinner is a five-course affair and the menu changes daily, according to what’s in season and in the vegetable garden. It kicks off with breads, such as pistachio and cranberry, baked on site, then moves on to the likes of artichokes with polenta chips and pistachio aïoli. Blackened salmon delivers an explosion of flavours with a cucumber “ketchup” (made by juicing cucumbers and mixing them with rice wine vinegar), charred radish and soy tapioca, which provides a pleasingly salty counterpoint to the richness of the salmon and artfully mimics the appearance of salmon roe. Local organic Bannatynes pork belly is perfectly paired with blueberries glazed in Port and a silky smooth parsnip purée, while ethically sourced eland is smoked with hay and served with creamy pan-fried sweetbreads that complement the leanness of the venison. A “surprise” course of roasted white chocolate mousse with shortbread crumble and blood orange foam, served on a glass cylinder from which billows of orange-scented steam escapes, is a showstopper. Finally, a simply named dessert of “peaches and cream” is anything but: marinated fresh peaches with a coconut sorbet and panna cotta made using local Gourmet Greek yoghurt.

    Drinks
    A comprehensive wine list featuring both local and international labels, plus spirits, soft drinks and liqueurs.

    Service
    Excellent, with lots of friendly smiles.

    Ambience
    The restaurant is set in an old-fashioned manor house with a wide balcony overlooking the tranquil gardens.

    And…
    Book a room and stay the night, you won’t feel like driving anywhere.

    (October 2015)

  • Paula Mackenzie

    Food

    A new chef, young Travis Finch, has taken over the reins in this award-winning kitchen. The focus on local produce is an ongoing feature, as is the five-course dinner menu. The KZN inspired snacks set the tone of things to come: Braaied amadumbi bread served with homemade butter, then on to the meal. The Natal taste profile is continued with a dish of Wayfarer trout served with bowls of “mist”, which adds a fun element to the evening. A further delight is the pork belly, as a second starter, served with wild garlic glacé and crispy crackling. The strength of the Midlands dairy offering is celebrated in a dessert like a cauliflower panna cotta with milk biscuits, condensed milk ice cream and a coffee mousse, with delicious crispy biscuit crumbs.

    Wine/beverages

    The award-winning wine list never fails to delight – the rare South African wines, delightful descriptions and boutique finds make this list one of the best in KZN. Along with with freshly squeeze juices, and a careful selection of whiskeys and cognacs, there is truly nothing you could want for in terms of beverages.

    Service

    The warm Zulu welcome is what sets this restaurant apart. The dinner service is genuine and welcoming, and staff members are well trained.

    Ambience

    A formal, lingering evening meal like this is rare treat in our busy and rushed lives, and it’s a delight to sit on the verandah overlooking a wonderful garden. The tranquility of the world-renowned Summerhill stud will inspire you to have a walk before your meal.

    And...

    Why not stay over at the guesthouse? The rooms are wonderful – one night will feel like a week’s holiday.

    (Paula Mackenzie, August 2014)

  • Food
    Chef Jackie Cameron is innovative without offending those with less adventurous sensibilities. She remains relevant and topical as she celebrates seasonality, supports local producers and, more recently, incorporates traditional KZN ingredients into fine dining. Lazy veranda lunches capitalise on classic techniques and are a good introduction to Jackie’s style of cooking, but she really gets to showcase her creative prowess at the five-course dinners. Attention to detail is mandatory and begins with different butters being offered with homemade breads. Caramelised onion soup with yoghurt, textured onions and freshly picked lavender flowers (poured over milk-blanched onion slices, crispy garlic chips with crisp leeks and roasted garlic oil) is a revelation. Melt-in-the-mouth ostrich tartar is served with borage flowers and susu; and Jackie gives springbok the unusual but very successful culinary partners of pea purée, truffle oil mayonnaise and fresh dill. Intricate, beautiful desserts – like beetroot powder-topped lokum with ash-coated lemon verbena panna cotta, rose geranium ice cream and lavender sherbet – offer unique taste sensations with every mouthful. A plate of homemade truffles heralds the end of dinner.

    Wine
    Oenophiles will revel in the wine selection that is more book than list. A comprehensive, well contemplated list celebrates iconic and boutique South African wines. A small but thoughtful collection of foreign wines augments local offerings.

    Service
    Taking its cue from the countryside, the pace is unhurried and the smiles genuine. Staff embrace the nuances of fine dining while carefully avoiding pomp and ceremony. Jackie passionately presents the menu prior to dinner and mixes easily with guests after service.

    Ambience
    The Palace of Versailles meets English country manor. The statuesque, colonial former home has been transformed into an ornate, vaguely OTT boutique hotel. Daytime veranda dining rewards with views of the sprawling garden and the formal dining room adds an air of occasion to dinner.

    And...
    For the ultimate epicurean experience, do the wine pairing with dinner. (September 2013)

User reviews

  • I recently stayed and ate at the Hartford and the food was very disappointing. Every course while well presented was at most luke warm. Found a hair in one of the plates of food as well. There didn't seem to be any concern around my complaints. They were just acknowledged. Next time I would rather stay at Granny Mouse Country House and eat at La Lampara restaurant. Definitely better value for money!!
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  • My boyfriend and I stopped at Hartford House for lunch on our way from Durban to Johannesburg. The setting is picturesque and very pretty, the wine list is extensive and a little pricey, the food was very good. It would sound like a very pleasant lunch, and I'm sure it would have been, were it not for the dismal service. Our waitress was entirely uninformed, possessed little knowledge of the food on the menu and was nowhere to be seen for most of the lunch. Empty plates were left on the table until asked to be removed, our water glasses were filled by ourselves, wine orders were forgotten and an all-round poor showing for a restaurant that is in the Top 10 of the country. If the service were improved, I am sure it would make for a wonderful dining experience.
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  • Great ambience, the best risotto I have eaten, period. I loved the chicken wrapped up in Kamberg bacon. Thanks to pastry chef...sis' Deli Nene for the dessert of the decade.

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  • When passion and excellence meet you know you're in for a treat.

    We recently stayed at Hartford and felt welcome from the moment we drove through the gates. We started our stay with lunch on the verandah - I hadn't had such an excellent meal in ages (except until dinner).

    We did a wine pairing with dinner which the chef had paired to perfection. We started our dinner with ostrich tartare - seasoned and well balanced. Next the tongue soup was rich and meaty but also light. You could have eaten a massive bowl. Third course was quail with crisp potatoes and chicken liver parfait which was a triumph. The springbok to follow was cooked with precision. Lastly the Turkish Delight was the ideal way to end a perfect meal. The service as always was attentive and friendly - how service should be!

    Thank you to Jackie and the team at Hartford for a memorable stay and the best meal I've had in ages. My Top 3 in SA for sure!

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  • Very good food, ambience and service! Lovely staff and all very attentive! Jackie is a fantastic chef and runs that kitchen with perfection!

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Facilities

  • Accepts credit cards
  • Accommodation
  • Booking required
  • Child friendly
  • Cocktails
  • Dog-friendly
  • Dress code
  • Fireplace
  • Functions
  • Licensed
  • Parking
  • StreetSmart affliated
  • Wheelchair
  • WiFi

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