Venues

Oaklands Country Manor

Oaklands Country Manor
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Cost
R140 avg main meal
Ambience
Comfy & casual, Family friendly
Food
Bistro fare, Country-style fare
Payment
Amex, Mastercard, Visa

Critic's review

Hennie Fisher

Eat Out critic Hennie Fisher makes a mini-break of it at the charming Oaklands Country Manor in the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal.

Food
The country hotel and restaurant is run by four siblings, with Kathy Romer-Lee in charge of the flavours and tastes coming out of the kitchen. Although small, the à la carte menu is comprehensive and offers a number of delicious options: a salad of heirloom beetroot straight from the garden, halloumi, avocado and rocket; a potato rosti with smoked salmon, avocado, cream cheese and beetroot; free-range devilled chicken livers; and a soft boiled egg, deep-fried in a crisp parmesan crust set on local asparagus.

A Vietnamese chicken pho soup served with extra lemon and a fermented sauce on the side, is elegant, flavourful and perfectly executed. Main courses include aged steak (250g or 500g); Dargle Valley pork roast with beautifully seasoned crackling, a superb apple and saffron chutney, hand-cut potato wedges and garden vegetables; Vietnamese-style steamed seabass; and braised neck of lamb with accompanying seared rump and Anna potatoes. But it is the chicken-and-prawn curry with spiced rice and homemade naan bread, served with tasty sambals and a final flourish of fried spices and curry leaves on top, which deserves special mention. Desserts are equally decadent: a chocolate pot, crème brûlée, lemon meringue parfait, berry sorbet with shortbread, and an apple tarte tatin served with homemade ice cream and – showstopper – a flambé flourish at the table.

Drinks
A wine list opening with a quote by Winston Churchill reminding the fighting forces that “it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne” should offer enough to appease any discerning palate. There are a number of excellent local MCCs, supplemented by superb chardonnays from Paul Cluver and Springfield. Other listed producers include Beaumont, Tokara and De Trafford. The young engaging barman, Musa, pours a mean G&T, making drinks before dinner an occasion in itself.

Service
Staff members are well-trained and competent, personable and eager to please without hovering or pestering. The establishment offers a baby-sitting service, which should be much appreciated by parents needing some downtime. This is the sort of place where the kids can have supper – spaghetti bolognaise or fish and chips – much earlier than the grown-ups at a communal table, allowing parents to supervise them without having to sacrifice the enjoyment of their own meal later.

Ambience
The interiors are easy, comfortable and light, and manage to avoid some of the ‘country house’ clichés – although there are areas where they make sense such as the bar, which is decked out in a collection of ties and flags that must have been donated over time by generations of patrons. The main building, which features whitewashed sandstone walls a good 50cm thick, has a broad veranda overlooking horse paddocks, grasslands and mountains disappearing into the wide blue yonder. The interior is simple but elegant, punctuated by fresh, graphic flower prints, and we were awestruck by blowsy, fragrant peonies in vases on all the tables. The customer’s comfort is obviously a priority here – if guests would prefer to braai when the Boks play a major match rather than sit down to a gourmet dinner, management will happily oblige.

And…
The hosts are all particularly health conscious, extolling the virtues of home-fermented kefir, kombucha and exploring the health-giving properties of kimchi, and they are thinking about regular workshops focused on healthy eating. They grow as many of their own vegetables and herbs as possible, and source whatever they cannot produce themselves from farmers in the area. We loved being able to enjoy local asparagus and organic eggs for dinner as well as breakfast, making us feel supremely virtuous. The venue also caters for weddings and other celebrations. It’s no surprise that people think nothing of driving all the way from Johannesburg and back just for Sunday lunch.

(October 2015)

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User reviews

  • Besides the excellent polo field, you cannot beat Oaklands for dining. I loved eating Brunch in the mornings on the patio surrounded by the most beautiful scenery. Having spent most of my adult life in a major city, I am a bit of a food snob. The dining room at Oaklands is world class. The glazed pork belly and duck with cherry sauce were amazing!!! Months later we still talk about the wonderful food and friendly atmosphere.
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  • I'm a fairly insufferable foodie who's spent the past five years living in San Francisco and Washington, DC. I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting to find an oasis of perfectly balanced and locally sourced meals in a remote valley in the Drakensburg Escarpment. To my surprise , that's exactly what I found. 

To be clear: Oaklands Country Manor is worth the trip solely for the food. It's a real find for anyone interested in food tourism. The kitchen offers a daily dinner selection that is unpretentious, well-priced and full of surprises. The pork is perfect, the currys have depth and the desserts are sure to send you to an early slumber. Great wine too. 

Oh. By the way, the setting is perfect. Picture horses galloping gracefully by silver ponds with sweeping mountain vistas. I spent a wonderful four days here that I will never forget. I knew the Drakensburg would not disappoint. But I never expected to eat so well.

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  • We spend the long weekend at Oaklands Country Manor and after having so many delicious options to choose from the the first evening, we were so glad that we had two more nights to experience this beautiful food. The menu offered a great variety of different options without being to wide. For us the mushroom and snail as well as the tomato soup starters stood out. The mains had great options, but we thought the duck and especially the pork was superb. We would definitely be visiting again soon....
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  • Exceptional, sublime and just ridiculously good! The food at Oaklands is seriously one of the top reasons we keep going back! Farm to table has never tasted this good (and what ever they don't produce or grow themselves they source from local farmers and producers ensuring the quality is not just fantastic but exceptional as well!). Their curries are ridiculously amazing and the duck is one of my favourites (and let us not get into how good the desserts are - the chocolate sheet cake with semifredo, honey and salted caramel is truly one of the best things I have ever tried!). Go and stay (one night is not enough) and remember to pack elasticated pants so that you are able to sample your way through the menu...
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  • Absolutely the right mix between fine-and-family food, hospitality-and-space, excellent-and-easy wines. Appropriate and authentic with an unmistakable touch of finesse. A restaurant that puts the guests' ease at its center: I don't ever remember hearing so much laughter in a restaurant. One hint: don't miss the breakfast!
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  • Locally sourced produce, perfectly prepared - and the flavours... Oh my. I wish they would open a restaurant in Jozi. To go to Oaklands is a complete treat. The food is some of the best that I have had in this country - and perhaps even anywhere in the world. It is prepared with love and amazing integrity. All I can say is don't miss it. The staff are friendly, the atmosphere stunning and the food is absolutely delicious. It has become like a second home for us. Half way between Johannesburg and Durban it is the perfect place for a getaway from either city. I can't wait to go back. Try the fresh asparagus with Hollandaise and a poached egg for breakfast - with a side of bacon or local sausage. The Dargle Valley Pork is simply amazing. And the hamburgers - well they are the best... :)
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  • Beside Oaklands' fantastic out of this world food (any foodie's dream cuisine), this special country hotel feels like a second home to me. I will recommend this place to anyone and everyone!
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  • I truly cannot give Oaklands the rating it deserves for the overall experience whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Their attention to detail would earn them a top spot amongst some of the best Johannesburg establishments (if they were in Johannesburg). The menus are quirky yet sophisticated, the ambience is warm and friendly with an air of fun that can only be found in the presence of close family and friends, the service is calm yet efficient, and the staff are always ready to make light-hearted conversation without intruding - always making you feel at home. I have been many times and still highly recommend a visit!
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  • Homegrown, conscientiously sourced ingredients cooked to perfection by Kathy and her team. Wholesome, generous, mouthwateringly delicious food. Best Pork belly and Tarte Tatin I have EVER had!! Still dreaming about those veges. So worth the trip from Cape Town- I would go all the way just for lunch!
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  • If I could add 10 more stars for food, I would. Stunning place. Run by an awesome team. It never disappoints.
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  • What can I say - I wish we lived closer so we could eat everything on their menu and start again. We've eaten there on many occasions during our stays in this fine establishment and our travels through the area, (usually as our midway treat/stop on our trek to Jozi). WARNING - if you don't revisit the Oakland's Restaurant timeously, you suffer serious pork rib eye steak withdrawals - not to mention the cravings for any of the other delectable dishes! Perhaps it has to do with the fresh locally sourced produce and the evident pride and care that goes into preparing every meal and making sure their guests leave happy and content.
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  • Absolutely the best food we have had in a small hotel! We have been back on various occasions and never been disappointed. Lovely friendly atmosphere, excellent wine list and the feeling that one is a special guest rather than just another person that needs to be fed. There is an emphasis on sourcing the best natural produce and meat and it really is evident in the dishes offered - the pork and duck being particularly good.
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  • Simple, fresh, wholesome food in a stunning country setting. Highly recommended.
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Facilities

  • Accommodation
  • Alfresco
  • Booking required
  • Child friendly
  • Dinner
  • Food
  • Functions
  • Hotel
  • Licensed
  • Lunch
  • Parking
  • Serves food
  • Vegetarian
  • WiFi

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