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Chef Chris Papayannes’s burning passion for culinary excellence was ignited during his time at The Restaurant at Newton Johnson where he assumed the position as restaurant manager and sommelier as part of the opening team. He also has extensive knowledge in the wine and speciality beverage areas and these elements combine for a sensory food (and wine) experience when dining at Hartford House.
Menus change daily in line with what is locally available and seasonal, but always served with creativity, genius and performance that highlight the splendour of bountiful harvests. Dinner is a six-course tasting menu (with an optional wine pairing for each course) served either in the grandeur of a timeless dining room or on the Hartford House terrace with candlelit tables overlooking the immaculate lawns, rainbow spectrum of flowers sprouting from the beds and a sweeping view towards the informal eatery Tijnhuis and the kitchen’s herb and vegetable gardens.
Lunch is served in the same setting as either a two or three-course menu. Each course has a handful of options with the dishes delivered on plates suiting the dish rather than matching around the table – poached chicken with quenelles of chicken liver pâté, creamed potatoes, roasted onions and micro-greens arrived on a thick blue pottery plate. The rump steak – served a perfect medium-rare where the juices oozed on to the plate; the meat was an almost buttery texture in benefitting from professional maturation and the root vegetables masculine statements to a masculine dish – came on a black one as its own stark declaration.
Breakfasts embrace further creative spirit with individual masterpieces again inspired by local produce and the restaurant’s garden to present eggs and bacon far beyond the ordinary.The outcome is that regardless of the meal or the day, patrons are guaranteed a sublime experience embracing sight, sound, smell, taste and touch (if you cannot resist pinching something off the plate with your fingers). The food is holistic rather than being about signature dishes and, while expensive, is worth every cent.
Leather-bound and presented more as a book of reverence than a wine list, there is little doubt the contents is as weighty as its presentation. Name a premier boutique winery in this country and there will be a representation on that list. Consider your last international holiday to a wine-producing country and the chances are you will find one of those too.
Mark ups reflect the venue and dining experience, but are still within the realms of reasonability given that input. More welcoming is the extensive selection of premium wines by the glass that means matching each course with an ideally suited chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon is as simple as recalling the tome to the table.
Other alcoholic options where the variety transcends the imagination are whiskeys, brandies and gins that all speak to the expanded willingness South Africans are employing in trying out new opportunities to the market.
Service is faultless – from the professionalism and friendliness when making a booking (reservations requested) to the greeting on arrival by name if feasible and the attentive service during the meal. Waiters are well-briefed on the dishes when bringing them to the table and informative on wine pairing, while the chef makes personal appearances to patrons’ tables during the dining experience for further interaction and clarification. The holistic outcome is a genuine feeling of pampering.
This is silver service with minute attention to detail and the holistic outcome is a genuine feeling of pampering. Whether only having a lunch or staying for the dinner and overnight experience, Hartford House speaks to a by-gone era of indulgence and adult sophistication.
Hartford House is a romantic escape; an extravagance worth investing into a relationship for a wedding venue, a milestone celebration or simply to reconnect with a soul mate. If finances are willing, undertake the entire experience with the dinner and wine pairing as well as an overnight stay.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.
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.
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!
Very good food, ambience and service! Lovely staff and all very attentive! Jackie is a fantastic chef and runs that kitchen with perfection!