Three girls from Durbanite were tasked with finding the perfect girlfriend’s getaway. Read up on what they had to say about their experience at Brahman Hills.
THE MIDLANDS KITCHEN
Mouths salivating at the thought of brunch, after each of us skipped breakfast to be awake and ready for our road trip and Midlands weekend away. Fact. If anyone plans to go for dinner there is usually a lot of umming, and ahhhing. Someone is in the mood for Mexican, but what Mexican restaurant sells Pizza? Or someone wants a salad, and someone wants a cheat-day-burger, and someone is suddenly a converted vegan. It’s exhausting. We’ve all been there. Women are indecisive. We know it, men know it, and we accept it. (And The Midland’s Kitchen know this too!) With over 15 restaurants to choose from, it made a girls only (concentrate of indecisiveness) a lot more bearable. At least, so we thought…
Seated, with a view of the soft hills, and lavender, we were handed comprehensive menus, detailing what was on offer. We settled for a taste of the Mediterranean with the platter for two with falafels, smoked garlic aubergines, lamb kebabs, hummus, beef skewers, feta, olives, carrot strips, red peppers and bread sticks. And crispy chicken nuggets, chips, honey and srirracha sauce served with sweet potato fries. And a juice. This was the tricky part… You can design your own juice, each ingredient providing beneficial health properties. This was certainly too overwhelming for the likes of us. There are also other already formulated juice recipes, all named after areas in the Midlands Meander to choose from.
“What juice do you recommend?” We asked the waitress. (Cleary remarking on the mere challenge we faced while trying to select a juice.) She suggested The Nottingham. Health benefit- Brain Food. Well, can’t argue with that… Brunch, was then concluded with Tiramisu and caramel toffee gelato.
Tucked just behind the N3 Highway is home to the Brahman cattle that roam Brahman Hills. This fortunate and unexpected location makes it easy for 3 girls with a sometimes less than reliable GPS navigator. All gelatoed out, and with stretched legs we were ready to embark on the next leg of our road trip. This road trip involved us hopping back into the car and driving several meters to be suddenly met with laser cut steel cow cut outs and the beautiful entrance of Brahman Hills.
On our way to check in, we noticed a room beautifully decorated in various table settings.
“Are you having a wedding?’’ we asked. (They were having a tasting and mock–up setting.)
“Are you looking for a venue?” The lady enquired.
“No! We’re looking for a man!” We laughed, she laughed, she told her colleague what happened, they both laughed. (A little too hard for our liking…)
With cheerful and friendly staff, Brahman Hills feels like a home away from home. (At least, we wished our homes looked like that.)
A family of cats were being fed outside the reception, and one of the staff members made sure that each of them got enough food. It was with this comfort, that we were assured we would not go hungry.
And duly so. Brahman Hills contains two restaurants, 89 on Copper and the Brahman Hills Café. Which we were to certainly experience. (There is also the Stables Restaurant which is open by arrangement. Seating up to 90 people the restaurant is fully serviced with a private kitchen and in room bar, which is great for conferences or weddings. But we were here for pleasure!)
As the smell of cappuccino wafted through from the coffee bar we were led down some stairs. Although bringing an undercover-lover to the cellar and underground bar would seem like a good idea, this is definitely the place to be. Softly lit by copper lights illuminating the concrete that drips down the raw and exposed brickwork, the cellar and bar area have several seating arrangements all warmly lit by various fires, perfect for snuggling, wine tasting, a casual drink, or even business meetings. That’s right, there on our navigation tour, were some people having a business meeting. Not just a place for undercover lovers it seems…
After our tour through the newly renovated hotel and cellar, we were lead through the beautifully landscaped gardens to the chapel. The chapel, constructed of timber and glass panes, frames a tranquil vista of a dam. That was the moment Bianca and Sabrina decided that this man-hunt was now no laughing matter. Brahman Hills is an exquisite wedding setting with several reception venues and packages to choose from. With a variety of eventing venues seating from 10 to 400 people, which is ideal if you have a really large extended family, and of course, if they all happen to accept the curtesy invite. Or even if you are fortunate enough to work for a company that holds business functions or conferences here. Preferably with the bonus breakfast buffet. (If there is a job opening at described company, please respond with a private message.)
The self-catering cottages, all named after animals, instil the notion of being situated in the Blue Crane Reserve. More concerned about food, and relaxation in the Jacuzzi rather than exercise, we didn’t fully experience the walking trails, but noticed that Park Run takes place through the nature reserve at Brahman Hills. (For those who choose to run on a Saturday.) I suppose running through a reserve with wildlife does sound alluring enough… But if you are not built for speed, you’ll be pleased to know that there are no predator animals. (However, did not see any Brahman cattle, so, let’s just hope you don’t roll an ankle…)
We stayed in one of the 6 sleeper self-catering cottages, overlooking the beautiful hills and dam. The cottage is equipped with DSTV, a Kitchen, and a private Jacuzzi (which we spent most of the late afternoon giggling in while we posed for many a photo.) The bedrooms each have their own bathroom, which made 3 girls getting ready for our evening at 89 On Copper an absolute breeze. The cottages are also serviced. This we realized only after we came back to beds ready to hop in (and a sudden self-awareness of how messy our “getting ready” had actually been.)
We were chaperoned into the dimly lit 89 on Copper restaurant. With soft playing music, and ambient lighting reiterating a romantic setting. The restaurant is open to the public and bookings is an absolute must. An a la carte menu is available but the highlight is their Chef’s Selection menu – a 3 course set menu with 2 options per serving. This menu is designed by their Chef and changes every night.
We had the heart-warming butternut soup with sweet potato and croutons, foam and herbs. Followed by the Beef sirloin, served with rosemary mash, corn puree, a parmesan disk, and pak choi (which google tells us is a Chinese cabbage, and what our gut tells us is why we didn’t see any Brahman). Just when we couldn’t handle any more, we were presented with the baked cheese cake. And we did not resist.
“The zebra are here every morning.” Shelley told us. Yeah, sure… Well, waking up at 5.30 to a sunrise, and sipping tea while a herd of zebra grazed in front of our cottage was well worth waking up to. After trying to convince Shelley to hop in our private Jacuzzi, but being 6.30 am and Siri warning her to Stay Dry (due to rain. Which never happened. Thanks Siri.) She declined.
Breakfast was served at the Brahman Hills Café. A spread of fruit, cereals, yoghurts, cheese, nuts, juices and scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato, sausages and mushrooms were displayed. Fried, or poached eggs and toast may be ordered to your liking. After our breakfast we rolled out into the gardens for a slow walk before our Spa appointment. Yeup. Cows (if you see them), cats, cross-country running, a chapel, cottages, zebra, dams, windmills, wedding and conference facilities and even a spa?
The spa, like the cellar area, was not what was expected. In a contemporary, corrugated barn like structure, pierced with porthole windows overlooking the vivid colours of the lavender and herb garden. The deep blues of the lavender and sky reflects in the interior colour scheme.
Transported to a place of serenity, with full bellies, once again, we lounged on the arm chairs, sipping water and watching the tranquil trickling of the water as it cascaded down. The stillness, was interrupted when Shelley, blissfully ordered a cappuccino. Her whisper, contradicted by the deep humming of the coffee machine. Scared we would miss our appointment, we stayed awake. And thanks to Shelley and her coffee machine, it wasn’t hard. We opted for a back, shoulder and neck massage, which also involved a wonderful arm massage (the perks of having arms connected to your shoulders…)
“Do you carry a lot of things?’ The therapist asked Sabrina. At last, Sabrina thought. Finally, the years of moving furniture, carrying fabric books, and wallpaper had paid off. And someone had noticed… (but it was more due to knots than any muscular definition, unfortunately.)
Shelley, took advantage of one of the various bathrooms after her massage. How divine does a cappuccino in a bath tub actually sound? Or just a hot and quick shower after an oiled up massage? Bianca, still complaining about leg day (but truth be told, it was probably the little walk to the dam that finished her) decided on a leg massage instead. This time, her waddle improved to a little spring in her step when we wandered back to the car. And just like that, with our left over baked cheese cake, oodles of photos and a collection of memories of our latest girls’ weekend away, we left our country escape and headed back to Durban.”
Visit their website for more information: www.brahmanhills.co.za
REVIEW: Hilton Hotel Umhlanga Arch
Hilton Garden Inn is the first of its kind in South Africa, situated at the new Umhlanga Arch, welcoming both local and international guests. Durbanite recently experienced first hand what they have to offer.
From the moment you walk in, you experience a relaxed environment, making you feel right at home. The Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch is a technologically advanced hotel, allowing guests to check in, select and unlock your room, as well as access the guest lift, easily from your mobile phone. The hotel boasts a fitness centre, outdoor swimming pool with a great view of the upcoming developments in the area as well as the stunning sea Durban has to offer, as well as a laundry room and currency exchange for international guests.
The staff at the Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch are friendly and extremely helpful and have adopted a “Brightheartered Hospitality” approach.
“It was amazing, the staff remember your name, they learn more about why you are visiting and really go out of their way to make your experience a memorable one.” Commented Bianca Hauser, Durbanite contributor.
There are 203 rooms kitted out with coffee and tea brewers, a flat screen HDTV, a hairdryer, iron and ironing board (perfect for out of town guests), along with a mini refrigerator. Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch ensure to adhere to Covid-19 safety regulations by cleaning rooms before check in as well as after check out. They are currently participating in the Hilton CleanStay Program with Lysol Protection to deliver an even cleaner and safer experience for guests.
“I really felt comfortable during these times, as once staff clean a room, they have the Hilton CleanStay Room Seal that indicates to us that a room has not been accessed since it was cleaned and disinfected.”
The hotel ensures sufficient spacing in the dining hall and hand sanitizers can be found throughout the hotel. Guests are encouraged to use disposable gloves provided when dishing up salad for the meals and the Chefs are responsible for dishing up dinner, limiting exposure.
Together & Co aims to bring people together, “one meal, coffee and conversation at a time”. Those who are not guests at the hotel are also welcome to dine at the restaurant or have a drink at the bar. Hilton Garden Inn Umhlanga Arch also boasts a 24-hour self-service retail space, “The Shop”, which offers snacks, locally sourced food and beverages as well as essential personal items, should guests need anything.
To book your stay, visit their website.
Durban, 4320, South Africa
REVIEW: Enticing Emdoneni Lodge Escape, Cat Tour & River Cruise!
If you are looking for a local getaway but not sure where to go, a 2h40 hr drive from Durban central is all it takes to transport you from the hustle and bustle of city life into nature at its best. We want to tell you about a little gem called Emdoneni Lodge in Hluhluwe as well as our experiences of the incredible Cat Tour and River Cruise in St. Lucia – to view cats, crocs and hippo – so be sure to read (or scroll) through to the end for all the information you need to book your next trip!
(Editors note: The Emdoneni Lodge is a short 25 min drive to the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park Memorial Gate entrance. If you are keen to try your luck at spotting the Big 5, this is a great days activity for the whole family!)
Catching some Zzz’s <<Accommodation>>
Our room at Emdoneni was comfortable and intimate – with air conditioning. The décor was modern and simple with fresh crisp linen – just the way I like it! The en-suite bathroom was spacious and tidy, with a walk-in shower worth mention. The only thing we missed (for a beat) was a TV but we must admit we did appreciate the opportunity to break away from our day to day life.
DinDins & Breakie <<Food>>
3 course meals were prepared for us nightly. The starters on both nights were worth writing home about, the tomato and mushroom soups were especially hearty and delicious. Main course was your choice between two proteins and a vegetarian option – the Dorado and Beef Curry get a special mention here. Dessert pleased the palate – tasty and decadent – the perfect way to end a day of good eating and adventure.
Breakfast was offered as buffet with your usual cereals, yogurt, fruits, tea and coffee available. The hot breakfast options prepared to order. Bacon and eggs done to your liking with various options but we would recommend the Emdoneni Tower Omelette if you are undecided!
Editors note: We could write about the food in much more, lengthy detail but instead will leave you with some photos below and allow you to let your eyes do the judging!
Round About <<Common Areas>>
If you do decide to book at Emdoneni Lodge especially with the family or friends we can assure you the kids will be well entertained from sunrise to sunset; leaving you with time to sit back and relax. The games area has a ton of well, games as well as a pool table and a small jungle gym for the little ones.
We can imagine hours would be spent lazing by or swimming in the pool. The lush green gardens are perfect for a game of catches or hide-and-go-seek.
The comfy lounging areas overlook the gardens are the perfect spot to unwind and sip on an ice cold one from the bar. Come 6pm, it’s time to take a seat under the African stars alongside the bonfire. Open a bottle of red and chat about your days adventures!
Self-Love <<The Emdoneni Spa>>
While holidaying at Emdoneni, you will naturally be taking time to unwind. We couldn’t think of a better way than to book yourself (and your partner) for a morning of self-love and pampering. Various treatments are available at the Emdoneni Spa, click here to find out more.
Sadly we didn’t have enough time to indulge but this is definitely on our ‘To Do’ when we visit again.
Meow <<Zululand Cat Conservation Project>>
This gem on the north coast is a must see for both young and old and is open to general public – not just those staying at Emdoneni Lodge.
We thoroughly enjoyed our experience and can safely say that it was the highlight of our trip!
The aim of this incredible project is to create a wildlife awareness and education centre which focuses on conservation and the sustainability of the cats which they home. The cats have come to the project, orphaned or injured and in need of care and rehabilitation.
We were lucky enough to go on a Cat Tour where we got up close and personal (but not too personal) with these majestic creatures. Along with our informative tour guide we had the opportunity to stand a few (safe) meters away from Caracal, Serval, Cheetah and the less intimidating but cutest, African Wildcat!
If you are a cat lover, you may want to consider their ‘Adopt a Cat’ initiative. It is a fantastic way to support the project either for yourself, or in the name of your nature-loving, cat-loving friends. To read up more, click here.
I’m on a Boat! <<Heritage Tours & Safaris>>
Keen to see some Hippo in their natural habitat? We would highly recommend booking a river cruise of the St Lucia Estuary though Heritage Tours & Safari!
Dennis was our tour guide; his knowledge of the Estuary and all its creatures (big and small) was extensive. Unlike some of other cruise operators on the Estuary this boat takes up to 15 people – which I preferred – it is perfect for a group of friends or family or if you just prefer a more intimate, quiet setting for your cruise.
We were lucky enough to spot some incredible bird life on the water’s edge, a one-horned Water Buck, some mean looking crocs soaking rays on the river bank and of course, the Hippo going about their daily Hippo business.
Did you know that the Hippo is the 3rd largest land mammals, after elephants and the white rhino?
It truly was incredible to be so close to these enormous mammals, but of course observing from a safe distance – I was thankful I was on a boat and not in the water with them!
For more information you can visit their website by clicking here.
That’s a Wrap <<The End>>
We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend getaway. Our only complaint is that we should have booked in for a 3rd night – there is just so much to see and do nearby that it is impossible to fit everything we wanted to do in.
A special thank you to Nondumiso Myeni for our warm welcome and making us feel right at home.
Slindile Ngema, thank you for your fantastic service and compliments to Chef Sindi Masinga for some delicious, hearty meals.
We cannot wait to come back!
REVIEW: Lidiko Lodge, St Lucia
Lidiko Lodge is a 4 STAR lodge situated in St Lucia, surrounded by the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park (“iSimangaliso Wetland Park”), an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With 16 garden lodges available, Lidiko Lodge is the ultimate getaway for families and couples alike.
An interesting fact about this place is that the main building of the lodge is one of the first buildings that was erected in St Lucia. Oozing an Old World Zululand charm with its thatch built structure.
The lodge has a reception area, guest lounge, a library as well as a dining deck where we ate breakfast each morning.
Lidiko Lodge is a tropical oasis. I felt as if I was on a remote island, away from the craziness of today’s world. It was absolutely perfect and oh so relaxing.
“Upon arrival, we were graciously greeted by the owners and shown to our beautiful room for the next two nights.
All the rooms are garden rooms, en-suite, fully air conditioned and spacious with a private patio and entrance. The rooms are fitted with either single or King size base set beds. Each room has a TV, chairs, bar fridge, hair dryer, a safe and complimentary tea & coffee.
In view of the fact that Lidiko Lodge is within 5 minutes’ walking distance of all the restaurants in the village, dinner is only done by prior arrangement. We had a quick dinner in the village before heading off for a much well deserved good night’s sleep.
Feeling refreshed, we headed to the dining deck where our table had been perfectly decorated with flowers from the garden and two divine fruit cups placed for us to enjoy. We ordered our customised hot breakfast while we had the chance to meet Lyzette, one of the friendly owners of Lidiko Lodge.
We made use of the day to visit iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which was only about a 5 minute drive away. A must visit if you’re ever in St Lucia!
Note: Be sure to pack your own drinks/food as there isn’t much available inside the park.
After an incredible day out spotting animals, relaxing on beaches and taking every 4×4 loop in the park, we headed back to Lidiko Lodge. We grabbed some drinks from their fully stocked honesty bar and drove down to Sunset Jetty to watch the sunset. (You could walk this distance as we didn’t realise how close it was to Lidiko!)
Dinner was enjoyed at one of St Lucia’s many restaurants on offer and again, we headed back for another good night’s rest.
Sunday was our last breakfast at the incredible Lidiko Lodge. With heavy hearts, we were sad to be packing up to head back to our home in Durban.
Lidiko Lodge truly felt like our home away from home and we will definitely be back!”
Lidiko Lodge is currently running a special where you can get 20% off your stay if you book directly with them.
To book your stay:
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