When I mentioned I was going to be visiting the Hartford House, I was met with “ooooh’s” and “aaaaaah’s.” Clearly Hartford had set high standards already judging by the responses.
So of course, you can imagine my excitement leading up to our staycation in Mooi River.
But first, let’s dive into a bit about its history…
Hartford’s beauty was discovered by the Moor family almost 150 years ago, when they came by its vacant landscape in the early 1870s. Home to the family of John and Sir Frederick Moor, the last prime minister of old Natal, the property is now part of the greater Summerhill estate, former domain of Colonel Richards, a senator in the first Union government.
My husband, Nick and I left Umhlanga and set off towards Hartford House. Only a 1 hour & 50 minute drive and we were in paradise.
Driving through the gates of Hartford, we were greeted with herds of horses and their young, scattered across the fields. I knew then and there that we were going to have an incredibly special experience.
Arriving at reception, we were offered a welcome drink before being escorted to our room. Our room was the Moor Suite 1, named after the founders of Hartford House. We felt as if we had an entire apartment all to ourselves! With two bathrooms and an outside private garden… what more could you ask for?
This suite has accommodated the last Prime Minister of the Colony, Sir Frederick Moor, the first Prime Minister of the Union, General Botha, and the former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill.
Dinner was to be at 7pm. We had a courteous knock on our door from a staff member around 6:30pm to remind us, leaving me speechless at how thoughtful the staff were.
We walked into the dining area and were shown to our sweet candle-lit table for two, perfectly decorated with fresh lilies. A 4-course menu was presented to us to which we quickly glanced at.
Aa we ordered a bottle of champers from our lovely waitress, we met the head chef, Matthew Armbruster who promptly introduced himself before running through the menu in full detail.
We kicked off our dinner with artisan breads and snacks from the kitchen before tucking into our first course, the kudu carpaccio paired with biltong, picked red onion, charred grapes and cured egg yolk. It sounds strange, but this combination was nothing like we’ve ever had before.
Shortly afterwards, we were presented with a pork and scallop dish, complete with sweetcorn, summer squash and col’tempo chorizo. Once we had wolfed down this, we had a short break before commencing, chatting over our glass of wine.
The escort lamb was served next complete with summer peas, kiwi, radish and baby onions. Soft and tender, this was my hubby’s favourite!
We then ended off our meal with a Flowers of Hartford House for dessert which included chamomile, lavender, lemon verbena and rose.
After the best meal(s) and dining experience we’ve ever had, all thanks to Chef Matthew Armbruster, his culinary team & the restaurant team, we headed back to our castle – I mean, our room for a much needed good night’s sleep.
But not before being surprised by a scatter of rose petals around the bed and in the bathtub! Hartford House’s housekeeping staff had attended to our room while we were dining. Such a thoughtful touch to our already incredible experience. I decided to trade in my normal everyday shower routine for a bath in their marble bathtub. I was in heaven.
Saturday morning rolled in and we were up. We took a short walk down the passageway to the dining area for our breakfast. Seated at our table, our breakfast orders were taken down and we indulged in a good cup of coffee, (or two.)
The weather was somewhat moody and cloudy, with a sprinkle of rain. That didn’t put a dampener on our plans, however. We decided to make use of Hartford’s bicycles to tour around the farm. Returning back from our cycle, we noticed hundreds of beautiful brightly coloured orange birds resting in the reeds. We stopped and watched in awe. Truly a remarkable sight!
We headed back to our accommodation to change out of our cycling gear and slipped into something much more comfortable, before taking a walk down to the lake.
At the lake, we decided to try our hand at canoeing, something we rarely get the opportunity to do back home. After a ‘wobbly’ start, we paddled off to the middle of the lake. With the sounds of birds chirping – it was somewhat both peaceful and exhilarating.
Midday came and our tummies were rumbling. We used this as an opportunity to explore the surrounding area of Hartford House. Just down the road from Hartford, is a cute little town of Mooi River.
After our mini adventure, we felt homesick for Hartford House and made our way back. We had a little afternoon snooze in our giant king-sized bed before getting dressed for the traditional zulu dancing show.
We were offered drinks by the friendly waiters and escorted into the garden in front of Hartford House. An array of chairs were laid out for us to sit. With a drink in our hands, the show kicked off and we were treated to a spectacular performance from zulu dancers that were from a local township.
Afterwards, we dined in style, only this time in our own private room! Oblivious to the fact that my top matched the curtains, I loved the experience. It felt like a proper date, and just what we needed.
Chef Matthew Armbruster was incredibly attentive and accommodating during the entire dining experience, personally serving some of the dishes himself. It was wonderful being able to interact with the chef while dining.
Hartford House is definitely a unique experience and something to be considered for your next weekend away.
We were thoroughly impressed by the attentive staff, the housekeeping ladies and the waiters. Their attention to every detail really blew us away and added something extra to an already special experience.
Visit www.hartfordhouse.co.za to book your next stay.
Twice voted “Best South African Restaurant” in the Visa/House & Leisure Awards.
- Voted Best Boutique Hotel in the Travel category of the “Top Billing Momentum
- Hartford House was nominated by the travel trade in South Africa and the United Kingdom as one of a select group of Gold Achiever Award Winners in the AA Travel Guides Accommodation Awards programme alongside the leading establishments in the nation.
- Voted by Fair Lady as the No 1 Romantic rendezvous.
- Several times ranked in the top two Fine Country Estates category at Indaba, South Africa’s premier international travel show.
- Voted by Femina magazine among the top special wedding destinations countrywide.
- Topcar magazine’s preferred destination.
- Described by Marie Claire magazine as one of Africa’s most memorable experiences.
- Rated by Cosmopolitan magazine as South Africa’s leading romantic destination.
In its only assessment in recent years, American Express counted Hartford House among its Top Five Luxury Lodges in its Southern African Classic Collection.
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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