REVIEW: Hartford House

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
    Lifestyle Awards”.
  • 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.

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