In July I had the pleasure of shaking off the Cape Town mid winter blues and flying to KZN to experience some of the warm hospitality there. Before I could bask in the summer-like glow of the Durban coastline, I headed inland to the Midlands for 3 nights. I hadn’t been in these parts for many years and even when I was there as an adult it was for a fleeting wedding weekend. This was my childhood stomping ground, so essentially it was like going there for the first time.
I stayed at the lovely Brahman Hills which is nestled in the 1000 acre Blue Crane nature reserve and right on the Midlands Meander. I was also invited to check out the brand new Midlands Kitchen. The most impressive roadside dining emporium in South Africa. Sadly the opening was delayed so I only got to see it just before it officially opened to the public. Imagine stopping on a long road trip and arriving at a destination that offers 15 different kitchens with over a hundred different flavours, a bakery on site and then so much more. It’s here people, and if you are ever driving along the N3 past EXIT 132 you need to turn off and check this foodie destination out on Nottingham Road. If you are day tripping from Durban to the Midlands you will want to check it out too. Open all day and evening, 7 days a week, you will find everything from a curry kitchen with authentic local recipes, a Mexican kitchen with an array of your favourite dishes and then all your usual suspects like burgers, pizza, coffee, smoothies and chicken in dozens of ways in between. They have started their own kitchen garden and are committed to sourcing the best local ingredients so you can gaze over their vegetable patch while chilling and looking at the views. You can see their Facebook page for details and a few pics, as well as read about it on Dawn Jorgensen’s blog. Eat Out also had a few words to say but from what I’ve seen it’s a must-visit place in the area.
I spent some of my time driving down the famous Midlands Meander, and realized very quickly that there was too much to see and do on my short trip. Another visit would definitely be needed. It’s just so damn beautiful even in the middle of winter. I fell in love with the landscape and the naked trees dotted on every horizon. The rolling hills and winding country roads made me want to pull over every few minutes and take photos. You will also see a lot of Nguni and Brahman cattle, which are living works of art. Again, I wanted to grab my camera constantly.
I visited the Mandela Capture Site museum and monument, which was beautiful. They are in the process of constructing a new building to house the museum. It is well worth visiting and they have curated an impressive exhibition with stories and images of his life.
I put a call out on Social Media for recommendations as to where to go, and so many people raved about Café Bloom so I had to pop in here. This is a quaint little country eatery that puts on a daily harvest table where you are charged according to weight. They had moved to a new location and I was pleased to have stopped in. Well worth visiting this quaint and pretty spot with a lovely courtyard garden out the back.
Piggly Wiggly is another more commercial destination on the Midlands Meander that was recommended and I stopped past briefly. The pizzas came highly recommended but it was the wrong time of day for me to eat. I would have loved to stop at the only winery in the region, Abingdon Wine Estate, but that will have to happen on my next visit.
It was on to Hartford House.
I spent a lovely night at the beautiful Hartford House and was lucky enough to spend some time with their chef Constantijn Hahndiek. He told me about this fantastic local artisan cheese maker near Howick so I simply had to stop in on my way back to Durban. The Gourmet Greek is located at No 10 D369, Lions River and they make the most wonderful cheese. They supply to many restaurants and delis in the area as well as ship to Johannesburg and obviously Durban. They have a cute little restaurant and shop called the BLue Cow Deli and you can expect to find typical Greek fare like fried halloumi, spanakopita, tzatziki and pita bread. I enjoyed snack platter with a few of their cheese and then tried the most sublime Greek yoghurt I have ever tasted, I had to bring a tub back with me. Their feta was also the best I have tasted in South Africa and it took me straight back to past Greek Island holidays. It was just perfect. This is a family run business with mom, dad, son and daughter, and Filia (the daughter) took me on a quick tour of their factory, which was lovely.
I also simply had to go and visit Jackie Cameron and check out her beautiful cooking school in Howick. She is dedicated to taking a small group of students each year and setting them up with top quality culinary training and it was a delight and inspiration to meet them all. I got to spend an hour chatting to them about the creative side of digital food media, which was a pleasure. The school will slowly start opening to the public – but in the meantime to test this concept out, Jackie will be opening a 4-month pop-up brunch restaurant. You can check out her website to read up more about this dynamic chef and her incredible journey. This will definitely be one to look out for.
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