1. GRANNY MOUSE COUNTRY HOUSE
The fine dining Eaves restaurant set, yes, in the eaves of the thatched roof of the quaint Granny Mouse Country House has recently been renovated but retains its cosy charm. It offers genuine fine dining alongside crackling fires and is a treat any time of the year but particularly on a cold winter’s night. The menu changes seasonally and the dishes on offer are inventive — think chilled ginger and mango soup, confit kingklip and smoked duck ice cream with blueberry puree, bacon thyme crumb and orange zest — and varied, with something for every palate, including special dietary requirements. The Degustation Menu, which can be ordered with or without wine pairing, showcases the expertise of chef Theo Mannie, who is described as “culinary artist” on the menu, and the presentation of the food proves this no misnomer. The Eaves also offers a private dining area for intimate celebrations and an award-winning wine list rounds out an outstanding offering.
2. CLEOPATRA MOUNTAIN FARMHOUSE
Nestled beside a lake between mountains, Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse is renowned for its gourmet cuisine prepared by award-winning chef Richard Poynton. Dinner is seven courses of heaven and Poynton delights in regaling guests with the background to each dish before it is served. The hotel’s abundant gardens provide plenty of produce which ends up perfectly prepared and beautifully presented on guests’ plates. Described as a “gourmet getaway”, food is very much the star attraction at Cleopatra and, if food is a passion, a stay must be on your to-do list. The best part? Poynton and his team have produced an award-winning cookbook, so you can recreate your favourite dishes at home.
3. CRYSTAL BARN
This quirky guest house is a delight for all the senses but your taste buds are in for a special treat when you stay at Crystal Barn. The restaurant is open for dinner by appointment, so be sure to phone ahead and book if you’re not staying there. You really should treat yourself to a night’s stay, though, as that means you’ll get to enjoy two excellent menus — at dinner and again at breakfast, which is served out on the veranda overlooking the rolling lawns, trees and dam. We were served a tasting menu on our visit and each course was as good as the next, with perfect palate cleansers served in between. The steak was outstanding and I’ll go back just for the divine deep-fried churros with caramel sauce. Despite stuffing ourselves to bursting at dinner, we woke up ravenous and enjoyed every bite of breakfast, too.
4. HARTFORD HOUSE
Hartford House’s kitchen produces breakfast, lunch, picnics, snacks and dinner, so you’ve no excuse not to sample their award-winning food if you are in the area. Situated in a heritage building, there is an old-world charm to the setting of the restaurant which adds to the enjoyment of the fine dining experience. Local, seasonal produce is transformed into a variety of creative dishes which are intricately presented by young chef Mathew Armbruster, who reimagines prosaic ingredients. An example is heritage beetroot, which he serves roasted, pickled and whipped into a ricotta or rhubarb, which is compressed with rose geranium syrup, and poached. It’s as good as it sounds.