When you live in the hustle and bustle of Gauteng, sometimes you forget that there is beautiful countryside a short hop n’ skip away (or a Sho’t Left as the locals would say). Whether you are driving from Joburg or Pretoria, the beautiful Magaliesberg is only an hour or so away. Here, soft rolling hills and the sound of birds replace the cityscape and traffic noise. It’s close enough for a daytrip, but to really get away from it all I recommend that you stay overnight at one of the beautiful hotels, and treat yourself to a fine dinner in the evening.
Here are my Top 3 Gorgeous Gauteng Getaways with fine dining to match:
De Hoek Country Hotel
The main building at De Hoek looks like something out of a Jane Austen novel, with its ivy-covered stone façade and an immaculate croquet lawn in front. As you step inside; beautiful wooden floors, fireplaces and groups of comfortable sofas are framed by tasteful décor and plenty of interesting books. The feeling of days gone by is enhanced by the High Tea; a delectable affair of tiny sandwiches, sweet temptations and a selection of tea served in dainty little cups.
The rooms are modern, but the old country house style has been preserved with touches like exposed wooden beams in the ceiling. But there is nothing ancient about the facilities! A Nespresso machine and a tin of freshly baked cookies; gorgeous (locally produced, of course) bathroom amenities; a soft-as-a-cloud bed; and kingsize bath and shower will keep you in complete comfort.
Co-owner Michael Holenstein is a renowned chef, and together with his talented team he serves up fresh, local produce in a modern interpretation. Most of the vegetables are grown in their own garden, and as much produce as possible is sourced from organic farms in the Magaliesberg area. Stocks and sauces are made fresh on the premises, as is the pasta. They also have a world-class pastry kitchen that makes all bread as well as the delicious treats served at High Tea, including the chocolate!
Chef Holenstein is passionate about helping young, aspiring chefs. He runs an internship programme at De Hoek in collaboration with HTA School of Culinary Art that aims at mentoring and supporting local talent committed to making cooking their profession. But the best example of Chef Holenstein’s passion to teach and mentor must be his Sous Chef Esther Seroke. She started as a laundry assistant at De Hoek 19 years ago, and has worked her way through the scullery all the way to becoming Holenstein’s second in command.
Forum Homini emerges from the earth almost as imperceptibly as the surrounding hills. Located in the heart of the Cradle of Humankind, the hotel takes its inspiration from the surrounding nature and the age-old history of the area. Here, you will find open spaces, art and 5-star hospitality. The 14 suites are described as “cave chic”, and while I can certainly agree with the “chic” there was nothing cave-like about our accommodation. Well, apart from possibly the funky stalactite lamps! I, at least, have never encountered a cave with a large four-poster bed and bathroom with views of the sky. Oh, and a luxurious bath in the middle of the room!
If you grow tired of your fabulous cave, you can always take a little stroll around the grounds. But apparently there is a resident hippo in the nearby dam, so don’t stray too far. Better to just soak up the wonderful sunset, and then head to the bar.
Roots Restaurant at Forum Homini is a destination in its own right. They serve up long leisurely lunches that you will have to book long in advance to enjoy. But as a guest at Forum Homini, you get the two main events; a fine dining breakfast (or brunch if it’s on a weekend) and a six-course dinner. Read more about my Best Breakfast Ever here. The menus are set and let you completely relax and just enjoy the fine food and excellent wine pairing.
Chef Adriaan Maree creates little works of art, using locally sourced, fresh produce. Expect contemporary, modern food with a South African twist. The meals are enjoyed on the open verandah, or in the dining room with panorama windows to the gorgeous views. This is as close as you can get to nature without a picnic blanket!
In the middle of no-where, west of Pretoria, lies a Moorish Castle on a hill. Its entrance is a finely carved massive wooden door and once you are inside it is like you have stepped into a different time and place. Beautiful mosaic adorns the walls, and the floors are covered with oriental rugs. There are wooden oriels with intricate carvings and fine art. The suites at the Orient have names like Marrakesh, Constantinople and Samarkand.
There is an absolutely gorgeous library where you can relax, and let your imagination be carried away by the old and rare book collection. If you, against all odds, grow tired of the mesmerizing buildings, you can go for a walk in the orient’s expansive grounds, or play a game of petanque or croquet.
Mosaic, the restaurant at the Orient recently shot to fame by entering the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurants in 2014. At the same time, Chef Chantel Dartnall was awarded the coveted Chef of the Year Award. Her food is served degustation style, and the dishes are as beautiful as their names (how about Fantasy Forest, Earth and Clouds or Sunflower Spring).
The owners of the Orient are dedicated to the creation and preservation of fine art. At the Orient, you can view the largest private collection of masterpieces by renowned South African sculptor Tienie Pritchard. This collection is representative of a lifetime of work by Pritchard, and also symbolizes the importance that a sponsor, such as the owners of the Orient, has on the arts (just like Michelangelo would not have become what he was without the sponsorship of the Medicis in Florence and the Pope in Rome).