Emperors Palace Ready To Run Dinner at Hartford House
(Image : Hartford House/Summerhill Stud)
READY TO RUN GALLOPS DINNER AT HARTFORD HOUSE
Charl Pretorius www.racingweb.co.zaWay down yonder, in the hills on the outskirts of Mooi River, Mick Goss welcomed his guests for the annual Summerhill Emperors Palace Ready To Run “Breezing” dinner, hosted by the farm’s multiple award-winning guest house and eatery, Hartford House.
Hartford, with Chef Jackie Cameron at the helm, has just been named South Africa’s Best Restaurant, pipping Franschoek’s legendary world Top 10 restaurant Le Quartier Francais to this truly distinguished title.
Racing’s luminaries have come from near and afar to see Summerhill’s two-year-olds gallop on the farm track on Friday. Also to get a shot of what we might call “Feelgood”.
Feelgood entails that the world suddenly takes on a deeper meaning, everything seems friendly and inviting. Almost like the warm feeling you get from popping two anti-depressant tablets at once. With every sip of Hartford’s quality Cab, one feels more in touch with nature and goosies creep up the spine as guinea fowls cry over there somewhere and the smell of spring flowers and herbs drift in on a gentle breeze.
Feelgood really is the only way to describe a visit to Summerhill and Hartford, where Master of All Mick, his extraordinary people skills aside, has built a Stud Farm of breathtaking beauty and where his wife Cheryl has turned an old Colonial home into a luxurious country house awash with rich, homely colours and brimming with 20th century splendour.
To interpret all of this, without ever being in your face, is a staff of professionals painstakingly trained in the little things, yet completely natural in their demeanour and going about their business with pride, as if they, themselves, were the owners of Hartford.
It seems as if Mick and Cheryl have many daughters and sons, a big happy family capably led by delightful ‘older sisters’ Linda Norval and Heather Morkel, and comprising of several talented young people in which Mick has entrusted Summerhill’s horse operation.
There is a welcoming dance on the Hartford Lawn – 20 or more Zulu youngsters jump up and down in traditional gear and bang drums. We witness the astonishing natural energy and fitness of the dancers as they strut along unabated with all limbs moving.
Mick tells the story of nearby Spioenkop, where once the political giants Churchill, Botha, Smuts and Ghandi converged simultaneously, and of the mighty Zulu army that defeated the British. He loves the Zulu culture and has an enormous pride in the status it enjoys all over the world.
Hotel Manager Paula comes along to tell us about the treats on this evening’s menu… corn and coconut soup, tuna tartar, confit duck slow-cooked for 10 hours and chocolate nemesis, dark chocolate complimented by segments of orange.
There are little gasps of occasional delight as dinner is served, course by course, mixed with laughter emanating from those sitting near an in-form Jehan Malherbe.
Mick hauls out some private stash, a bottle of Waterford ‘Jem’, named after Dimension Data’s Jeremy Ord and available in the Hartford Diamond Wine Collection at around R2,000 per bottle.
That’s a rough estimate of about R700 per glass for Mick, Nico Kritsiotis and I, or R100 an hour for the next 7-odd hours of peaceful rest on a Hartford Double bed, Jem’s Bordeaux blend flowing merrily through our tired veins.
Yeehaah! Tomorrow (after breakfast on the veranda) we’re gonna pick ourselves some horses!
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