Following our stay in Clarens, we headed for the Midlands in Natal. Living in Dubai, we don’t really have a winter – you can live in shorts and a t-shirt all year round. We were looking forward to some cold weather: frosty mornings, fire places and electric blankets. I am currently reading The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets of Happy Living and realized how much I missed hygge. Hygge loosely translates to cosiness but as Meik Wiking puts it is more of an atmosphere, a feeling, an ambiance.
It’s just under a 3 hour drive to Hartford House (where we stayed) in Mooi River from Clarens. We stopped along the way at The Pig & Plough in Winterton for a quick coffee and my favorite South Africa dessert, Milk Tart. It was the perfect place for a break. With a lovely garden on the side, we ordered 2 cappuccinos. Pleasantly surprised, they used Terbodore coffee like many of the cafes in the Midlands. Terbodore Coffee Roasters are also based here and have a roastery and café in Curry’s Post.
The Midlands Meander is a loop that links several small villages together. I imagined it to be set-up a little like Clarens (everything centrally located) but you need to drive from one place to another. My advice to anyone doing this is plan your itinerary and select the activities you would like to do. We didn’t plan anything (apart from dinner every night) and were left a little ‘stuck’ on what to do. While the brochures in the tourist places list all the things to do, I found it difficult to put together an itinerary. If drinking coffee and eating cake is your thing, here’s my Midlands Meander.
- Café Bloom, Nottingham Road
One of the biggest attractions in the area is the Nelson Mandela capture site. The whole place is really well done with a small, informative museum and the sculpture itself is magnificent. On the way to the site, we stopped in Nottingham Road and came across Café Bloom. It was raining at this point, so it ducked inside to warm up. Not quite sure which bean they used, it was so cold that I just needed a coffee. Cappuccinos, a brownie and seat by the fire. The Danish would refer to this as a perfect hygge moment.
We stumbled upon this place on the way back from the Nottingham Road. We saw the sign on the road, it had a cute name (who doesn’t like Blueberry café) and were curious enough to find out more. Set high up on a hill, the car park was full. This was a good sign. As we walked in, we were greeted by a very friendly chap who appeared to know what was going on. You could also smell the coffee roasting – they have their own roastery on site. The food looked fabulous – so good that we wanted to come back for lunch the next day but they were fully booked. We had a quick coffee and since the kitchen was closed the lovely gentleman packed us some complementary cheesecake as padkos (road-food). The cappuccinos were so good, the fire blazing and the views of the mountains so stunning that we can came back the next day for another coffee. We sat the window and looked out at the Drakensberg Mountains. The Winkle next door if you fancy some shopping. We saw some beautiful, unusual pieces for our home – it’s definitely worth popping in.
Since everyone in the area including Hartford House serves Terbodore Coffee, this was one stop that had to be included. The drive over was beautiful as you went off the main roads (because Google told us this was the way). We passed Bosh Hoek Golf Club which looked stunning – we will save that for another time. We put the hire car through its paces up and down the gravel roads. Once we hit the Curry’s Post Road, we breathed a sigh of relief. Terbodore Coffee Roasters is tucked away – it’s like you are going to visit someone living on behind green hills. We parked on the lawn and we greeted by the smell of coffee. If only everyplace smelled like this. The sun was shining and the restaurant had a good buzz. We were also welcomed by 2 great danes (the Terbodore logo) lounging in the warm winter sun. I love how the great dane theme continues through the café – note the doggie biscuits intended for humans. The cappuccinos were warm and rich. The blend served in the café seemed to be richer and smoother than we had previously. We also bought some coffee as gifts and some Terbodore coffee pods for our Nespresso machine.
- Hartford House
Lastly, Hartford House needs no introduction to the food scene in Natal as Chef Constantijn has done a remarkable job in the kitchen. His food is experimental, exciting and he can turn you into a dragon. Every night Chef Constantijn took everyone through the menu including where the ingredients were the sourced from – they use local produce as much as possible. We knew that the piece of meat came from the specific farmer up the road. We did not have the room for a coffee after dinner as we were so full from the 5 course degustation menu. Instead, our first coffee at Hartford House was on our second morning at breakfast – we overslept on the first day and missed breakfast completely. The roast was Terbodore and the cappuccino was hmmmm ok – I preferred Costantijn’s cooking! Following breakfast we went for a bike ride, met the horses (Hartford House still has a working stud farm on site) and explored the grounds. After eating so much for dinner, you needed to find a way to burn off the calories.
It seems like there are many more places one can pop in for coffee and cake like Granny Mouse and Piggly Wiggly. We struggled to get this time and will definitely have a more structured coffee itinerary on the next trip.