We checked in at Forum Homini in the Cradle of Humankind as the sun was setting over the veld and the lake, into our cave-style room. Unique and interesting, we of course eyed the tub in the corner for a second soaking! I had a quick chat to chef Bianca Fogwell before dinner who kindly popped in on her day off to chat to me. She has worked at Roots since intern days, and is rising to the challenge of heading up the kitchen team with great enthusiasm. They offer four-course lunches, five-course breakfasts and six-course dinners, brunches and wine tasting events in addition to hosting conferences and weddings. Our sommelier was equally dedicated, leading us through the food and wine pairing with interest. My dish of choice was the short rib pappardelle, a delicate blend of tastes in the beef consommé given good texture with Gruyère crisps. Breakfast is a five-course affair, of which I chose to enjoy the smoked haddock. Rather than chasing our tails back into the city, what a treat to retain the serenity from this escape to nature and head off to an overnight stay at The Orient Hotel.
Arriving in the Francolin Conservatory is a joy. After rolling down our windows to watch the buck gently grazing, we took a few turns and then spotted the Moorish architecture of the hotel beckoning in the afternoon sunshine. After a warm welcome from the staff and Mari Dartnall, who heads up the hospitality team in such a sincere and natural way, we felt like we had come home. A long walk in the conservatory was just what was needed before an evening of wining and dining. How special to watch the wildlife up close and personal, like two giraffe having their afternoon snack of the upper leaves of the trees. A late afternoon chat with award-winning chef Chantel was a highlight, we swopped stories of recent travels, hers to Belgium and France, and I understand a little more of her inspiration for constant innovation. Driven, dynamic yet diminutive, she is a force to be reckoned with. Head sommelier Germain Lehodey describes her as a locomotive, and then claims that he feels fortunate to be on this train.
Another tub, time to dress up and head for a glass of Veuve Clicquot and canapés before moving into the Belle Époque-inspired dining room. For drinks we teamed up with a couple who were there to celebrate a birthday, and animated agreement of appeal of this treat was unanimous. Not the only celebration witnessed – later that evening I wiped a tear watching a proposal of marriage offered and accepted at the table next to us.