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TOUCH OF GLASS (article first published : 1999-07-31)

When you notice that the blue tumblers in the bathroom are made of glass, then you know you’re staying somewhere with a touch of class. Owned by Ken Kennedy and Bruce Hodson, well-known entrepreneurs who started the highly successful chain of Barn Owl craft outlets, The Country Lodge is situated in verdant forest at Southbroom, slightly inland from the sea just south of Ramsgate on Kwa-Zulu Natal’s Lower South Coast, barely a kilometre away from the Riverbend Crocodile Farm.

Chosen as the venue for the filming of the latest Tarzan movie, the dense tropical vegetation is a “President’s Natural Heritage Site”. It is home to hundreds of species of birds including the rare Nerina Trogan. It also abounds with numerous rare cycads so it was appropriate to name the Lodge’s restaurant, “The Cycad”.

The other, more informal, restaurant is quite literally a giant tree-house where the open sides of the dining area offer interaction with the outdoors as well as the delightful (but not to be encouraged!) hordes of perky and highly inquisitive vervet monkeys

The Country Lodge holds regular wine tasting evenings and, this time around, it was the turn of Anglo American Farms Limited who were promoting Boschendal and Vergelegen wines. On arrival, guests were greeted on the bar patio with the sparkling and sophisticated Boschendal Brut before moving through to The Cycad for a memorable meal – well chosen to complement the wines.

There was a choice of Boschendal Pinot Noir or Chardonnay with the first course of Biltong and Apricot Pâté. This was followed by Crème of Mussel Soup accompanied by a smooth Vergelegen Chardonnay - my favourite wine choice for the evening.

On a recent shopping expedition in Margate, functions manager Michael Crous’s discerning eagle eye spotted an offer of warthog steaks in the local supermarket, an unlikely place to find venison but the butcher has good connections! Deliciously tender, the roast warthog was served with a red wine and blueberry sauce served on a hot red citrus cabbage. Red wines and I do not make good companions so I passed on what was apparently a very good Vergelegen Mill Race Red.

After such a feast, it seemed total over-indulgence to go for dessert but I’m glad I did. The Raspberry Cheese Cake served with Chocolate Wings and Granadilla Coulos was attractively served and surprisingly light, well matched by Boschendal’s bubbly, refreshing Le Grand Pavillon. This was followed by a cheese table and the superb dessert wine, Boschendal’s Vin d’Or. Apart from Le Grand Pavillon, all wines were served in goblets made out of the same beautiful deep blue glass, first encountered in the bathroom.

Apart from the warthog – which was a stroke of good luck for everyone – all the courses appear on The Cycad’s regular menu. Ken Kennedy and Bruce Hodson travel extensively around the world and occasionally pick up recipes for successful dishes. These are acknowledged at The Cycad, as in the Grilled Kingklip with White Wine and Caper Sauce from Foyal in Martinique or the Seafood and Fish Platter from Justins in Memphis.

Starters range from salad at R12,50 to steamed mussels in white wine at R22,50. Most of the entrée dishes are R49,50 such as a Renaissance Rack of Lamb with a gin and litchie sauce or pork fillets with mustard and gherkin sauce. Line fish is caught locally and the feta and pepperoni Peasants Crêpe is a vegetarian favourite. To round off the meal, desserts are mostly R15 except for the Crêpe Suzettes (from Pittaris in New Orleans) at R22,50. Two of The Cycad’s own recipes are to be incorporated in a recipe book by Oded Schwartz due to be published shortly

The accommodation at Country Lodge is attractively furnished, bordering on the sumptuous and, considering it is set in the middle of a forest, with no hint of dampness! My room had a large and elegant bathroom and the bed was firm and comfortable. My only complaint was that the toilet holder must have come off the set of Peter Sellers’ hilarious film, The Party as it consistently rolled streams of toilet paper all over the carpeted floor in bridal profusion!

The Country Lodge regularly offers accommodation specials so it’s advisable to check what’s on offer. There are also two conference areas and the venue’s a highly popular choice for weddings. Phone (039) 316-8380 or fax (039) 316-8557. E-mail: destination.south.africa@iafrica.com


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