I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to Brahman Hills.
I was less pleasantly surprised when I discovered it was self-catering.
I’m not about driving 500kms somewhere to make my own bed, let alone to clean up after somebody else, but I had already accepted the invitation and it was too late to cancel.
Self-catering couldn’t be the worst thing that has ever happened to me? Or could it?
Our self-catering accommodation was anything but what I expected – I expected a dingy cottage where the kitchen drawers didn’t open and a shower curtain that deserved to be set on fire, but our chalet was beautifully appointed; causal enough so that you don’t have to worry about messing, spilling or breaking anything, but smart enough that you might be tempted to steal a couple of ideas, if not a couple of the finishings, because they really are very gorgeous. It felt like a country home away from home. The chalets are peppered within the game reserve on the property so you can enjoy some seclusion without being completely isolated. Our chalet was about 110 sqm with a spacious lounge, kitchen, bedroom, shower, and bathroom. What more could two people need?
Although it is self-catering they already had some refreshments ready and waiting for our arrival – like coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and a selection of rusks and biscuits, but what really impressed me is there was some farm-fresh milk in the fridge. It’s inevitable that wherever you are traveling to, especially to self-catering options, you often overlook to buy the basics so I was relieved to note that there was a supermarket literally just around the corner.
I loved the rustic finishes that completed our chalet. The wood-burning corner fire was ready and waiting for a match to be struck – it was quite romantic and greatly appreciated considering how cold it can get in KwaZulu-Natal during the winter months. My second favourite feature were the rain showers – yes, plural, because there were two, although not completely rustic, I loved those rain showers because it was such a decadent spa-ish treat complete underfloor heating.
Did I mention I was reluctant to go self-catering? I joked with my partner that this is how JoziStyle camps – complete with underfloor heating, with rain showers and corner wood fire burners and the only thing I could have wished for would have been for a bottle of bubbly on ice rather than milk in the fridge, but maybe that’s just me!
The first thing I did; and this is why I’m recommending everybody should go to Brahman Hills because it really is rustic decadence, was to go skinny-dipping in the outdoor Jacuzzi. Nobody could actually see us – although I wouldn’t mind if somebody did, but when you jump into this hot soaking Jacuzzi, surrounded by 1,000 trees in the middle of the freezing Natal Midlands, It just like eases all the stress away. There was even a hint of snow. It wasn’t enough snow to colour the landscape but it was just enough snow that you could actually feel it landing on your eyelashes, landing in your hair, you could see it falling into the Jacuzzi as well but you’re so warm and toasty in that hot water that you really didn’t have to worry about getting cold. Face and hair might have been freezing but my body was warm and toasty. It actually felt like we were in the Swiss Alps minus the snow cover. That was quite a magical experience at Brahman Hills.
Brahman Hills was actually the best thing that happened to me because they offer 4.5-star luxury – and they have a few great restaurants: the Brahman Café serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, The Stables Restaurant can be opened by arrangement, and their flagship restaurant, 89 on Copper serves a Chef’s Selection menu – a 3 course set menu with 2 options per serving. Their bar, Copper, also offers has an extended bar menu, and there is even Cappuccino, their coffee lounge.
One is certainly not starved for choice at Brahman Hills.
We went to their flagship restaurant, Restaurant 89 on Copper, which is located in their underground cellar which can best be described as understated luxury. I especially enjoyed the décor because juxtaposed against the cold, hard cellar walls were plush wing-back chairs covered in different fabrics with assorted colours and textures. I loved how all those dichotomies played with each other to combine an earthy venue with copper and gold accents.
The Executive was very gracious when I asked if I could take some photographs in the kitchen because the lighting in the restaurant wasn’t conducive to great photography. They’ve got a massive kitchen that can cater for both large and intimate parties.
What I really like about the menu, a little bit deceptive by the way, is the subtle focus on healthy eating. It’s a small menu but it caters to all tastes and you’ve got a selection of virtually anything you might want, but what really appealed to me was the focus on healthy eating. A lot of our salads all had courgette spirals or carrot spirals and it looked like an artsy cheffy flourish but the nutrition in all those dishes I thought was very impressive. It’s not like you’re going to a fat farm and living on lemon and hot water six times a day. You get really tasty delicious meals that are nutritious.
On out first night we went they had a selection of dishes, my partner and I both opted for the steak, we wanted something substantial and then we both had desserts afterwards but it’s the second night that really appealed to me, taking pictures.
The second night we tried their set menu. For starters we shared the Tomato & Basil Soup and a Smoked Salmon Salad. The soup was very light with a touch of cream that allowed the fresh basil to shine. The Salmon Salad included cream cheese, avocados and courgette spirals with a basil pesto dressing. Truly delicious.
I opted for the Lamb Chops for my main meal – served with chips , salad and a mint sauce, which were just perfectly cooked: slightly char-grilled on the outside to get that caramelization, the fat was crispy and juicy, and the centre slightly pink. It was an absolute treat but slightly too generous for me to finish. My partner opted for the Chicken & Prawn Thai Curry – served with rice poppadums, which he thought could have been spicier but I thought was really tasty and studded with a generous serving of succulent prawns and chicken.
There were two dessert options on the menu, a Wild Berry Cheesecake and an Apple Crumble with Chocolate and Almond Ice-cream, which we opted to share so we ordered one of each. A sweet finish to a delicious meal!
Breakfast was absolute decadent treat if you want continental you’ve got continental, if you want a full on English breakfast you’ve got a full on English breakfast, and more than what you’d imagine humanly possible in the Valley of a Thousand Hills.
I would highly recommend Brahman Hills and definitely plan on returning again. You’ve got a really well equipped kitchen if you’re looking for a self-catering option, and they have really great restaurants should you prefer to eat-out.
I’d be amiss if I did not mention that Brahman Hills is a very popular wedding destination, complete with a really gorgeous glass house chapel that extends over a lake – you literally you walk off the land, into the church, and you’re already over the lake. You are completely surrounded by water. There is so much life. I cannot imagine any bride having nervous jitters getting married on that day. Had their been a marriage ceremony underway, I would totally have gatecrashed!
I think Brahman Hills is perfect for a weekend getaway, a romantic getaway, or just just to escape from the city.