All Images by Al Nicoll
As most of you know we here in Southern Africa are dipping into winter. The wind is chilly to the bone and the morning sun is sharper than it should be. Not that I am complaining. You see winter is my favorite season, hell it’s my favorite everything. I live for the cooler weather. Bring on the wind, rain, lightning, thunder, and torrential storms. I will be there wearing shorts and a shirt. I guess its my aversion to heat and being all hot an sweaty at the drop of the hat, or its just my very real emotional peace and calm that comes with moody weather?
So when I got an invite a few weeks ago from the folks you know I love the most, Granny Mouse Country House & Spa. I knew that I was in for a treat. Not only am I always talking about this establishment but it is one of the very few places where I feel 100% at home. Completely and utterly relaxed, this may be a bit biased as I must mention I once did work there. Even then it was one of the best places to be in Kwa Zulu Natal.
Al Nicoll and I as usual packed up our “dream team” and headed up to The Midlands Meander. We went traveled up with Kyro from Goldfish Communications a few fellow writers, bloggers, food critics and photographers, for much like Bilbo Baggins we were off on an adventure.
As we opened the car doors, we stepped out into the beautiful parking lot, surrounded by beautifully tall trees, vast valleys of green which mist rolls out of in the mornings and artistically arranged waterfalls built into frames. A sound and smell I have much missed but not forgotten. Secured in the middle is the well known and quaint Granny Mouse Chapel. Where many a winter wedding has taken place and many a party. Granny Mouse is not only open for short stay accommodation but also has a conference room, chapel and corporate facilities available.
Immediately we were greeted by the ever friendly Deputy General Manager, Mouton Du Toit.I knew this was a good sign as we were there to do one thing, to eat!
Eating was in fact the entire purpose of the day, the whole reason we were braving the cold and gathering the troops! Granny Mouse was launching their winter menu and we were going to be the select first few to be introduced to the wonderful new options. Yum!!! Need I say more.
Walking down the cobbled path, we headed towards the reception area, passing the family rooms which over-look the court fountain and conference hall. Greeted by a familiar and welcomed wood fire in the reception we were shown to one of the many lounge areas on property, and treated to a little champagne.
This gave Al and I time to walk around the property and do some exploring, as the two of us tend to do. Fire places, wood furnishings, brick and stone highlights. I love the quirky spaces like the wall in the Mouse and Lion with a frame on it made out of wine corks. A great way to re-use and recycle.
After our little run around we joined everyone as Sean welcomed us all to Granny Mouse and explained the new menu to us. He explained what they were going for in creating the menu and how the Culinary Chef’s had created something completely new and innovative. We were about to have our minds blown and our taste buds teased. I couldn’t wait.
The atmosphere at the table was light, joyful and eager. Everyone couldn’t wait to get dug in and see what the team at Granny Mouse had created. Before we started General Manager Sean Granger and the Culinary Artist’s explained each dish to those seated. I had a bit of a giggle when suddenly 30 people turned towards the team with camera’s and cellphones held out like Angelina Jolie and her family had just hit the red carpet.
Although I do think that the lovely artists deserved the attention and possibly more after having tasted their dishes. Move over Angelina. Some of the chefs involved were Kirstie Du Toit, and Wayland Green.
I think if Mouton had sent this meal out of the kitchen and then told us all to go home, it would have still been the most amazing afternoon of this year. I could have eaten 50 of these dishes, jokes aside. The spiced curry cream was my beginning and my end. The ingredients paired within all four dishes were just mind flipping. I would have never thought of adding half of these together but there they were in front of me. And they were divine. “Dear kitchen at Granny Mouse, please can you send me like a peanut butter jar full of this deliciousness…..that’s all”.
I love it when culinary artists use orange anything in food besides chocolate but I wasn’t so sure about the combination in a fish dish. None the less I was way to distracted by the presentation of the meal to spend more than 5 seconds on that thought.
Just look at it. Look. Look. And then look again. Every time someone offers me anything even the least bit crunchy I say no. This time I said “please sir can I have some more”. The white cabbage was the real winner in this dish, it complimented every other flavor that had been infused within the dish and then some. I don’t know what is going on in the kitchen at Granny Mouse but I want in!
Oh and can we talk about the fact that instead of a wine this dish was paired with Old Main Brewery 1806 Craft Beer? Yes, you read that right. Craft beer in the house! I love my craft beer and I was surprised and delighted that the culinary artists had included this twist in their tasting. I would be pleased to hear in the future that craft beer will be paired with several dishes at Granny Mouse. The perfect craft was chosen and matched perfectly to this dish. Craft beer has not only become but is continuing to grow within the South African community, I am in big support of all the local breweries who have started up in garages and people’s homes. Some which are now competing in International Leagues and bringing home the medals.
By this stage I had erased all previous assumptions of what the dishes would taste like and how they would be served. I took every notion I knew and hid it under the table. I liked that I didn’t know what was going to happen next. Along came the Lamb Loin, obviously I expected a plate of lamb with not much difference in taste to any other lamb. Also obvious in this moment I had forgotten that I was sitting at a table at Granny Mouse Country House and Spa.
The lamb like all the dishes was presented beautifully and of course the first thing my eyes latched onto were the brussel sprouts. It’s common knowledge that most children and some adults truly never like brussels. Let it be known that I was happily eating any brussels left over on the table. And boy did they miss out. I think when I next visit Granny Mouse (which I hope is soon, this kid needs a winter holiday), I will solely be eating brussels in spiced curry cream sauce.
This dish has managed to change my outlook on both eating and cooking with sunflower seeds. Again not a food that I would buy on my own account, but paired with the mushrooms on the dish, I couldn’t get enough. I loved the mixed texture of the sightly crunchier seeds and the soft oyster mushrooms. I mean who thinks of that? Granny Mouse does that’s who. Look no further to have your mind blown.
I am just going to call it Dessert Sushi. That’s what it was, served as sushi would have been but with different ingredients. There was one aspect I didn’t like much which was the rooibos jelly. I thought I would as I love rooibos, but I didn’t like the texture with the rice more than the taste itself. The cucumber sorbet however was a winner, winner chicken dinner! It was a perfect compliment to the dish and served well with the rice pudding.
I have to say it was an afternoon and an eating experience of the unknown. And that comes from someone who has been in hospitality for around 11 years. The pairings were just brilliant, something new and something different. I loved that the dessert was served with Pimms! And when they say on the rocks they really meant “on the rocks”.
I like how you roll Granny Mouse.
And what of Granny Mouse itself? Well I could tell you about their numerous awards? Or their amazing staff members? Or even that they have one of the best General Managers in a Kwa-Zulu Natal establishment.
But what about actually staying over?
Well, after our tummy’s were full and sore from laughing. We were shown around the grounds. Eventually we headed to the suite rooms. The suites at Granny Mouse are my favorite rooms in all of KZN so far! And I would expect them to be hard to beat by any standards. The value, the decor, the design, the views and the quality just can’t be beat. And you can quote me on that. So as we do, Al and I went exploring. And I think what we found below speaks for itself.
I have to be honest now. I am not a romantic person, but if my future partner does not check me into Granny Mouse for a couple of nights then we are going to have problems in our future! I LOVE these rooms, if you hadn’t picked up on that already?
The lush carpets, the heated floors, the views of the valley, the large window basins and the suite bathrooms. Oh my! I feel like Old Hollywood in the suite bathrooms. Huge wide deep baths, with huge wide windows you can see out of. There cant be anything more tranquil then laying in a bath in a suite at Granny Mouse and then to top it off, being able to get out and sit around your own personal wood fire? I hear champagne glasses clinking in the background already.
So here’s to you Granny Mouse. Thank you for the incredibly hospitality, the mind blowing dishes, the absolute fun and laughs that were shared, the beautiful venue and stunning day spent with you and your staff. “The team at Granny Mouse once again has exceeded all expectations of stellar service and star quality food”. I can not wait to come up hopefully near the end of June or early July and soak up the gluhwein and wood fires with you all. I had a fantastic afternoon and I am sure Al too enjoyed the event. Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s perfect.
And As Always…
You can find Al Nicoll & CeecesTravel on all our social media platforms: Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram at @Alnicoll and @ceecestravel