• By Rosanne Buchanan

    I’ve always been a fan of Mount Grace, even in the quirky country hotel days – it’s a little oasis right on Jozi’s doorstep. And then a few years ago it changed ownership and gone was the shabby chic country inn decor and in came the modern prints and somewhat garish hot pink and turquoise (at that stage) soft furnishings. It was a bit of a shock but now it has all settled into itself and I guess nothing can negate the charm of the setting.
    Aside from the whole hotel revamp which cost a bomb and looks entirely more updated, the food has gone from strength to strength thanks to exec chef Franc Lubbe. And now, with the quirky but such a pro Jaco Welgemoed on board, it’s a sure fine-dining thing.
    The Rambling Vine gourmet wine pairing evenings held monthly and featuring boutique wine estates like Nitida, Allée Bleue and Zevenwacht are sensational, and if you overnight and make the most of your time at the hotel, you will feel like you have been away for the whole weekend. Arrive early and indulge in some of the activities on offer like walks around the koppies, mountain biking or just lazing at the pool. Another option is the revamped spa… it’s world class.
    We are now serious Zevenwacht converts, having not tried the full range of wines on offer before. We tasted existing labels and some latest releases. There are four courses so make sure you work up an appetite! On the menu was a double-baked Stilton soufflé with Stilton mousse and poached pear… with a barrel-fermented chenin blanc. Superb.
    Next was tuna ceviche paired with the Tin Mine blend… also a taste explosion.
    Smoked duck breast on goat’s cheese mousse and warm exotic mushroom and asparagus salad – tricky flavours – went exceptionally well with the sauvignon blanc in the range.
    Herb-crusted lamb  with parsnip purée  was paired with the Bordeaux blend, and the grand finale was a chocolate fondant with berries and a choc chip ice cream… with a Rhône red. An unexpected match but really fabulous.  If you can still cope there are friandises with coffee…
    For the price tag of R1 499, the experience is well worthwhile for the break and the gourmet experience. Next is Allée Bleue on 22 September. Then I am told there will be a Fresh Produce market on 10 November. 
    For more info, call 014 577 5600 or email [email protected].
    Note to birdwatchers: if you get up early in the morning, just take a walk around the hotel grounds – you will be astounded at the variety of birds in the area. We counted at least 50 in just a few hours.