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BEST FOR A Midlands gourmet escape with a warm welcome and excellent food and wine. FOOD This boutique wine estate is owned and run by Ian and Jane Smorthwaite, with their daughter Laurie. Ian and Laurie are the winemakers, and Jane the competent chef. The menu offers hearty meals, cooked with love and care. Everything from the Midland’s harvest board to chargrilled fillet steak is designed for sharing. Add-ons include crispy pork belly, rich melt-in-the-mouth oxtail and heavenly fresh trout wrapped in phyllo pastry. For dessert, choose between the Abingdon mess or dark chocolate fudge cake with coffee ice cream and salted-caramel sauce. DRINKS You can pair your meal with Abingdon wine, although guest estates feature too. Come early for a personalised wine tasting. SERVICE Welcoming local hospitality; attentive yet discreet. AMBIENCE On a glorious Midlands day, enjoy the country atmosphere alongside the vineyards. When winter’s chill sets in, expect roaring log fires inside. (JCM)

Abingdon Wine Estate, 7 District Road, Lions River; 083 463 8503; breakfast and lunch Fri to Sat; avg main meal R200; no BYO


BEST FOR A healthy harvest table spread. FOOD Mick Haigh’s country-style café is a landmark in these parts and worth a stop for fresh, light food all made with produce sourced from the surrounding farms. Start the day with creamy scrambled eggs topped with hard cheese and herbs grown in the garden. The harvest table is laden with inventive salads and quiches, all prettily presented with edible flowers. Think roast brinjals spread with tapenade; beetroot buried in lemon zest or roasted slowly in balsamic and served with chickweed and strawberries; or lentils with rosemary, onion, broccoli and halloumi. Else opt for a toasted sarmie with cheese-and-onion marmelade. The scones and dense, gooey chocolate brownies have a loyal following. DRINKS There’s good Buondi coffee, freshly squeezed juices and milkshakes. SERVICE Relaxed – as you might expect in these parts. AMBIENCE The old house, with its blazing fireplace and sofas, is cosy and cluttered in a thoroughly comfortable way. (KP)

Off the R103, Nottingham Road; 0794718005; breakfast and lunch Mon to Sun; avg main meal R85; corkage R20


Food made with love. Start the day with the three eggs and spears: grilled asparagus served with a soft-poached egg, a soft-boiled egg and hollandaise sauce, balanced with cold, smoked trout. Lunch options are robust – think bursting burgers, Chinese sticky pork ribs and Caesar salad. Dish descriptions are delightful: Big-Boep pork belly and Lady-Boss salad. For dinner the fall-off-the-bone oxtail, with loads of red wine and herbs, comes highly recommended. Leave space for a super-generous slice of mouth-watering carrot cake. Well-trained baristas create delicious, creamy cappuccinos. The The team is friendly and very competent. Expect appropriate, courteous service and happy hospitality. The upstairs seating overlooks mesmerising vistas of the Umgeni Valley. Interesting artefacts, from cutlery and crockery to chairs and tables, enhance the casual farmhouse vibe. Fabulous kids’ section.

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