De Hoek Country Hotel
August 6th, 2012
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I take up the bow to have my first go at archery. Feeling like a cross between Braveheart and Lara Croft, I pull back the string and aim. The arrow soars through the air, way above the target. My girlfriends who are watching me hoot and cheer, urging me to try again. My second shot hits the bull! Each woman gamely tries her hand at this ancient sport and we are rewarded with Tanqueray gin and tonics in crystal glasses – well worth the humiliation! At the elegant De Hoek Country House, set near a river in the Magaliesburg, we are building friendships and being pampered.
To watch the sun setting, I lie on the bed in my luxuriously warm suite and gaze at shapes formed by the branches of leafless trees outside my suite. They resemble traditional Japanese Ikebana. After the last few notes of a robin’s call, it is silent.
As it is a chilly winter’s evening, we gather around the fire in the lounge to chat or peruse the array of coffee table books. It is tastefully decorated with handcrafted mahogany and Oregon pine furniture. We concur that the heated floors in our suites are a treat in this icy weather.
We are escorted into the dining room- with its impressive ceiling of wooden beams - to a sumptuously decorated table, reminiscent of colonial splendour. Silver cutlery and butter dishes, designer glasses and fresh flowers are placed on a damask tablecloth. Chef Michael Holenstein, who has prepared a gourmet five-course meal for us, is a warm man and responds with charm and quiet wit to all our comments and questions. He informs us that the special crystal glasses are Chef & Sommelier manufactured by Arc International of France. Each glass has a unique design to enhance the bouquet of the wine, to bring out either the fruity, sweet characteristics of the wine or the woody, herbaceous and spicy tones. We each taste wine in both glasses and select the one we prefer. Michael says that women often prefer the “fruity” glass, whereas men tend to go for the “oaky” glass and we were no exception.
Our sommelier has chosen wines for us to pair with each course. The sparkling wine, Krone vintage Pink MCC, enhances the flavour of the canapés, which include Spinach & feta spanakopita with fresh tomato sauce and an Avocado & peppadew mousse. Each course is exceptionally tasty and is creatively presented. We are the only guests, which is just as well as we are becoming progressively more convivial as the night goes on.
The gardens of De Hoek are designed to have some colour each season of the year. Daffodils add a dash of yellow to the grey and gold of the winter palette. I spotted Grey Hornbill, Malachite Kingfisher, African Wattled Lapwings and heard the cackling of Green Wood-hoopoes. After an energetic walk on the property and in the nearby hills, which are ablaze with flowering aloes, I enjoy the bliss of a back and neck massage in the spa.
Relaxed, invigorated and having forged our friendships, we head back to the commotion of Johannesburg, resolving to make time in our hectic lives to refuel at five-star De Hoek Country House again soon.
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