Moseying about in Montagu

Four star and fine dining filled with small town warmth.

Bernhard and Fida Hess were living the Jozi high life when a moment of chance changed their lives.  Visiting family in the small, picturesque town of Montagu, they cast their eye over a building for sale and idly thought they could turn it into country hotel.  That idle thought turned into a business plan and the Mimosa Lodge was born.

Experienced in the restaurant and hospitality industry, Bernhard and Fida wanted to create something special in the village most well known for its mineral baths.  Bernhard, an award winning Swiss-trained chef and previous owner of Ma Cuisine in Johannesburg runs the kitchen while Fida, a former GM of the V&A Waterfront hotel, manages the day to day running of the Lodge.

Together they’ve woven together the warmth and hospitality of small town South Africa with the service and quality of the big city.  The lodge, surrounded by the Langeberg Mountains, has a strong art deco theme, filled with beautifully restored furniture and the work of local artists.  Lush gardens, both decorative and edible, surround the property, revealing a sparkling pool around one corner and a hedge of rambling, perfumed roses around another.

The rooms are spacious and comfortable with the kind of beds that are made for holiday sloth.  I didn’t mind that our room was without a TV (a welcome change, in fact) but I would have preferred a kettle on hand, rather than ringing for my morning cuppa in my nightie.  Waking up to pink mountains and the bird-filled quiet of a small town more than made up for it.

In the evenings, guests are invited to join Fida in the bar for a drink and a little conversation before dinner.  A natural hostess, Fida tells stories about the village and surrounds, shares insights into country life and brings an unexpected amity to a room full of strangers. The food is excellent, recently winning the American Express Platinum Fine Dining Award.  Bernhard’s French cuisine training is evident in the presentation and his passion for fresh ingredients.  My companion and I were just discussing how the portions were perfectly sized, when we were tempted by an evil chocolate concoction that pushed us both right over the edge.  We could, of course, have said no.  But we didn’t.

Bernhard is happy to share his secrets. Guests can enjoy a personalised cooking course, designed to give food lovers a sense of what it’s like to be part of a working kitchen.  Students participate in planning the day’s menu, then visiting the local markets and wine farms for ingredients and matching wines they will use to prepare that evening’s gourmet meal.

Often referred to as the gateway to Route 62, Montagu is a perfect base for those who want to explore the region.  The village and its surrounding mountains are filled with historic buildings, gentle walks, mountain bike trails and the famous warm baths, as well as a number of other foodie havens like Templeton’s at Four Oaks.

It’s a 15 minute drive from the Robertson Wine Valley where I couldn’t resist stopping to buy a case of my favourite Sauvignon Blanc, the Springfield Life from Stone.  It’s also worth popping into Fraai Uitzicht for lunch, not just for the delicious food, but for the sweeping views of the valley.  Sparkling wine lovers should visit Graham Beck and try their Méthode Cap Classique Brut Rosé.  Delicious.

Mimosa Lodge
Church Street, Montagu
Tel: +27 (0)23 614 2351

Templeton’s @ Four Oaks:
Reservations: +27 (0) 23 614 2778

Fraai Uitzicht:
Reservations: ++27 (0) 23 626 6156

Written for Moneyweb Life in December 08.

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