My Blue Haven

2010-01-09 00:00

HIDING in Hilton’s misty fogginess is another of the area’s best-kept secrets. A place where the sounds of cicadas, wind chimes and the distant roar of the city lull you into trance-like drowsiness and there are so many Manet-blue flowers they make you giddy, like the bumbling bees drunk on the fragrance of camellias. And then the rush of an underground train rouses you and the caffeine­ from a first-class cappuccino kicks in.

The sound of the train in a tunnel where only the moles go, gives you a clue to where this heavenly spot is: at the end of a sinuous road so deep in the Groenekloof forests that I expected a hobbit to appear at any moment. Welcome to Hydrangea House, which isn’t called that for nothing.

For 10 months of the year the garden is ablaze with colours so glorious they’d make Van Gogh cut off his other ear and Gauguin come all the way from Tahiti just to paint them. The family fortunate enough to live here is the Frosts: Karin, Bill and their daughter Kerry, who runs the tea garden and function venue, helped by her mother. It has been open for about two years, but news of its delights has spread only slowly by word of mouth.

The Frosts offer warm home hospitality on a wooden deck that overlooks the garden and forest. It is an intimate space that is open from Tuesday to Sunday as a tea garden, and is also a function venue. “Our maximum is 60 people, so we can accommodate small weddings and intimate family gatherings such as 21st or anniversary celebrations, baby showers and kitchen teas.”

The Frosts want guests to savour the peace and tranquillity while they prepare meals individually, so be prepared for a superb slow food experience. This is not a place to catch a quick coffee and make 10 phone calls on your cellphone at the same time. In fact, that would be an insult to the hosts and the venue, and besides, hobbits don’t do cellphones.

The menu offers a range of breakfast dishes and light meals such as salads, wraps and toasted sandwiches. There are also hearty meals like mother used to cook and Nic pronounced the lasagne­ worth going back for again. And again ... the children’s menu had Hannah hard pushed to choose and she made sure to leave space for her favourite dessert: peppermint crisp tart.

The menu carries stern warnings about child guests, which, Karin said, is based on experience. “Children are welcome, as long as they are well-behaved. We don’t want rowdy behaviour to spoil other people’s experience. There are also snakes in the forest so they cannot go exploring too far and really do need to be supervised by their parents.”

When you visit, be sure to go to the toilet, even if you don’t need to, as that’s a magical journey all of its own. Down flagstone steps and through flowers billowing like mauve-blue sails, it’s housed in converted staff quarters. The interior is decorated in beige-green colours with a quaint bamboo ceiling that Karin constructed herself.

Bill Frost is an organic cheese maker, and his range of Graceland cheeses is on sale, along with camembert from the next door neighbours: La Petite France.

We were delighted to discover that Kerry was trained to make cappuccinos by a professional barista, a Kenyan who goes by the charming and unexpected name of Nicodemus. For the cappuccino alone, let alone everything else it offers, Hydrangea House is now firmly on my list of favourite places.

• Hydrangea House, 38 Sutton Road, Hilton, 033 343 1455, 082 464 8412.

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