Granny Mouse Country House


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I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a pretty silly name for an establishment.  But there we were nonetheless.  If you haven’t heard of Granny Mouse’s, where have you been, darling?  It’s a quaint country house & spa on the Midlands Meander in Kwazulu Natal & conjures up fantasies of Beatrix Potter.  I was kinda expecting Jemima Puddleduck to come waddling round the corner at any moment to tell somebody off.


Anyway, My Lovely & I checked in on a sunny but chilly afternoon & were greeted with smiles & champagne.  Made a bee-line for our room to get settled and capitalise on the beautiful sunshine on our balcony over the Lion’s River.  With a waterfall no less than 20 meters up the river, the sounds of the water splooshing around was completely intoxicating & surreal.  Surreal but nice.  Where’ve I heard that before? So surreal in fact that we decided to relish in the experience & donned these babies:






Yip.  That’s how they roll up there.  No messing about. So as it got a bit later and cooler, we cracked a lovely bottle of Klein Constantia 2007 Merlot & got the fire going.  For a very reputable establishment, the contents of the mini-bar were very reasonably priced – R85 for the aforementioned wine (750ml bottle), and R8 for a small bottle of mineral water.  Seriously? Yes please!  Instead of couches or chairs in the room, there were 2 very large, very comfy pillows on the floor in front of the fire.  Can I just say at this point that this was one of my favourite bits about the place?  Such a simple touch, but draws you in to relax by the fire and spend some quiet time staring at the crackling logs.  Magic.









We prepared for dinner & went through to the bar, The Mouse & Lion where we were greeted by one of the friendliest & most pleasant barmen I’ve met in a long time.  His name was Mabutho, and he talked us through all the whiskeys, malts & Cognac in the bar; how much they cost (again, very reasonable) and how often their guests indulged in them (not as often as they would like, obviously!)  We ordered another bottle of the Klein Constantia & perused the menu.

Now at this point, I feel I should mention that I know the chef.  (yeah, I’m gonna be that person, ok?) Leanne Roberts is a Silwood graduate like me & has a real flair for fine dining.  Leanne spent 2 months training with me at Ellerman House during my 3rd year & ended up helping me with my final dinner.  The be-all and end-all of every Silwood cheffy’s training is ‘The Dinner’.  Everything leads up to that moment. Leanne was part of my brigade & was a complete Godsend.

So she’s been running the show at Granny Mouse for a good 3-4 years now, making a name for the place & bashing out some amazing food.  Which is why I pored over the menu for a good half hour before I was able to order.  Leanne changes the menu daily, based on what’s fresh & available – but that’s not to say that things are limited in this part of the world.  No, the menu contains glorious ingredients that you’d fine in any fine dining establishment:  truffle oil, sweetbreads, Parma ham, crab, quail, duck, pomegranates… Good stuff man.  So good in fact, that My Lovely decided to order 2 starters! He settled on pan-fried duck livers on truffled brioche with beetroot vinaigrette & beetroot micro herbs (R45), and also the tempura of soft shell crab, spiced lentils, and Thai red curry sauce (R60).  It was a tough selection for him, as he adores anything-duck, but as I’m allergic to crab he never gets his crab-fix on anymore, so couldn’t help but capitalise on the opportunity!  I chose the seared beef carpaccio with a sweet beetroot glaze (R45).  The maitre ‘d showed us through to the dining room where a gorgeous fire was burning & had warmed the room up nicely.  Our fellow patrons included 5 tables of middle-aged to elder white folks, and that was really about it.  No diversity there that evening.  No ayoba-ness.  No studio-touching.  Shame.  The 2 middle-aged couples behind us were discussing their latest trips overseas & if I’m honest, there was a lot of one-upmanship going on.  The colonial Natalian accent, the colorful pashminas over black attire.  Chinos. Horror of all horrors.  Basta!

Our starters were delicious – The duck livers were beautifully cooked with that trademark pink center that showcases the true skill of a great chef.  The brioche was a bit disappointing in appearance, it looked like a slice of toaster bread with the crusts cut off, but the flavour was typical of brioche, although lacking in the truffle notes as advertised.  I was only allowed a mouthful, but it rocked my socks off when all the flavours & textures were combined.  Really great dish.  The crab looked seriously impressive:  light & crispy tempura and gorgeous tender crab on the inside.  The portion included part of the body and a good few legs (are they called legs?) which was very generous and was served on spicy brown lentils & surrounded with the creamy Thai coconut sauce & garnished with micro herbs.  My Lovely said it was absolutely fantastic, great combination of flavours & a wonder of textures.  I’d take his word for it if I were you.  My carpaccio was yummy, the beef was of excellent quality although I would have preferred a savory garnish over the sweet beetroot that the dish was served with.

For the main course, mister man went for the Parma ham-wrapped beef fillet on potato galette with bordelaise sauce & topped with roasted sweetbreads (R125).  A seriously serious dish.  Each component a real testament to one’s cooking ability as well as the very important gift of timing.  Chefs can be really great at cooking but can suck at timing the readiness of their components.  It’s a crying shame when this happens.  Leanne was on it though: the beef was as my man had ordered it: medium-rare, the potato galette was perfect – crispy on the outside & soft & well-seasoned on the inside; the sweetbreads were great – I’m a sweetbreads fundi, and found that they had been fried in seasoned flour so that a nice crust formed on the outside, protecting the delicate flavour inside.  I didn’t taste the Bordelaise sauce by itself as I would have liked to, but as a dish it was well-balanced & extraordinarily well-executed.  The plating was elegant, clean & typically Nouvelle cuisine.  I had opted for the pan-fried duck breast with sautéed baby spinach, baby beetroot & pomegranate-duck jus, and was garnished with teeny tiny little orange segments (R98).  The dish had been plated diagonally across the plate, which was really striking & unusual – kudos Leanne!  The duck was amazingly tender & juicy, & the jus reflected this flavour & was complimented by the tart pomegranate seeds.  I loved the inclusion of the baby spinach, however I am not the biggest beetroot fan – 2 courses containing beetroot, perhaps my dinner selection hadn’t been properly thought through?  Perhaps not.

You’re probably thinking to yourself: “There’s no way they’re having pudding after all that!”  Wrong.  We did however share a dessert, as it just was way too much goodness we’d taken on board (and don’t forget the 2 bottles of wine).  Dessert was a gooey hot chocolate fondant served with blackberry sorbet & an almond tuile (R45).  Very good idea to have shared.  The fondant was made from dark chocolate & excellent quality cocoa & was very rich.  The tart sorbet cut it nicely, & the almond tuile added a nice nutty dimension.  A perfect end to a most delightful evening!  Leanne came through to chat after pud & it was all we could do not to jump out our seats & adorn her with kisses and hugs.  We only refrained because she arrived bearing a plate of chocolate friandise which literally made our hearts drop, as we knew we’d have to give them a go!  Dinner: roaring success. Bravo!

Breakfast the next morning was slightly less stellar than our dinner experience.  A fair to average continental buffet with 2 a la carte hot dishes:  a double cheese soufflé & smoked trout Benedict.  We both chose the Benedict, and were equally disappointed when the English muffin wasn’t toasted but soggy, the poached eggs were undercooked and the Hollandaise resembled melted butter rather than a rich egg/butter sauce.  I suppose Chef can’t be in the kitchen every waking moment, but I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed.  Once our brekkie was done, we were off to the spa for a treatment together.  The ladies at the spa were very friendly & welcoming, the treatment rooms warm & well-lit.  Unfortunately the lady I got wasn’t as experienced as the masseuse My Lovely got, and I found the massage uncomfortable & awkward.  It was also noisy, as the delivery bay is directly behind the spa (not a good idea) & sounds from the outside world played in between the mellow New Age Enya music they had coming through their very nice sound system.  All in all,  a full body scrub, high pressure shower & full body massage for 2 at R1000 just somehow wasn’t worth it.

So, to wrap up, go! Go as often as your budget allows.  Go with a loved one or go with your family.  There’s a lot to do in the area & lots of activities on the property itself.  I can highly recommend the food & the chef.  The accommodation is gorgeous.  The service cannot be faulted.  Only 2 downsides to mention:  the lack of excellence in the spa & the 100% payment upfront.  But with an experience like this, it seemed totally worth it.

Visit Granny Mouse’s Country House on Nottingham Road near Balgowan or check them out here.

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