By Kamini Padayachee
Durban - If I could, I would ditch Durban and head for the hills in the Midlands. The crisp, fresh air, green fields and the laid-back country lifestyle really appeal to me.
So I was pleased as punch when I was given the chance to steal away with my husband for a weekend at the well-known Granny Mouse Country House and Spa. The hotel, nestled in the rolling green hills of Balgowan on the Midlands Meander, was started by Mouse, whom it is named after, and Richard Poynton as a bed and breakfast in the 1980s.
The hotel, which is a comfortable 120km drive from Durban, has changed hands over the years and looks rather different from when it started, but its brand of old-world charm and new-world comfort has been retained.
Sean Granger, the hotel’s general manager, said dozens of guests come back every year – and it’s not difficult to see why.
From the panoramic views as you drive up the tree-lined gravel driveway to the fragrant scent of lavender from the garden paths that lead to luxury rooms, Granny Mouse is a slice of the good life.
While many establishments claim to offer a “home away from home” experience, Granny Mouse is the real deal.
The staff are friendly and efficient and the hotel has nice touches, including charming antiques in every nook, fresh flowers in the rooms, chocolates on the pillows and his and hers matching gowns and slippers.
My husband and I – we usually tiptoe around, trying not to cause a fuss – took the hotel’s “Welcome Home” tag line to heart and sunk into the comfy couches and relaxed.
Central to the Granny Mouse brand is good food and the hotel’s Bistro restaurant dishes up casual, tasty meals for breakfast, lunch and supper. We thoroughly enjoyed the spread.
The hotel, which underwent renovations a few years ago, also now offers an upmarket fine dining experience at the Eaves restaurant.
Eaves offers a five-course menu with a food and wine pairing. Granger said while the restaurant was upscale, it was not “uppity”, but had a “smart casual dress code” and the mood was relaxed.
For an atmosphere with a difference, the hotel also serves dinner in the wine cellar.
The hotel’s reputation for good food appears to be no secret and the weekend we were there several couples popped in for lunch.
Wine connoisseurs should have nothing to fuss about because for the fourth consecutive year this year, the hotel has been awarded the Diners Club Diamond Award for its wine list.
For the romantics, the hotel makes up picnic baskets for guests or visitors. These may also be enjoyed on the property. A perfect picnic spot can be found along the Lions River – there are picnic benches and a wide open space where you could spread a blanket.
The hotel is also a great place to say “I do”, with a quaint, picturesque chapel on the premises. It offers a honeymoon package for newlyweds.
In keeping with the relaxing theme, the hotel’s renovated spa offers a range of services, from facials to massages, which are also available for clients not staying on the property.
So if you find yourself driving on the R103 and see the signs for Granny Mouse, I would definitely recommend dropping by. - The Mercury