Situated on the picturesque grounds of Garlington Estate in the small town of Hilton in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, Nicolson’s Country Café is an upmarket restaurant that specialises in fine cuisine. Interested to see what they had to offer I visited them for lunch recently and the experience proved to be one to savour.
The lunch menu is without a doubt one of the most interesting and appetising I’ve ever encountered. Starters include dishes such as Spanish-style Sweetcorn Fritters (a paprika and sweetcorn fritter topped with guacamole, crème fraiche and coriander and accompanied by chorizo slices and a pepper salsa), scrumptious soup of the day and the Midlands Trout Fillet (hot smoked trout fillet, flash-fried in herb butter, topped with home-made horseradish aioli and olive oil and served with crumbed potatoes).
I had the Midlands Trout Fillet (R49), which was delicious and exquisitely presented. The trout was expertly prepared and full of flavour and I especially loved the crumbed potatoes, which were exceptionally tasty. In fact, this dish was quite possibly one of the best starters I have ever had, it was that good.
Photographs — Left: Scenic views / Right: The interior
The main course offerings were equally as impressive and included dishes such as Spanish-style prawn and squid (four flash-fried prawns tossed with a few Falklands calamari tubes and pan-fried chicken liver set in a creamy harrissa-sherry reduction sauce and served with a crispy Portuguese roll), Nicolson’s Fillet Escalopes (thinly sliced beef fillet lightly floured and pan-flashed, served on a Swiss-style potato rosti and accompanied by a delectable mushroom and brown stock cream reduction sauce), Nicolson’s Tagliatelle (home-made Tagliatelle topped with a creamy paprika, tomato and pepper reduction sauce with wild mushrooms, chorizo and fresh rocket) and the country pie (a home-made country pie with a choice of a beef or chicken filling).
I selected the country pie with a beef filling (R72) and it proved to be an excellent choice. The meat was tender and succulent, combining perfectly with the rest of the ingredients, including the lovely thick pastry, to produce a superb-tasting dish. Mary-Anne opted for the Nicolson’s Tagliatelle (R72), which she raved about. “The Tagliatelle was amazing. Most pastas are rather monotonous and boring, but this one was exciting and lively because the different flavours complemented one other perfectly to create an absolutely wonderful dish,” she explained.
Photographs — Left: Midlands Trout Fillet / Right: Nicolson’s Tagliatelle
The dessert menu included delectable offerings such as dark chocolate, crème brûlée, baked white chocolate, cheese cake and home-made ice cream, and with so many delicious temptations to choose from we were rather reluctant to make a decision, fearing that we might miss out on something truly special. Obviously aware of our dilemma, restaurant manager Jono offered us a dessert platter, which we gleefully accepted. The dessert platter was extremely decadent and resulted in a sensory overload from which we are both still recovering.
I was exceptionally impressed with Nicolson’s Country Café. The food was absolutely divine, the service pretty good and the lively atmosphere and spectacular scenery (with huge glass doors providing a panoramic view of the beautiful countryside) combined perfectly to make for a most memorable visit.
Owners Jonty and Tanya Nicolson clearly have a passion for food that is evident in the quality of the dishes they present and the warmth they portray to their customers. Jonty, who is a qualified chef, does most of the cooking himself and has become renowned for his mouth-watering soups and home-made stock-based sauces. Wherever and whenever possible he prepares his dishes from scratch, hoping always to stay faithful to the flavour and presentation of each dish.
Photographs — Left: Country Pie / Right: Dessert platter
Jono also made us feel right at home, always taking the time to answer any questions that we had and never appearing bored with proceedings at any stage. Our waitress, too, was most enthusiastic and made sure that our glasses were full and that our every need was taken care of.
Nicolson’s Country Café is a fantastic restaurant where patrons can enjoy bistro-style lunches and gourmet-style dinners coupled with personalised service in an intimate, stylish atmosphere. Owing to the limited number of seats it is advisable to book for dinner and at least to phone through if you are on your way for lunch. Nicolson’s Country Café is open for lunch from Tuesday to Sunday and for dinner on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Breakfast is served on Sundays only.
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Nicolsons Country Cafe Contact details
Telephone: +27 (0)33 329-5200
Cell: +27 (0)82 591-3884
Physical Address: Garlington Estate, Hilton (off Seeking Drive), Natal Midlands, KwaZulu Natal