Something old, something Greek, something Overberg
Halfaampieskraal farm is the perfect place to work at doing nothing
If you are ever for the perfect getaway, Halfaampieskraal in the Overberg is heaven.
In the book Halfaampieskraal: The Way We Live, the first quote reads, “The perfect place to do nothing at all.” It captures the farm, which opens its arms to guests so generously and completely.
Turning off from the N2 at Caledon and driving in the Stanford direction, it is situated amid the rolling wheat fields of the beautiful Overberg. It is still very much a working farm and when paging through the book, I was reminded of a friend’s 50th birthday celebrated there a few years back.
It’s all about the place and its people, the way you become part of the farmstead, while luxuriating on recliners under huge trees with homemade cocktails and unusual snacks, with farm animals coming to peek at the latest arrivals.
The rooms, just behind the main house, are drop-dead gorgeous and quite unique in their design. This is obviously someone’s passion and it shines through.
Owner Jan-Georg Solms (with partner Cobus Geldenhuys) describes it as a “curation of my favourite things — and lots of them”. He explains that with this being the family farm, he also inherited much of what is featured and he and his partner have an annual breakaway to Greece where he often picks up objects he has lost his heart to. “I have an eye for pieces that can be fashioned differently and given a second life.
“The idea is that you have to feel comfortable, as if you know the room intimately,” he says.
Included are heavy linen gowns, beds that are slightly larger and higher than the norm with down duvets stuffed with the feathers of their own geese, but in European weight.
The rooms are stocked with excellent coffee, buttermilk rusks and fresh fruit. Mosquito nets come standard in season and bathrooms are oversized, all with open showers (wet rooms), some including baths and others outside showers. Flowers fill all the rooms and the main house stoep, if you can tear yourself away from your room, is a favourite gathering spot to enjoy either sunrise or sunset.
The main house, which also has some rooms but is mainly the gathering place, is a jumble of well-organised themes “which allows guests to peek around and lose themselves in flavours and textures of bygone eras”. The rooms have names such as Plantation Room, Reading Room, Officer’s Mess, Red Dining Room (with a 53-year-old post office wall-to-wall red carpet from his parents’ time) and Empty Room (filled with objects), which gives you an idea of the feel and style of this quite extraordinary vintage farmstead.
And with all this chic comfort, in addition, there’s the extraordinary delicious factor of the food.
“We keep files of all our guests [60% of them are returns] and the menus we’ve served, not to repeat ourselves,” he responds when I ask him about our weekend meals. Many of the guests order some favourites from the previous menu, though.
Their chef, Marlette Scheltema, has been with them for some time and has chef training, but she easily adapted to their style of cooking: simple food, generous, but not an overly loaded plate.
“We draw a picture every time of what the plate will look like once the guests have dished up, when planning menus. Most food is served table/family buffet style. We use what we have locally, simply because we want food less travelled. Marlette now does almost all the cooking, and I get to taste everything!” said Solms.
Our menu was as follows:
On Friday evening, our casual menu wasFriday casual evening spanakopitas with lemon and tzatziki for starters, paella on the fire for mains, and a simple lemon pudding. Breakfast on Saturday was a three-cheese breakfast soufflé-tart, boerewors and the most amazing Turkish cucumber.
Saturday evening, the night of the celebration, included canapes canopiesof toffee tomatoes and salmon rolls. Starters were field- and porcini-mushroom soufflés, baked in cream and pecorino. Mains were home-grown leg of mutton, cooked at 110°C degrees Celsius for nine hours, served with a green-oil-gremolata dressing. The sides included caramelised onions with branches of bay leaves; potato Ann; upright butternut, courgette strips and small beetroots. Dessert was an old-fashioned croquembouche, with the crème patisserie flavoured with Frangelico and decorated with pistachio brittle, served . Served together with tiny liqueur milkshake shooters.
For those still standing, breakfast on Sunday was the house standard Brekko-pan — a big pan, with small pork bangers, bacon, onions, garlic, cherry tomatoes, dried oregano and a bit of cream, baked slowly, with halved hard-boiled eggs added in the end. This was served with traditional vetkoek and jam. All breakfasts start off with a fruit platter with their six-spice syrup and double-cream yoghurt and their own honey, freshly squeezed orange juice and extra strong coffee.
What you have is pretty much a breakaway weekend of fine-farm-dining in style with as much rest in between as possible, though the area offers much opportunity for exploring, if you wish.
But first page through their latest coffee-table book packed with the most beautiful pictures and recipes from the farm, which will give you a chance to see for yourself if this is your idea of paradise at a cost that isn’t prohibitive. Check their website for more information.