Some of the details, such as different-coloured thatch on a part of the main lodge’s roof that underwent some repairs, jar for a second aesthetically and then blend into the background.
Of more positive impact is the absence of the Biggie Best-style frilliness and floral patterns that were de rigueur for such establishments in recent years. It appeared that the thinking was this was a countryside venue with a quaint name out of a Beatrix Potter story and it should therefore look and feel as though it was occupied by a farmer’s ouma who spent all day in her rocking chair, quilting blankets from discarded bits of fabric dropped off by the neighbours once they’d made Betsy’s dress for the upcoming confirmation service.
Happily, the GMCH owners have, as well as continuously expanding the original offering – guests still take their meals in the extended original farmhouse with its distinctive church windows, but there’s now the still-shiny spa built a few years ago and the newer Deluxe rooms, a couple of minutes walk from the reception area – kept up with the times in terms of their decor.
There’s no need to get overly sniffy and reproduce minimalistic rooms from the centrespread of some glossy magazine that costs R350 an issue and contains no text – so they haven’t. They’ve gone instead for something that exudes warmth, but not by stuffing so much bric-a-brac and old couches into the room that said warmth is achieved by herding guests into the centre of the room with furniture and thus keeping them away from the windows.
Here there is space and style, with features such as a little free-standing fireplace (make your own fire, Boy Scouts, or let one of the staff sort it out for you when they pop in for turn-down while you’re in one of the restaurants) and a wide sunbed on which you can lie, shielded from your neighbour’s view and enjoy a cup of plunger coffee – an important detail; you don’t want to pay four-star rates and get congealed Frisco – as the sun goes down.
Considering that the hotel is slap-bang in the middle of the KZN mist belt, it’s not surprising that such features receive regular use.
Elsewhere on the property, GMCH does its best to keep you in the building and off your feet, despite being part of the Midlands Meander, which will require exploring at some point during your stay, and having a picturesque river running in the valley below it. Apart from the spa, the restaurants and the pool – all areas in which guests are expected to expend the bare minimum in energy terms – there is a large lounge overlooking the valley, flanked by two bars.
One of them, Cigar (named after an American racehorse, not the rolled-up Cuban thingy) is the only spot in the hotel where you can smoke, and you can dress up that experience with a snifter of fine brandy or one of the single malt whiskies that line the shelves. The other bar is where sports fans will gather to support football, rugby and cricket with like-minded travellers, or to read a magazine while nursing a craft beer.
There’s also a cellar where, preferably with your hands behind your back and out of harm’s way, you can peruse the venue’s collection of fine vintages and perhaps have a word in the chef’s ear regarding what might later be matched with something on the menu.