South Africa comes to Sutton

Holly Heywood enjoys an evening of sustainable food, drink and gardening at New Hall.

If you haven’t been to New Hall Hotel and Spa in Sutton Coldfield for a little while, close your eyes and think of fragrant gardens, elegant and stunning architecture, personable and dedicated service and fine food and wine. We were invited to join the team at the hotel and spa for an immersive experience that took us to the wine production areas of South Africa.

I wasn’t sure entirely what to expect of the evening, and a word that potentially sums it up in retrospect is delightful. We started out in the beautiful gardens with canapes, the first of the wines set out for us that evening, and some atmospheric music. We were then escorted to the Great Chamber, a room lined with wood panelling, medieval portraits and a fine and beautiful ceiling restored painstakingly with rice paper, showing the level of detail and care taken in at New Hall Hotel and Spa, one of the Hand Picked Hotels group.

During the evening we learned about the wines we were tasting from Creation Wines founder Carolyn Martin, who spoke passionately and eloquently about the development of the vineyards. From a creamy and crisp Chardonnay to a smooth and velvety Pinot Noir, each wine was accompanied by a course from the South African themed menu. There was a juicy hake, then a palate cleanser of sharp couscous with strawberries and mint. Then came a succulent rack of lamb, served with a barley risotto, and chimichurri and a traditional bobotie with salsa and mango chutney. A traditional sweet potato malva pudding concluded the meal.

If you have food allergies and intolerances, I can wholeheartedly recommend the care and competence of the restaurant team here. I felt in entirely safe hands, and my meal was just as appetising and interesting as that served to other guests. The substitutions, such as a champagne sorbet, were flavourful and well-chosen, while staff members unobtrusively checked on my needs.

There was a superb presentation by Corne Pretorius, who took us through the flora and fauna of the region. Despite my lack of horticultural skills, I found this entirely enthralling, with tales of a single lonely tree from which 500 have grown and the protective role of spiders in some species conservation (not a role I could wholeheartedly embrace, but I am grateful someone has). Corne’s presentation was full of charm and humour, and held everyone’s attention.

The evening was hosted by Guy Hands, investor and philanthropist. And by hosted, I mean hosting in its most important meaning, ensuring that all guests’ needs and expectations were met in a warm and personable manner echoed by the staff team, as evidenced by the fact that when the talks had finally been concluded and the tables cleared, the majority of the guests remained, discussing the knowledge we had all picked up during the course of a fascinating evening. Hand Picked Hotels will be running more of these events, and if they are anything like our experience this week, I am sure they will be evenings filled with delicious food, fine wine, and captivating speakers.

We were the guests of New Hall Hotel and Spa. Opinions are, as always, our own.