Round the benz on the KZN Midlands Meander

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🌂It was a brolliant start to the #iTopFormMeanderMotoring Day, the ominous weather could not dampen our high spirits as we gathered at Mercedes’ Garden City Motors in Pietermaritzburg (PMB).  The crowd that gathered were clearly hip people taking part in this bucolic happening, and I wondered if some were local celebrities. And yes, I wore my gumboots as usual, lol.

We completed the necessary paperwork to take million-rand Mercedes Benz vehicles on the iTopForm pitstop tour of the Midlands Meander, and set out armed with our brollies (umbrellas) as weapons against the wild Kwa Zulu Natal (KZN) weather.

First stop was breakfast at iLawu Boutique Hotel’s Botanic Restaurant in PMB, and my my, there was so much tech before breakfast! All kinds of media equipment and the tapping of phone screens was soon replaced by a sumptuous breakfast and excited chatter about the day’s events.

The next stop was something everyone should do in their lifetime, a visit to the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in Howick. A tour through the Apartheid Museum took our minds down a dark path of South African history, ending in a lifting-of-the-spirits at the sculpture of the face of our freedom, Nelson Mandela.

Back on the Midlands Meander road, seven cars snaked along in luxury to the third stop of the day: Chocolate Heaven at the Junction Village Centre (exit 132 from N3). And what a sweet stop indeed! Trays and trays of delights to every taste with over 40 combinations to dip in a swirling pool of melted Belgian chocolate. Needless-to-say everyone had a smile almost all the while 😊

The last leg on our tour was lunch at the Bend Country House, where my eye spied only the glorious curves and serene luxury that is the Midlands Meander.  A place rich in history, the 1400 hectares of pristine Nature Estate and the hotel’s elegant architecture and décor were a breath-taking sight.

Our hearts full with the comradery of the iTopForm experience, we filled our bellies with a hearty three course meal as the rain poured over the moody countryside. When we rolled out of the dining room, our highly-polished Benz vehicles had received an aesthetic make-over, courtesy of the stormy KZN sky.

Out came many forms of camera, the cold and raindrops forgotten in the heat of the moment. Now all that was left was to meander the road back home, perusing opulent files that will remain forever in the memory banks.

Wagon-loads of Goodness at Midlands Kitchen

The Midlands Kitchen branch in Nottingham Road, KwaZulu Natal, is exactly what South Africa needs in terms of road-side dining – and its in the right spot for it too, on the Midlands Meander right off the N3 highway at exit 132.

The SETUP: Indoor food market and restaurant put together. You can either order direct from each outlet or make use of restaurant section, with an all-inclusive menu of each outlet, plus gracious and sharp service. I visited on a Sunday for lunch, and the flow of people and cars was constant; they also all had seemed to have one thing in common: happy faces.

The hours are 06:00 – 16:00; there is a large outdoor area with antique wagon & some sort of steam engine, making popular for tired parents and stiff-legged travellers. There is also a completely separate Midlands Kitchen shop at the service station for a stop-and-go experience.

The FOOD: If I had to use two words: fresh and variety. Variety of food is fantastic, from Mexican to artisan coffee and woodfired pizza, gelato to burgers and Durban curry; and my favourite, the Vegan outlet.

I had the Wular Casserole (chickpea, coriander & lentil casserole with coconut milk & red pepper) – so so yum! And my partner had a Lamb Shwarma, he couldn’t stop remarking how flavourful & fresh it was. The value for money is also another attribute of the Midlands Kitchen, the casserole R50 and the shwarma R65 – and we were so full we wondered if we would need that wagon to get to our car.

Also, in the nature of my love for everything cow, I adore the names of the coffee sizes: Bull, Cow, Calf!

The SERVICE: You can tell many of the staff are invested in what they are doing, you can almost smell the enthusiasm. What also stood out was the speed in which the meals arrived, so fast and yet so tasty!

The CSI: The Midlands Kitchen employs local from the KwaZulu Natal Midlands area. From the beginning the owners decided their ingredients would be supplied by local farmers, even though it sometimes take 3 or 4 to meet demand which means more work. But the management team is as dedicated as the owners to uplifting the community and take the extra planning in their stride.

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The OVERALL: One of my favourite anonymous quotes is “Time is precious, he who wastes the least has the most,” and this is why I enjoyed the Midlands Kitchen. We were able to get in and out within 45  minutes but have an experience as full and delicate as a 2 hour lunch; and this my friends is exactly what many travellers are after.