“Black Horse Brewery… I’ve heard good things about it!” One comment from our daughter, Priyanka, and we were ready to go. The lineage was hard to miss… the story began way back in 2012 when the Brewery and Brew Pub threw its doors open to enthusiastic customers milling to taste their ‘Black Horse’ beer, aptly named after the majestic black Friesian horses whose descendants still lounge elegantly on the green lawns. The estate nestles in the heart of Zeekoeihoek valley north of Magaliesburg, 45 minutes outside Johannesburg.
After a drive that took a while, we finally got to the estate where the lady at the entrance gave us a frankly shocked look when she realised that we had no reservations. “Could we have a table outside?” brought forth an expression of exasperation which continued with the whole “No reservations?” look. Luckily, there was a table available inside the quaint old building that went beautifully with the air of rustic charm that made up the whole estate.
So we trundled along – two pairs of grandparents, one young couple, one toddler, and one tiny baby with his paraphernalia, making our way warily over rugged steps, weaving around tables, little shrubs, white umbrellas and varied motley cats that looked at us with disdain. The restrooms were aptly dubbed ‘Stallion’ and ‘Mare’ and were well equipped, though a trifle small, when it came to changing diapers, as we strove not to get in the way of other customers. As we got back to our table, a white dog sidled past us, much at home in an environment milling with animals, as we soon discovered.
The restaurant loomed before us, an expanse of yellow stone and glass panes. There were steps everywhere, as we trudged up to our table, each step unique in width and size, almost as if the mason had broken the mould after every step. As our little toddler, Zoya, put it once we had reached the top, “My heart is breaking!”
Once at our table, we gasped in wonder at the picturesque view that lay sprawled beneath our wide glass window. For miles around there were patches of green grass, trees that rustled in the breeze and rugged walking expanses, with black horses grazing in the distance. Children jumped on a trampoline as the sunlight dappled areas, creating a mosaic of brightness interspersed with shade.
The small menu was delectable and it took us a while to order the focaccia bread, pulled pork sandwiches, gourmet burgers and the mother of all burgers – the Goliath burger – which Priyanka attacked valiantly.
As the glasses of craft beer were relished, our young waitress informed us, in all seriousness, that every order would take forty-five minutes and that it would be prudent to order as soon as we could make up our collective minds. However, we were pleasantly surprised when our dishes came within half an hour. The dessert, the caramel panna cotta, melted in our mouth, and would, in due course, move down surreptitiously, “a moment on our lips, a lifetime on our hips”.
Once we were done, we trundled down the stairs, marvelling at the rustic decor and the huge heater that made the interior toasty warm, things we had failed to notice on our way up, when traversing the steep stairs was topmost on our minds. The bar was a masterpiece of warm wood and cold stone, balmy and inviting, with people sitting around savouring the varieties of beverages offered.
It was time to work off the carbohydrates, and walk around the impressive estate that lay sprawled before us. More steps followed, leading to a niche with rust-coloured sofas with bright cushions for those people who enjoyed sitting outside, (more likely people with reservations!) We strolled across quaint arches covered with creepers, crossed a pretty little pool with foliage around it, and made our way to the very bottom where the horses stood, snorting at visitors and pawing the ground. The aroma of moist hay and horse manure assailed our nostrils as we walked along the path that was cordoned off by electric fences.
Further on, there were enclosures with cows, calves and a militant-looking, rather small-made bull as well. Chickens wandered across, as one rooster, who seemed to have no sense of time, crowed stridently. Zoya was fascinated, and all the more so as she was learning about farm animals in school.
We trudged back to the main area, making our way towards the large round stone tables coupled with iron chairs that required all our strength to move. “Coffee, please!” and a smiling waiter materialised! All those steps had made us thirsty all over again. Right behind us was the logo of the Black Horse Estate – the silhouette of a black horse’s head carved in stone.
Of course, how could we ignore the ubiquitous craft shop that waved its tantalising wares, beckoning us to take a look? It was like a veritable Aladdin’s Cave, with Indian scarves, African curios, wind chimes, Black Horse T Shirts, exotic clothes, picture frames, bird cages, a wonderful Mandela poster and clocks. Not that we bought anything, but window shopping is always such a treat.
As we sipped our coffee, and savoured the sun on our backs, we could hear the clip-clop of the horses as they passed us by, going back to their shelters or wherever it was they dwelt. The sound was reminiscent of old Western movies, and in the welcome sunlight, it seemed like a scenario out of an old Western movie.
There were ‘No Smoking’ sign boards everywhere, which brought smiles to our faces.
There were also boards that mentioned the various options for accommodation – Firefly Suite, Black Horse View, Garden Cottage and Ivy Cottage. Another attractive option was the Interactive Brewery and Distillery tour for those interested in the actual brewing process.
It was early evening by the time we wound our weary way home after a day of family bonding, good food and a taste of the outdoors. As we drove back to Johannesburg, our hearts content, we knew we would go back again to The Black Horse Brewery.
For those interested in taking a glance at the menu at The Back Horse Brewery and Restaurant: https://blackhorse.co.za/menu/
Telephone: 082 453 5295
Photo credits: Col. Gopi Menon, Deepti Menon, Priyanka Menon Rao