All the Bells and whistles
Red Feather Inn, Tasmania French provincial meets nouveau Tassie chic at the utterly charming Red Feather Inn, 10 minutes from Launceston, where a collection of handsome, convict-built sandstone buildings ( and one of Tasmania’s first coaching inns) has been transformed into five very stylish suites. After training with Philip Johnson at Brisbane’s acclaimed E’cco Bistro, chef Tanya White now finds herself in paddock-to-plate heaven with the property’s vegetable garden as well as produce from owner Lydia Nettlefold’s nearby farm at her disposal when creating the Red Feather’s table d’hote menus. Guest chefs (including Johnson) head the bill at the cooking school, housed in a converted cottage. After lunch, lucky guests can be found relaxing alfresco in the cobbled courtyard or beneath the willow tree, a glass of local pinot in hand. More: redfeatherinn.com.au Royal Mail Hotel, Victoria The Southern Grampians might seem an unlikely location for Australia’s leading regional restaurant, given it’s an appetiteinducing, 31/ 2-hour drive from Melbourne. But the innovative and refined food of chef Dan Hunter has people schlepping from much farther away. Aformer head chef at Spain’s famous Mugaritz, Hunter produces two 10-course tasting menus (one vegetarian) Wednesday to Sunday, using local produce and drawing on the dozens of varieties of heirloom vegetables grown in the kitchen’s extensive gardens. Overnight guests are accommodated in the old hotel’s 38 rooms, or in a nearby homestead and cottages. The 10 Mountain View rooms with private decks have j ust been updated. An incredible wine list complements the three styles of meals ( bar, bistro and a la carte). But plan ahead; reservations are essential. More: royalmail.com.au. The Louise, South Australia After scouring Europe and the New World for a wine region in which to open a boutique hotel devoted to fine food, San Franciscans Jim and Helen Carreker settled on the Barossa, where they took a rather down-at-heel hilltop hotel and transformed it into a most elegant retreat, featuring 15 urbane suites with lovely valley views. Central to the property’s success is Appellation and the acclaimed kitchen of Mark McNamara, who produces a la carte and daily changing tasting menus built almost entirely around local produce. More than 85 per cent of ingredients travel less than 30km to the table and McNamara and his team butcher their own meats and bake their own bread (a sourdough starter culture was established by capturing natural yeast floating in the air during vintage). This attention to detail, and a 500-strong awardwinning wine list, has made Appellation one of the country’s best regional restaurants. More: thelouise.com.au. Foragers, Western Australia One of our newest food retreats, Foragers near Pemberton (a 31/ 2-hour drive from Perth) is a labour of love for owners Sophie and Chris Zalokar. He helped build the handsome field kitchen and luxury eco chalets; she is a chef and author who trained with Maggie Beer. Since moving to their Southern Forests smallholding six years ago, they’ve come to grips with farming (running rare breeds, including Wessex saddleback pigs and dorking chickens), established a large vegetable garden and orchard, and built a 40-seat dining room. Accommodation is available in three luxury, self-contained chalets, and four farm cottages scheduled to be refurbished next year. Cooking classes and seasonal long-table dinners are built around homegrown and local produce: buckwheat (courtesy of a neighbour IT’S one of the most relaxing weekends we’ve had in ages; ensconced in a bright and breezy Hamptons-style villa at Bells at Killcare on the NSWcentral coast, tucking into a leisurely brunch of local eggs, bacon and toast we’ve whipped up ourselves from the provisions left in our fridge. Flicking through the weekend papers, we reluctantly contemplate our return to the big smoke.
Bells is a popular getaway for exhausted city slickers but its intimate size can lead to disappointment in the event of a full house. That it will open 14 sleek new suites and villas next month is welcome news for those wanting to combine a beach escape with gourmet offerings who has been collecting seed for 50 years), trout that Sophie smokes herself, and truffles, of course. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, eat your heart out. More: foragers.com.au. Spicers Peak Lodge, Queensland Cloistered in a mountain clearing on the edge of southeast Queensland’s World Heritage-listed Main Range National Park, with heavenly forest views, this classic from the excellent in-house restaurant Manfredi at Bells, run by celebrated chef Stefano Manfredi, whohas recently opened a new restaurant, Balla, in Sydney. Gothe stracci with rabbit, globe artichoke and pecorino if it’s on the seasonal menuduring your next visit, or perhaps the roast suckling pig with grilled radicchio, olive and caper salsa. For those whodon’t fancy even minimal cooking during their weekend escapes, more good news is that the restaurant now offers breakfast to in-house guests, featuring choices such as scrambled eggs and herbs from the Bells garden, and homemade muesli. More: bellsatkillcare.com.au. lodge caters to a well-fed few in 10 suites and two private lodges. The accommodation is top drawer, featuring luxe marble bathrooms, open fires and gratis mini-bar, while the tariff includes an endless stream of meals: lunches, picnics and morning and afternoon teas. Not forgetting canapes, if you’re still peckish. The two very private lodges (visible only from the air) are tucked away on the edge of the escarpment, with incredible views of Spicers Gap from the alfresco spa tub. Head chef Frank Meijer oversees a seven-course degustation dinner every evening, drawing on the abundant produce of the nearby Granite Belt. More: spicersgroup.com.au. Rick Stein at Bannisters, NSW It started yonks ago in a small fishing village on the other side of the world when, catering to Londoners travelling to his hot-to-trot restaurant in Cornwall, Rick Stein opened several guestrooms above the shop. And very nice they were too. But the weather’s better and the view even more beguiling at Bannisters, set clifftop above Mollymook on the NSWsouthern coast, where once every three months the famous chef pops by to cook for a week or so. This former seaside motel has been gussied up to offer 32 coastal-chic rooms, suites and penthouses affording lovely ocean views. Beach-house digs are also available one minute from the lodge. Local seafood takes centre stage at Rick Stein at Bannisters. Check the website for details. More: bannisters.com.au. The Loose Box, Western Australia An army marches on its stomach, and so do food tourists. Something celebrated French chef Alain Fabregues well understands. His great-great-grandmother cooked for Napoleon’s army. At the acclaimed Loose Box Restaurant, 30 minutes from downtown Perth, Fabregues celebrates the pleasures of the French table, producing two degustation menus (one vegetarian), using fruit, vegetables and herbs grown on the property. The restaurant occupies a lovely Federation house and the elegant French country interiors are echoed in the guest cottage accommodation, where a large, comfy bed and wood-burning stove await the sated gourmand. Guests who are really serious about their food can apply to work for a day in the kitchen as a temporary apprentice. More: loosebox.com.au.
The coastal-chic accommodation at Rick Stein at Bannisters resort in NSW offers stunning ocean views, and the famous chef regularly cooks for guests
On-site restaurant Manfredi at Bells
Appellation restaurant at The Louise in South Australia
The charming Red Feather Inn in Tasmania