All the Bells and whis­tles

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - The Food Issue - MICHELLE ROWE

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

MARCO DEL GRANDE

On-site restau­rant Man­fredi at Bells

Ap­pel­la­tion restau­rant at The Louise in South Aus­tralia

The charm­ing Red Feather Inn in Tas­ma­nia

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