A Tower Lodge suite.
Rachael Oakes-Ash finds love is in the air at Tower Lodge, Hunter Valley
The adobe-style, earth-hued walls of Tower Lodge at Tower Estate, Pokolbin, peek through spotted gums in the rolling hills of the wine-growing Hunter Valley. The property is lined on one side by vines that contribute to the Tower Estate label and, on the other, a small creek that divides the lodge from Roberts Restaurant, the reason for many a lodge guest stay.
A hybrid of Spanish mission and Australian heritage, Tower Lodge welcomes guests through mammoth timber doors and awes them with vaulted ceilings trimmed with recycled beams. Twelve individual guest rooms, some with open fires and all with courtyards or balconies, are dotted around a shaded central courtyard with splashes of Indian coloured cushions and Moorish design references. Tower Estate was founded by wine guru Len Evans in 1998 and the lodge, winery and Roberts Restaurant and nearby Peppers Convent are now owned by some of the biggest names in Australian business: Rupert Murdoch's once right-hand man, Kenneth Cowley and son Matt, celebrity chef Rick Stein, Rockpool owner David Doyle and recruiter Andrew Banks.
We bed down in room 12. Two queen beds sit side by side, with giant iron arches above each bed thrusting towards the omnipresent vaulted ceilings. Antique armchairs mingle with Turkish kilim, woven Aztec foot stools and old English bed fabrics and curtains that all clash in a good way. The bathroom is large and light with a deep spa bath and cobbled mosaic floors and is accessed via a cosy dressing room with mini bar and tea and coffee facilities. Drinks are available each afternoon in the main lodge or by the pool in the wellness complex. A duty manager is on call at all times.
The animals come in two by two at Tower Lodge. The rooms have been made for loving and the resort is adults only.
This is why we came, to eat, and George Francisco, head chef of Roberts Restaurant, ensures we do just that. We roll back to Tower Lodge filled to the gills with his signature dishes enhanced by sustainable produce plucked from the garden outside the kitchen. The terrace of the 1876 ironbark cottage overlooking the organic gardens provides a delightful backdrop. Francisco takes care in his food: the gazpacho amuse-bouche, the crab pasta and double cooked Gruyere souffle are standouts. The panna cotta that arrives wobbling obscenely on the plate is worth a taste.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
It would be easy to spend 48 hours simply indulging at Roberts for lunch, wine tasting at Tower Estate and then NINE, which is Tower Lodge's degustation basement restaurant open for dinner on weekends. All are walking distance from your room. The lodge grounds are filled with sculptures and there's an 18-hole putting course. If you still wanted to venture out you could head to Hunter Valley Gardens for a turn around the petunias.
Do not go alone, take a lover or a friend and pack loose clothes for an expanding waistline. A lodge that spells relaxation, designed for those who like to leave the world behind and sink into time for two.
HOW TO GET THERE
Head north for two hours on the M2 Pacific Highway, take the Cessnock exit and follow the signs to the Hunter for another half hour. Tower Lodge is on the corner of Broke and Halls roads.
Tower Lodge, Broke Road, Pokolbin, is a Relais & Chateaux property. Rooms start at $650 a night including breakfast, afternoon tea and pre-dinner drinks. towerestate.com, phone 02 4998 4900.
The writer was a guest of Tower Lodge.