We enter under the ‘tail’ of an earthbound grey Mantra Ray. From the air it looks as if its wings are floating along a Tasmanian bush seabed floor surrounded by pine trees, gliding to an expanse of ocean guarded from above by majestic pink granite Hazard Mountains. This is Saffire.
Now if this all sounds like we have had one sparkling Janz too many, be prepared for 48hrs of pure indulgence in ‘The best boutique hotel in the world’. In fact after only a few years, Saffire has won so many awards it going to require an extension to house all of them. This is a happy land where the oysters are as fat as Labradors. The chances are that after a few days of gastronomic delights and activities, you too will rediscover the joys of lounging, being fed and being taken out for the occasional walk.
Our C Class Mercedes Benz is handling the county roads with ease, which is what you would expect from a machine with more gadgets than the Space shuttle. Following a two and a half hour drive we pull into the driveway to a welcoming committee who greets us by name. These guys have a Mystic Meg quality about them for anticipation.
Automated double doors open. You can’t help it… jaws drop and it’s challenging summoning up anything more articulate than a gobsmacked ‘wow’. Framed by the seductive curves of the main lodge is a view which has graced many a glossy luxury magazine and coffee table book. Its undulating arced wings span two levels with the Palate dining room to one side and fifties style lounge to the other. Mountains, horizon, sea and earth are to become our constant companions.
Glass of bubbles in hand we follow the stepping stones down to our suite, Pimelea which opens onto a small courtyard with his ‘n hers Giant mountain bikes. The suite has a contemporary homeliness about it. Celery pine and Blackwood create a backdrop for a King-size and lounge area with a wall of glass onto ‘that view’. Oversized cream and dusky pink sofa with inviting grey cushions are colour chart reflections of the scenery. Forget hotel mini bars – this is our dream fridge! As with everything in our stay it’s all inclusive. Bottles of Clover Hill sparkling, Pooley Pinot Grigio and Larke Single Malt whisky snuggle up to Red Rock Deli crisps, Cherry Ripes and delectable sugar frosted jellies. It’s tempting to lose time in a fog fuelled binge of Tasmania’s best munchies then try to revive ourselves with Robert Tims Coffee.
The bathroom is a dream. It’s tempting to lie down and give the heated floor an adoring hug. Double rain water showers, a deep (but no spa) bath looks out onto the Tasmanian bush. It begs us to do something very foreign…to slow down.
One thing that unites us and our fellow guests is a love and appreciation of fine food and wine. Tummies rumbling we head to the Sanctuary lodge for lunch. It’s a casual affair with couples and groups settling into comfy lovin’ chairs. Bowls are heaving with an array of Tasmanian produce from salads of green bean quinoa goat’s cheese or charred corn and bean sprouts salads. We dive into a plate of freshly shucked oysters and order a handsome pair of garfish!
With so many activities to choose from such as the Wineglass Bay walk, canoeing or cocktail making, our afternoon adventure is a tour of an Oyster Farm just ten minutes’ drive down the Freycinet peninsula. I’m feeling rather guilty, having just spent the last hour eating their cousins. We don waders which we nickname ‘Oyster-Roo’ suits due to their pouch at the front. Our guides tell us how the farm was started by a 6th generation lamb farmer with 90,000 oysters – it now has 3.5 million (though at the rate the guests are eating them it’s a wonder nature can keep up). Wading into the estuary we discover juvenile scratchlings where then natural tides and lack of farming create a purity rarely found in other waters. At the ‘grown up’s’ pen we learn how they’re sent on holiday camp to fatten up before being returned to these waters and begin to feel a natural affinity with our mollusc friends! Our guides take us towards a metal structure set deeper into the middle of the water then promptly pull out a perfectly ironed white table cloth. Dressed like a gang of wetsuited ninja-turtles we cheers each other with sparkling Bream Creek whilst chowing down on the freshest oysters. Could life be any more surreal?
White fluffy robes at Spa Saffire is an arguably better ‘new look’ and provides another distraction with its simple white on black interior soothed by water features and delicate lighting. My Swedish massage melts more than time.
As the sun sets we enjoy a spot of twitching thanks to complimentary binoculars (for looking at birds, not our neighbours). There’s something romantic about getting dressed for dinner as the lodge glows in the fading light. Hatted Chef Hugh Whitehouse (ex Darley’s, Lilianfels) takes us on a six course sensory journey with produce from local providers and the Saffire garden. The first course is one we will dream of forever – Applewood smoked eel cuddled up with fried oyster and abalone mates complimented by a ball of Korean green rice and celeriac has us talking all night. Moving on to a braise of calamari and prawns then brick pastry wrapped Berkshire pork followed by cumin spiced venison loin means we still manage to save room for local cheeses plus a delightful pistachio nut shortcake with fragrant strawberries.
As we retire to bed our waitress explains apologetically that the power is out in villa 15, so they are just going down to check ours. We cuddle up by the fire with a Craigow dessert gewürztraminer and wait.
When we enter our suite it’s romantically glowing with dozens of ‘Saffire’ candles, they even remember to put one in the toilet! A handwritten note reads; “Dear David and Karen, Our sincerest apologies for this inconvenience, please enjoy this lovely Tasmanian Sparkling with our compliments. If there is anything we can do to make your stay more comfortable please call the team’. What’s in the ice bucket says it all. The team had remembered a personal conversation we had with the Sommelier about a specific wine we had ambitions to try.
That’s the thing about this place…It wasn’t just any wine we were given, just as this isn’t an ordinary kind of ‘stay’ but one dotted with a million things that go perfectly right and when they go wrong, heck – they still manage to make you fall in love with it just a little bit more.
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