Monday, May 11, 2015

Hill End, Jaspers Brush, NSW - My pick for a Big Chill winter weekend

Journeys come in all shapes and sizes. Some are relaxing; some are hedonistic - others are tests of endurance. All the good ones transform you in some way. You're never quite the same again.

Our road trip down to the south coast of NSW to Jaspers Brush, winding through Kiama, Gerringong and Gerroa was going to fall into the 'relaxing' category - with a few pops of hedonism.
The farmland and bush is especially lush after the recent heat and downpours.
In less than two and a half hours from Sydney, we've arrived at our two-day getaway - Hill End at Jaspers Brush

This sprawling property is located about two kilometres from the main road.

We drive past grazing dairy cattle...

who are clearly used to passing travellers.

...although these two think they're guard dogs.
.... then finally a avenue of trees

... a gravelled turning bay with lush garden beds...

... and we arrive at Hill End.
Hill End can sleep up to 12 people comfortably in 5 bedrooms and you can see why it is a popular wedding venue.
Describing it as a house is inadequate. Hill End is a compound. Be prepared to send out search parties!

There are three wings to the home. The main entertaining space which features a full-size pool table.

Then there's the main bedroom wing with it's own lounge, kitchen and fireplace...

....and two queen-sized bedrooms

..with a cavernous bath and wet shower.
The home's main lounge is comfortable with light from two sides of wide windows and another fireplace.
And the kid's bunk bed room has its own TV/lounge/games room overlooking the swimming pool.
Given that every space is so large, the kitchen is surprisingly normal-sized but still big enough to rustle up catering for dozens.

Being a wedding venue there is every imaginable piece of crockery or kitchen appliance that even the MasterChef kitchen would be envious to have.
Oh, did I mention the gym? It's easy to get lost in here.


Our favourite room and gadget was the extraordinary B&E sound and TV system in the main wing. The sound is glorious and because neighbours aren't an issue out here you can really crank up the volume and create your own music concert. We would come back just for this.

The weather isn't looking good tomorrow so I decide to dive in for a swim before the sun goes down.
It's a great lap pool surrounded by aromatic gardens and bush to stimulate your senses even further.

A hot shower and then a quick game of pool before dinner. Deliciously relaxed now.
Well, that's enough activity for Day1. As we drift off to sleep, the sounds of the native frogs and  wind rustling through the trees take us into our dreams.

The next morning I'm up with the sun.
It's a glorious day.

 Time to do a little exploring of Berry and the Shoalhaven before the weather changes...
It's already beginning to look ominous.

Back on the main road we're reminded that we're certainly tucked away deep in the country.

We're heading to a local institution... Jim Wilds Oysters at Greenwell Point.

Jim has been the oyster shucking champion of the world and still harvests his own oysters from several holdings along the Shoalhaven river.

 You can buy prawns and Pacific and Sydney rock oysters freshly shucked from his riverside warehouse and kitchen. Just remember to bring your own BYO. Nothing fancy about the location but it drips with authenticity.

The South Coast really is a foodie haven. We pick up some supplies at the Nowra fresh produce markets. Farm fresh ingredients that taste of the rich earth they've been grown in.

Back at Hill End we raid the kitchen garden for some fresh herbs to add to the fragrant crab curry and basmatic rice I'm throwing together for dinner. So satisfying.

This has been one journey that we hope to repeat. Next time we'll bring along a few friends.

Saucy Onion stayed courtesy of  Hill End and South Coast Holidays

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Watsons Bay Hotel - Sydney

A rare glimmer of sunshine after 5 days of rain. Who knew there could be this much rain anywhere? We don't get monsoons in this part of the world but the unrelenting deluge has made me wonder whether this could be the new norm with climate change?

We're taking advantage of a short break in the rain to catch a  30 minute ferry from Circular Quay to the Watsons Bay Hotel at Watsons Bay for a weekend getaway.

It's wonderful to enjoy the bay when it isn't a crush of Summer tourists.

The hotel has a beachfront courtyard that serves drinks and cocktails with a fresh seafood-driven menu.
 Our harbour-view room is in the corner of the building giving us sweeping views of the National Park, the bay and the Sydney CBD - obscured by clouds today.
An incredible comfortable firm bed with soft pillows...
And a glamorous Hollywood-style double bathroom with soaking tub and shower. 

 It's moody on the bay and we just might be able to squeeze in a quick lunch before the storm clouds are back.

Doyles at Watsons Bay is still serving up some of the freshest seafood in the city. We tuck into their seafood platter - oysters, calamari, battered whiting and their famous stuffed jumbo prawns. Don't go past their house white chardonnay from the Hunter. Fabulous.

The weather is turning so time for a brisk walk along The Gap with the wild ocean waves crashing against the Heads and then as the rain comes, a hasty retreat to our suite to relax and read..

We wake to an atmospheric morning. The bay is dark and brooding and the city is shrouded in mist and drizzle.

A continental breakfast buffet is included in our room rate and, because the cold weather has given us an appetite, we also opt for the hot breakfast.

The airy breakfast room with its French doors and windows overlooks the hotel's beer garden and courtyard.
Freshly-squeezed orange juice? Yes please.

A baked shakshuka-style eggs and prosciutto for me....

... and of course because it entices him like a siren's call -  a big brekkie for Mark.
Highly recommend a winter staycation at the Watsons Bay hotel that is every bit as enjoyable even when it isn't sunny.

Saucy Onion stayed as a guest of the Watsons Bay Hotel