What makes a special holiday exceptional?
3 January 2014
HONEYMOONS, wedding anniversaries, special occasions … these kinds of holidays are the ones you want to remember for years to come. So what makes a standout holiday?
MY HUSBAND and I honeymooned in Thailand and the Maldives - we were spoiled and it was divine and everything a honeymoon should be.
So when it came around to our first wedding anniversary we wanted it to be local (well it had to be after we maxed out our credit cards on the honeymoon), special and divine again ... Was that asking too much?
New South Wales' South Coast is stunning - powdery-white sand, turquoise waters, plenty of good food around ... It's one of my favourite areas in the country, so we decided that was the spot - easy to get to from Sydney, yet it could potentially (depending on where you are) feel like incredibly far away. And that's what we wanted - a place to escape and forget our urban existence, even if it was just for a couple of days. We wanted a luxurious accommodation option with a good restaurant on-site, after all - good food and good wine make a stay all the more plush.
We'd heard about Bannisters in Mollymook and figured now was a good time as any to visit the renowned holiday spot. I'm a bit of a design buff and they've recently undergone a renovation, so we wanted to check it all out … in between relaxing of course.
Smiling staff members and smooth service made it a breeze, and after a long(ish) drive that's what exactly what we wanted. We were given a tour of the grounds so we knew where everything was. The tour was detailed enough for us to work out where we wanted to hang if we did decide to leave our room (the Pool Bar with infinity pool of course), but short enough not to be tedious. Parking was plentiful and located across two levels so we were able to repark the car closer to our room once we checked in.
Well it was more than a room to be honest. Anniversaries are made for over indulging - so we booked a Penthouse. Ocean views, a massive balcony and an egg-shaped bath were probably the highlights, although it's hard to narrow it down to one … or three. We did utilise all the spaces. We hung out on the balcony, lounged in the lounge room, and slept well in the bedroom. I did use the bath (a couple of times), and the shower doubled as a steam room, which my husband enjoyed since baths are not his thing.
I convinced my husband a massage would do him good (he's not really into massages) at the Day Spa. It was. To be honest I can't really go into the treatment in too much detail, as it was so good I think I fell asleep towards the end. The products the therapist used felt really nice on the skin, and she explained it's a new range of Bannisters in-house products. The only negative was that the spa is closed on a Sundays, and since we arrived on Saturday night and were leaving on Monday we had to book in for Monday morning. The spa also has a big hammam steam room and larger treatment areas for bigger groups.
A definite highlight of the stay. Rick Stein at Bannisters has a reputation for being one of the top restaurants in the area and it did not disappoint. We booked dinner for the Saturday night in advance knowing this is not something we wanted to miss out on. The entree of scallops in hazelnut butter was the highlight of the meal - the subtle flavours intertwined flawlessly for the ultimate taste sensation, while the Madras fish curry main of blue eye trevalla, tomato and tamarind was tangy without being overpowering. We didn't get to dessert because we (accidentally) gorged on the bread as soon as we sat down - it's house made every day and served with house made seaweed butter. The quality of bread and butter is like a first impression for me - if it's not fantastic I just can't rate the overall meal as fantastic (even if the entree and main is).
Rick Stein is known around the world for his cooking and his recipe books and we were glad to see that the restaurant lived up its reputation and the Rick Stein brand.
Brekkie was good too. There was a small buffet in the centre of the room and you could also order of the menu. I generally prefer this kind of breakfast set up because I prefer my eggs and sides cooked to order and served together. Oh.. and the bread was there again. Luckily I packed loose clothing …
Everything was close by but private enough. The Pool Bar was one of our favourite spots. It has plenty of lounging space, a decent selection of cocktail and pizzas on the menu, and an appealing infinity pool.
The Rick Stein at Bannisters restaurant area has also recently undergone a renovation and I really loved the quirky-cool beach-inspired design. The new lobby area is colourful with fun Mediterranean accents, and the imported tiles from Istanbul add oomph to the space. The log fire area, fit out with designer chairs, has library shelving on either side of the fire (and plenty of good books), and is a lovely space for a pre-dinner drink.
The restaurant itself has also undergone a revamp and my favourite bit was the pendant lights made from recycled drink bottles sourced from Mexico. The rest of the space features clean lines and a calm brownie-crème colour palette, and the funky lights add an element of fun to the space.
Oh and the ocean view is pretty spectacular.