Lindenwarrah, Milawa review: Gourmet escape to country house

Lap of luxury ... poolside at Lindenwarrah.
Lap of luxury ... poolside at Lindenwarrah. 

Read our writer's views on this property below

Michelle Potts samples gorgeous wine, farmhouse produce and listens to birdsong.

We're off again on another country sojourn. I'm working. He's relaxing. Well, eventually. Right now, the good doctor has that thousand-yard stare as I run through my obsessive-compulsive departure ritual, ending with a double tug at the deadlocked front door. There's rain on the radar, so I fling my new wellies in and we set the GPS for Milawa.

Two hours on, in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range, the sun's out. It's gorgeous. So we drop in at Sam Miranda winery to swirl, sniff, sip and savour some cool-climate Italian-style varietals. Next stop, King River Cafe for a light lunch. Blue cheese and cauliflower souffle with char-grilled witlof splashed in toffee-like balsamic dressing is delicious and good value. Ready for respite, it's not long before we grind to a halt on the gravel path outside Lindenwarrah, amid beautifully manicured gardens.

Check-in is fast and friendly, with an offer to book dinner, carry luggage, hand over pool towels and explain directions to the guests' car park a little further on.

Laden with luggage, we head down the hall of the two-level, 40-room, country house hotel, passing a few "do not disturb" signs dangling from doorknobs, and climb up the stairs to Buffalo View Room 24.

Inside, it's spacious if a little sparse but very comfortable. Duck egg blue walls and caramel timber furniture contrast a comfy king-size bed dressed in crisp, high-quality linen. An all-white corner en suite is more utilitarian than aesthetic but Molton Brown bath products lift the luxe level. There's ample room in the wardrobe for clothes and travel bags, along with the soft white waffle-weave bathrobes, iron, ironing board and all the other amenities you'd expect from a good hotel. And if you're keen to stay in touch, wireless internet is complimentary.

As far as in-room treats go, Twinings teas, instant coffee and sweet shortbreads are gratis, and a well-stocked mini bar comes at a cost. The large flatscreen TV impresses the rugby tragic until he discovers no pay-tv. Joy oh joy - she screams silently - a sports-free weekend. Sliding glass doors open on to a shared balcony overlooking hectares of abundant merlot vines to distant Mount Buffalo.

And if sleeping in is on the agenda, white timber shutters shield you from the early morning sun. It's so tranquil it's blissful. All you hear is birdsong and the lapping of water in the ornamental pond - in contrast to the clatter and bang at home in the most renovated street in Melbourne.

A saunter round the grounds takes in the restaurant, courtyard cafe, cellar door, day spa, solar-heated outdoor pool, library and guest lounges. Hints of Morocco and Asia blend with plush country style, tribal sculpture and modern art, while floor-to-ceiling windows frame verdant vistas throughout the hotel.

Dinner in Restaurant Merlot is set up with linen-draped tables for two. Attentive staff simply can't do enough. It's not intrusive, though. Just good hospitality. Precisely what you long for when you're away.

An imaginative menu matched with wines of the north east leans towards local, seasonal produce. Think cured kangaroo carpaccio with Blue Ox blueberry chutney, Provencale-style roast Milawa chicken, slow-cooked Londrigan lamb and, for dessert, shiraz grenache-centred dark choc pud. Breakfast isn't quite as epicurean. It's more hotel-style buffet designed to satisfy many.

The good thing at Lindenwarrah is you can do as much or as little as you like. From farmhouse cheeses, mustards, olives and berries to honey and handcrafted ales, there's no shortage of gourmet travelling in Milawa, Beechworth and the King Valley. You'll find 30 vineyards within 30 minutes of the hotel. Play tennis, ride a horse or cycle the historic Alpine Valley rail trail. Try hang-gliding, abseiling, canoeing or white water rafting. It's all close by. No extreme sports for us, though. Just a swim, a spa and a glass of something gorgeous by the open fire.

After a late checkout, we take the scenic route home and pit stop at weekends-only trattoria, Tea Rooms of Yarck, for some of Pietro Porcu's rustic Sardinian fare. Much of the produce is organic, heirloom and grown locally on Porcu's farm. Go for the Chef's Menu, it's well worth the detour.

VISITORS' BOOK

Lindenwarrah

Address Milawa-Bobinawarrah Road, Milawa.

Bookings Phone 5720 5777, see www.lindenwarrah.com.au.

Getting there Milawa is 260 kilometres north-east of Melbourne, a little more than 2½ hours by car via the Hume Highway.

Cost Garden View Room including breakfast $299 a couple a night, Sunset View Room $340 and Buffalo View Room $355.

Summary Relaxing country-house haven perfect for lazing, grazing and traversing the high country.

Verdict 17

The score: 19-20 excellent; 17-18 great; 15-16 good; 13-14 comfortable.

All weekends away are conducted anonymously and paid for by Traveller.