Chateau Elan, Rothbury review: A rare indulgence

Read our writer's views on this property below

Angie Kelly discovers a family-friendly Hunter Valley escape where most, but not all, is well done.

WAITRESS: "How would you like your steak?" Me: "Can I have it well done, please?" Waitress: "No, you can't." I must have looked so stunned that the waitress - who clearly thinks I've committed a fine-dining faux pas - has a change of heart and decides to take my request to the kitchen.

She initially told our table the chef doesn't like to cook the fabulous fillet too much but tonight we're in luck and I end up getting my steak the way I like it.

Exactly what restaurant etiquette is in these circumstances is, frankly, a mystery to me (George, Gary, Matt - where are you?) and I can only wonder how the conversation went in the kitchen. But thanks, chef, I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, even though the steak was charred beyond your usual gourmand standards.

It was a minor blip - and a funny story to tell later - in an otherwise great meal during a gorgeous sunny weekend in the Hunter.

Our meal in the cosy and surprisingly child-friendly Legends Grill in the Vintage Clubhouse at Chateau Elan was a success, even with a fussy five-year-old.

My first impression of Chateau Elan, a new golf and spa resort, gleaned when we were heading up its sweeping circular driveway, is one of vast green space - the low-rise resort is set on fairways (designed by Greg Norman) and the countryside beyond helps take city-triggered tension from the shoulders immediately.

The accommodation was also spacious. Our two-bedroom spa villa had everything you could need, including a fully stocked kitchen. The giant spa bath got top marks as did the funky interiors - flat screens, lime green and chocolate-coloured furnishings, contemporary art, an iPod docking station and an impressive see-through Jetmaster fireplace that warmed us well.

Glass doors opening out to a terrace meant we could all get excited when the kangaroos hopped past. City kids on a jaunt seeing our national symbol up close may sound cheesy but it was a buzz to see the roos bounce across the lawn outside our back door. And when a young bloke from reception turned up in a golf buggy to ferry us uphill to the breakfast restaurant and then detoured off-road so we could see the roos even closer up, there were happy squeals - even from the teens.

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Our kids felt welcome and though it has been designed with children in mind (there's a pool, a playground, a tennis court, kids' food options and junior movies), I'd go sans enfant next time. Or at least go with a nanny or a granny so we parents can play golf or escape to the spa.

Luxuriously appointed and designed for comfort and indulgence, Elan's 17-room pleasure temple has hot and cold plunge pools, a two-person infrared sauna, a sun deck, lap pool and an army of angels waiting to pamper.

The resort is a few minutes' drive from the Hunter Valley Gardens, which is a sensible and fun side trip where you'll get reasonably-priced cafe-style food, ice-creams and a spot of retail therapy in homewares and knick-knack shops.

And the gardens are really worth enjoying on a lazy stroll, especially on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

The writer was a guest of Chateau Elan.

Trip notes

Where

Chateau Elan, Vintage Drive, Rothbury, in the Hunter Valley, (02) 4998 2500, chateauelan.com.au.

Getting there

Take the F3 until the Cessnock turnoff, drive through Cessnock and follow the Wine Country Drive to Rothbury. Turn left at McDonalds Road, left again and left once more on to Vintage Drive. The journey takes about 2½ hours.

How much

A spa king room (minimum two-night stay at weekends) is from $254.50 a night for two; one-bed spa villa from $304.50 a night; two-bed spa villa from $529 a night.

Style statement

A country florals-and-frills-free zone; think minimalist chic vibe instead.

Perfect for

Couples and families.

Don't forget

A babysitter: the spa and golf course are calling.

A shame about

The wait for coffee at breakfast. It was too long for this impatient city type.

Kudos

Lightning-fast room service, genuinely friendly and professional staff, good coffee.

Take the kids?

Definitely.

Find more Hunter Valley accommodation at Stayz.com.au