On the western edge of Melbourne's metropolitan area, Mansion Hotel is far enough from the city centre to make it a good weekend getaway. Though it's close to suburbia, its setting among farms, golf courses and other greenery makes it feel like a country retreat. The surrounding Werribee Park is a collection of beautifully maintained gardens, an ideal place for strolling or picnicking.
The property is an intriguing amalgam of buildings from different eras. Werribee Park Mansion was a stately home built in the 1870s for a Scottish farming family. It's a graceful Italianate structure now open to the public as a heritage attraction (with free entry for hotel guests). A Catholic seminary attached to the mansion in the 1920s now houses the hotel and stretches into a modern wing that is harmonious with the earlier architecture.
The sizeable lobby is full of natural light and has an adjoining library. There's an impressive snooker table upstairs and elsewhere in the building are a swimming pool and fitness room, and a spa that offers a range of treatments. My one-hour massage, focused on relieving neck and shoulders aching from excessive computer use, leaves me mellow and relaxed.
My junior suite is in the modern wing and is an open, airy space with a view of the former seminary's clock tower across a courtyard. The room is spacious, with tall windows that open onto a balcony.
The decor has simple modernist lines, its natural palette of beige to faint green contrasting with dark timber furniture. A king-size bed has a soft mattress and accompanying pillow menu, and there are two easy chairs with a coffee table stand by the windows. A long glass desk takes up a wall next to the wardrobe, and supports a capsule coffee machine. On a practical note, the room could use more accessible power points and faster Wi-Fi. Overall, it's a pleasant space in which to chill.
The large bathroom is similarly minimalist and decked out with toiletries from New York's Malin & Goetz. The room is dominated by a combined shower and spa bath, with plenty of room for two – although as the taps are placed behind the shower's glass screen, it's difficult to turn them on ahead of entering the tub.
The elegant in-house restaurant, Joseph's, has a great view of the gardens. Courses from the fine-dining menu are well-prepared and plated with flair. I particularly enjoy the white miso black cod for my main course at dinner, and my wife wins the dessert-choosing competition by opting for the Chocolate Nemesis, which involves burnt-fig ice-cream and fresh cherries.
The menu served in the adjacent bar is an inexpensive alternative, with casual choices such as burgers, salads and pizza. The wine list has plenty of choices from Victoria, including some from the neighbouring Shadowfax Winery.
During the day a cafe opens near the mansion entrance for visitors to the park, serving sandwiches and light meals.
In addition to the mansion with its heritage interiors, Werribee Park includes a historic farmyard, the Victoria State Rose Garden, a lake and grotto, a sculpture walk, and plenty of pleasant spots to enjoy a picnic hamper organised by the hotel. Shadowfax Winery is a short walk away and offers free tastings for hotel guests. Werribee Open Range Zoo is also nearby.
Mansion Hotel & Spa is quality accommodation, with access to an array of interesting sights. It's a good choice for a weekend away from Melbourne, or as a stop on a driving holiday through Victoria.
The library off the lobby acts as a pleasant lounge area, with deep sofas and armchairs.
Rooms facing the courtyard can be affected by noise from people departing functions at night.
Rooms at Mansion Hotel from $279 a night. K Road, Werribee, Victoria. See lancemore.com.au/mansion-hotel-and-spa
Tim Richards was a guest of The Mansion Hotel & Spa.