The Cottage at the Redesdale, review: A welcome stranger

Read our writer's views on this property below

Mary O'Brien finds a retreat next door to dinner in a bluestone pub.

The best thing about staying at The Cottage at Redesdale Estate is that you can enjoy dinner at the gourmet pub next door and not worry about driving home or catching a taxi. Step out the front door, walk around the back of the beautiful 1850s bluestone pub, get your keys out and you're home. Plus you get special treatment at dinner. The staff knows you are "cottage people", you get a nice table, a bit of banter and you don't have to worry too much about your wine consumption.

When we arrive, the general manager, Finn Vedelsby, a larger-than-life character with a striking hat, doesn't hesitate to leave his lunch mid-bite to show us around The Cottage, where we are staying for a long weekend. As we pass the kitchen garden, he encourages our children to look for strawberries but warns about the redback spiders - thereby ensuring the strawberries are safe for the duration of our stay.

The heater is on, the rooms are cosy, there are fresh flowers and the fridge is well stocked with breakfast provisions. The Cottage is a simple structure that has been tastefully decorated inside with pretty furniture and neutral colours.

As we're unpacking we meet Suzanne Williams, who owns the pub, cottage and nearby Redesdale Estate winery with her husband, Peter. She tells us there's a wine tasting outside the pub the following morning with local producers.

The beds are comfortable, Italian slats with pretty bedlinen. There's a separate toilet and a bathroom with a shower-bath and curtain, handbasin and washing machine. The external door might make the bathroom cool in winter and it isn't refurbished to the same standard as the rest of The Cottage. The bedrooms have lovely rural views but, disappointingly, the living area and kitchen look at the back of the pub instead of the pretty kitchen garden or the fields.

Breakfast provisions are excellent, with half-a-dozen eggs, three packs of tasty bacon, three house-made jams and muesli, fresh bread, juices and a jaw-droppingly delicious poached-quince dish that had us fighting for the last piece. There is ground coffee in the fridge, a stove-top espresso maker and tea bags (some leaf tea would have been nice). There's a bottle of Redesdale Estate olive oil, which has won some awards, to use for cooking or salads. The kitchen has a full stove with gas rings and electric oven. There's a sizeable fridge, microwave and CD player with classical-music discs and some good books in case you forget your own entertainment. Cooking gear could be more plentiful, especially for families who tend to eat in.

The Williamses make chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and shiraz at their winery. Of course, we are keen to try the shiraz since the winery is in the Heathcote region, noted for this grape. So, on the second evening, we decide to have a drink in the charming pub - it must be among the oldest in Victoria - with its open fire while some of the locals call in for a drink or a bottle of wine. If the weather's fine, it's lovely to sit outside on the verandah and watch the setting sun disappear in a fiery red ball over the horizon. The bar menu is good value.

Next door, the dining room has been refurbished smartly and is much more upmarket. The night we dine it's booked out. Our chicken, pork and garden-fresh vegetables are cooked perfectly. A dessert of panna cotta, pears and raspberry ice-cream finishes off the meal nicely.

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Redesdale isn't much more than a crossroads and a few buildings but it's ideally situated to explore Heathcote, Bendigo, Castlemaine or Kyneton. Lake Eppalock is about 20 minutes away and accounts for a lot of the passing traffic, judging from the number of cars with boats. We explore Castlemaine and Maldon on the first day and climb the tower at Mount Tarrengower to survey the area. Next day, we venture into Bendigo to check out its laneways and cosmopolitan atmosphere. We finish up in Heathcote after calling into a few wineries on the way.

The Cottage is a perfect overnight stay for those who want to enjoy the pub's good food and wine. It's also well located for wine lovers exploring the many wineries of the area but families might find the lack of allocated outdoor space a disadvantage.

VISITORS' BOOK

The Cottage at the Redesdale

Address 2640 Kyneton-Heathcote Road, Redesdale.

Phone 5425 3111, see theredesdale.com.au.

Getting there It's about 130 kilometres from Melbourne. Take the Calder Freeway to Kyneton, then take the Heathcote-Kyneton Road to Redesdale.

Price Weekends $195 a night; weeknights $180; extra bedroom $100; includes breakfast provisions.

Summary Nicely decorated simple cottage ideal for gourmet sleepovers.

Verdict 15

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.