The Hunter Valley, only two hours from my home in Sydney, has long been a favourite romantic getaway with my gastronomy partner in crime, Mr Walsh. (Who happens to also be my wine appreciation whizz and adventure sport accomplice) I had not thought of it as a family destination but having stumbled on the Cypress Lakes resort website with two bedroom villas on a property that boast three pools, tennis courts, bicycle hire, golf course and hiking paths around the property it seemed like a splendid idea for all family members concerned.
We drove up from Sydney arriving in the Hunter at 12.30 ready for check in and a leisurely lunch. Unfortunately upon requesting an early check in (90min) we were shooed away and told not to return until two.. Shoo guest shoo! A suggestion of relaxing over some lunch at Bodega restaurant or sitting by the pool would have been received warmly but I guess we’d have to wait until after two. We left Young Basil Fawlty on reception to explore the surrounding vineyards for a bite.
We hit the road and headed to the beautiful vineyard of Audrey Wilkinson, one of the prettiest in the Hunter. They don’t have a restaurant but it’s heaven to walk around the stunning gardens check out the clear door and then move on to their sister vineyard Cockfighters Ghost for a fabulous lunch.
Elegantly casual restaurant, Hunters Quarter Bar and Dining is just around the corner from Cypress Lakesl. My husband and I had dined here many years before when it was ‘Rock Restaurant’ and loved the modern dining room set over beautiful grounds with rock star cuisine.
The new establishment, known as HQ to locals is an elegant affair combing modern Australian cuisine, seasonal local produce, and flawless service from engaging staff. Catering for just about everyone, there is a bar menu, children’s menu, A la Carte and extensive wine list… I was just worried we may not make it out of here by dark.
Head chef, Brian Duncan having worked at the Dorchester Hotel in London and also at Level 41 and Establishment in Sydney is a master in taking simple, local, seasonal produce and taking you on a journey to gastronomy wonderland.
With a helipad on the Cockfightes Ghost vineyard I was seeing a vision of of chopper transport to a long lunch at HQ in my future?
April is a superb time to visit the Hunter and with the recent rain everything was more lush and green than I had ever seen it before. Cypress lakes with it’s beautiful lake and driveway winding up to reception with villas dotted throughout the rural setting is a picture of tranquillity. Waking up at senior citizens hour and having a sunrise walk is a cracking start to the day.
Hot air balloons hover above the lake in the distance; ducks take a dawn cruise around the water with the mist spilling over the hinterlands like a dry ice science experiment.
My children love a hotel buffet breakfast, and Bodega restaurant had a suitable selection including all kids favourite, pancakes. . The warm sunny morning was perfect for renting the bikes available from reception and cycling through the vines and country roads of Pokolbin.
It’s very peaceful around the resort and there is little or no traffic on the small country roads surrounding the property. We spotted Kangaroos and kookaburras whist enjoying an easy leisurely pedal through the vines.
To top off the burst of energy we had a game of tennis while the kids played in the lakeside pool. It really is a great way to spend a couple of days away from the big smoke with not too far to travel and loads of fun activities for kids.
After we checked out we had a little drive around, as there are so many other interesting spots for families to explore. such as Hunter Valley gardens.
We had a delicious lunch at Enzo, set in a Tuscan inspired village, among eclectic sandstone buildings in the heart of the hunter. Enzo’s enchanting courtyard is ideally set up for families. There is a small lawn for a spot of croquet, a giant connect four set and a sweet little boutique selling all things Alpaca.
The menu has a great selection and the king prawn linguini was perfection. Deserts of Flourless chocolate cake and Crème Brule shared between us punctuated a perfect pre-drive home meal. Now about that next trip … with the chopper …and the long lunch? Mr Walsh are you reading this?