Maureen Dettre escapes to riverside luxury in Western Australia.
It's a place fit for a king, as well as Sting, or Bill Clinton, Sean Penn, Toni Collette and Katy Perry.
That's the roll call of international celebrities who've enjoyed a secluded gourmet retreat at the luxurious Cape Lodge beside Western Australia's spectacular Margaret River.
Set on 13ha and nestled in its own vineyard, this boutique hotel oozes understated elegance and is a member of Luxury Lodges of Australia. With a reputation as one of the finest places to dine in the heart of the internationally acclaimed wine region, the Cape Lodge restaurant has been voted in the world's top 10 for food on Conde Nast Traveler's Gold List.
Swedish-born, French-trained executive chef Michael Elfwing — who has worked in some of the world's best kitchens, including Heston Blummenthals' Fat Duck and Cheong Liew's Grange — says "I'm passionate about the produce. It must be seasonal, nutritional and in sync with the rhythm of the seasons."
His creative cuisine is complemented by one of the most impressive regional wine cellars with Cape Lodge stocking 14,000 bottles.
General manager Drew Bernhardt says he runs a "dry farm" with the vineyards that are so well established, they are self-sustaining.
"The vineyards are 18 years old so we don't irrigate. Once they get to a certain age the roots are deep enough. We are very au naturel here — we are very organic and use minimal chemicals.
"Very occasionally we might put a bit of water on them but usually we just rely on the rain. The less water you use the more intense the flavour," he said.
The system seems to be working well because they make thousands of bottles of "exceptionally good" Shiraz and Sauvignon blanc every vintage.
The estate also has 22 luxury suites for accommodation and hosts dozens of the world's most acclaimed chefs participating in WA's "gourmet escape" event every November. This year's Gourmet Escape will take place from November 16-19.
The estate also offers a monthly Cooking Class and Long Table Lunch, where Elfwing shares his kitchen tips, recipes and favourite ingredients, cooking a three-course menu that can easily be recreated at home. The food is then paired with Cape Lodge wines.
It's a rare chance to see a great artist at work and also taste the best of the best of beautiful "Margs", as the locals refer to the area synonymous around the world with fine food and premium wine.
IF YOU GO
Further information: See westernaustralia.com