By Claire van Ryn
I’m not going to lie to you. There are certain perks with being the editor of a magazine. And at the risk of dismantling the yacht-owning, white linen-wearing, airs and graces persona you’d built of me, I’m coming clean. I didn’t pay for this experience. Couldn’t afford it to be honest. Or rather, when I think of the $2k+ price tag per night at Saffire Freycinet, my practical mind runs ahead to all the other ways that wad of cash could be spent. A root canal or two? 869 packets of barbecue flavour Samboy chips? Two or three days employing a tradesman to chip away at the home reno list? About 7,142 rolls of Sorbent? A year and a half of cafe-grade coffee at a rate of one latte per day?
Or … or one could throw practicality to the wind and languish in one of Australia’s 11 luxury lodges, the one wearing the Trip Advisor title of best luxury hotel in Australia, marooned in Coles Bay with views of the Hazards that are nothing short of epic.
This article is for those who were like me, trying to justify the extravagance.
We are met by Martin at our car. Later, our bags would materialise in our room - no doubt whisked there as we sipped glasses of sparkling wine. The layout of this stingray-shaped resort is unapologetically oriented towards what no man has been able to replicate: the beauty of nature. The Hazard Range with its dramatic granite formations encompasses four mountains (Mayson, Amos, Dove and Parsons) and is skirted by the waters of Tasmania’s famed East Coast. Every chair is angled towards it. No guest’s back is turned from it. And it has that wonderfully calming power on an escapee from life’s treadmill.
A few weeks prior to our visit, we were asked what activities we’d like to do. And now, we are presented with an itinerary of our stay. It’s jam-packed, but that’s how we like it. Massage. Cooking demonstration including a tour of the kitchen. Cocktail mixology class. Canapes and drinks in the lounge. Six-course degustation dinner with matched wines. Bed. Early morning mountain bike ride along the beach to the Coles Bay township. Breakfast. Oyster experience at a local farm. Archery. Lunch.
I could gush about the expansive room with its double shower, elegant styling and mini bar. I could rave about the food, every dish a marvel and no menu alteration an issue. And the drinks! They just kept coming, a long parade of exquisite quality; wines and boutique beers and Tasmanian gins (you must try Poltergeist) and cocktails.
But in debriefing on the trip home, in the family wagon, we agreed that the staff are what makes Saffire glisten and gleam. It wasn’t the “yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir” kind of service you might expect at a five star resort. It was personalities shining because they are clearly doing what they love.
Wendy’s eyes were full as she demonstrated the tataki dish she was preparing, peppered with reminiscences of her time working at a Michelin star restaurant in Japan and then Sweden and a battery of other countries. In Japan, she was responsible for snipping micro herbs at precise lengths. And yes, they would be measured.
Diego spun a tale of the reason James Bond famously asked for his martinis “shaken, not stirred”. He is from Peru and mixed a cocktail from his homeland, a delicious muddle of plum Pisco Quebranta and dry ginger ale. He typed up the recipe later so we could make it again at home.
Declan was our man for the oyster farm experience and, as we drove the short distance there, he proved himself amazingly knowledgeable about the industry (which is thriving) and the fish development (they are fish because they have gills, see). We donned waders to check out the baskets of fledgling oysters before shaking a white cloth, sipping some sparkling and feasting on oysters as Declan expertly shucked as many as we wanted. He also spun a few tales of the glitterati he has entertained. Not for print sorry!
Justin was keenly interested in how our experience had been. As general manager of the place, he no doubt had a list as long as his arm to attend to, but he paused for us with eye contact, genuine conversation and an obvious confidence in the people he employs.
And Jo maintained composure when hubby asked where he could go prancercising. It’s a thing, and we wrote it in as one of his interests for the Saffire crew to accommodate. When we showed her the YouTube clip that’s gone viral with a bloke in leopard print hotpants and gloriously shaped calves, she lost it. We laughed a lot. Last I heard she’d taken it up as a hobby.
Saffire was a memory-making exercise for us. It was a mix of adventure, discovery, relaxation, uninterrupted conversation, mingling with other interesting people, delighting in the food and wine. I also can’t remember when I last felt so full.
So, was it worth it?
Here’s a thought: money can cause as much trouble when held onto too tightly. If it’s going to be spent, may as well spend it on a memory that will last a lifetime.