Nikki Wallman checks in to Peppers Manor House to see how a recent multi-million-dollar facelift[Nikki, just seemed a bit repetitive reading again in 1st par…MP] has added a new chapter to the historic hotel’s storied past.
It must be a tricky job, renovating a piece of history; even more so when it’s an upmarket hotel. Guests may be yearning for a glimpse into glamorous days past, but they also demand a certain level of comfort and modernity – and achieving a balance between these elements isn’t easy. So I’m keen to check out Peppers Manor House following its recent $4.5 million-plus refurbishment.
The historic retreat is tucked away in the pastoral surrounds of Sutton Forest, along with adjacent golf course (Mt Broughton Golf and Country club), and has long been a magnet for visitors to the Southern Highlands seeking a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. In fact, its former life – beginning in the late 1800s as a grand country residence for the Kater family – set it in good stead for its current incarnation as a place where time seems almost to stand still… in a good way.
Pulling up the entrance, an air of dignified country hospitality pervades: a wide wraparound veranda offers views of the green and gorgeous grounds, full of well-maintained hedging, grand, arching trees and country-escape essentials like tennis courts, swimming pool, statues, and rustic wooden benches for simply admiring the loveliness. I’m not here with my husband (though my companion, photographer Elise Hassey is obviously fantastic company) but I’m keen to bring him back – it’d be a lovely romantic retreat from the world.
Reception is warm and friendly, and we’re given a rundown of the various attractions of the property – including the jaw-dropping Great Hall, with its soaring ceilings, wood-panelled windows, comfy couches and roaring fire; the day spa; billiards room and the new casual eating space, Katers Larder.
We check out our Garden Wing rooms (all 43 rooms and suites underwent a facelift as part of the refurbishment). Mine is sizable, with a comfy bed, modular sofa/reading area, desk, television and large windows draped with double-layered curtains. Simply decorated in soft neutrals, with a hint of blue, the room is comfortable and classic; warm and welcoming. The bathroom is done nicely in monochrome tiling, and with the bathtub beckoning after a long day, I grab myself a Pigs Fly Pale Ale from the Bowral Brewing Company (a nice nod to local brewers) out of the bar fridge and enjoy a soak in the botanical Appelles amenities provided.
Before our dinner reservation at the award-winning Katers Restaurant, we’ve made sure to leave time to enjoy a glass of wine in one of the character-filled sitting rooms Peppers Manor House boasts. There’s the aforementioned main Great Hall of course; and you’ll also find other lovely little sitting areas and fireplaces around the corner, near the Nook Bar, where you can order your fireside tipple. This really is a highlight of my stay; sitting in the shadows of the soaring ceilings and windows of this spectacular room, the fire crackling and warming my face, enjoying small talk with another couple of guests. You really do feel transported to another place and time; free from everyday stresses and soaking up the atmosphere of this unique setting.
Walking a few steps to Katers, an elegant, two-level dining space, we sit down to a signature degustation dinner with matched wines. The meal takes us on a journey of local produce using innovative techniques (we’re impressed with our young waitress, who manages to combine a photographic memory of sometimes quite technical dishes with a genuinely warm, friendly vibe).
Katers has earned an Australian Good Food Guide Chef Hat five years in a row, and also picked up two wine glasses in Gourmet Traveller Wine’s 2016 Wine List of the Year awards, so I’m keen to see what keeps the accolades coming. Chef John Shelly, the menu informs me, is strongly connected to local producers and, with his own upbringing on a farm, understands well the importance of seasonality in selecting and creating the dishes we enjoy. The restaurant’s onsite garden supplies many of its herbs and vegetables, and John uses local producers including Pecora Dairy, Maugers Meats, Thirlmere Poultry Supply, Li-Sun Exotic Mushrooms, Alpine Berry Farm and Sutton Forest Olives (and many more).
Standout dishes include a velvety Jerusalem artichoke soup, served with a perfectly soft-poached egg, slices of artichoke and crunchy fenugreek. It’s incredibly nourishing and comforting. Crunchy crumbed mussels are complemented by fresh green peas and broad beans with a buttermilk dressing; and I do a double take when I first taste the barramundi with local mushrooms – it’s served with a perfectly clear consomme that, incredibly, tastes of pine needles. It’s a clever touch that adds a new dimension to a classic fish dish. The dishes are expertly matched with wines from Spain to Mittagong.
Breakfast the next morning is served in the same room, with nice touches such as a quirky range of chipotle and chilli sauces. The morning sun floods the space with light, beckoning us outside for the day (shooting more lovely images for this magazine!). But to tell you the truth, I’d be perfectly happy to stick around longer – reading a book in one of the guest lounges, having a hit of tennis, checking out the spa and the gardens.. There’s plenty to explore here, making Peppers Manor House more than just a place to bunker down for the night – it’s a destination in itself.
Peppers Manor House
Kater Road, Sutton Forest
1300 987 600
Other Historic Hotels to try
Hillview Heritage Hotel, Sutton Forest
Fitzroy Inn Historic Retreat, Mittagong
The Robertson Hotel, Robertson
The Old Bank Boutique Hotel, Mittagong
Milton Park, Bowral