Escape checks in for some beguiling charm, contemporary comfort and eclectic eating at this local Bundanoon landmark.
There’s a mysterious energy about Bundanoon, I’ve heard locals say, that makes the stars align. Perhaps it’s the area’s ancient indigenous culture or the untamed vastness and majesty of Morton National Park at its doorstep. Whatever the reason, it’s a force that has transformed the lives of Della and Jon Fitzroy.
These relative newcomers to the Highlands made the tree change from Sydney two years ago after buying The Bundanoon Guest House. A bit of a local institution, known for many years as Treetops, it opened in 1910 and is the longest running guest house in town, closing only during the war years. But Jon and Della weren’t put off by historical sentiment, or the fact the property needed major structural and cosmetic work. They had a more pressing problem. They had a guest house and dining room but no chef.
‘We knew right from the get-go it was very important to retain the character of the place but add a modern twist,’ says Della, ‘We wanted an excellent dining room that could operate as a separate business but that would fully complement the accommodation side.’
Enter well known local chef Eon Waugh, who has lived in Bundanoon since 1999. Foodies will remember Eon as the owner and head chef of cosy local legend The Studio Restaurant in Exeter, which closed in 2015. Fast forward to 2016 and Eon was busy working in another local favourite, Josh’s Cafe in Berrima, but was looking for a kitchen to call his own.
The stars aligned perfectly when a local businesswoman heard of the Fitzroys’ plight and Waugh’s desires, and made the introductions. The magic worked. Together Della, Jon and the indefatigable Eon, who also enthusiastically took on the role of chief designer, have created a sumptuous and inviting accommodation and dining choice.
Cornices are white, colours are Georgian greys and emerald greens, walls and doors are wood panelled, furnishings are eclectic antique. The look, says Eon, is ‘contemporary sophisticated’.
For Della, it was important to replace the former ‘twee B&B feel’ with ‘light and space’. ‘We wanted to let it breathe,’ says Della, who spent countless hundreds of hours up ladders painting alongside husband Jon, a former electrician who also did all the rewiring.
‘When you peel the layers and layers off a building, what’s left are the bare bones, and this place has beautiful bones. Now this is a guesthhouse people can relax. With friends, with family, or simply sitting with a drink in front of the roaring fire.’
Eon’s domain, the dining room, is striking with its polished wood floors and beautifully appointed tables. There is also an impressive private dining room that seats up to 16. Fully licenced and with Eon’s eclectic menu, The Dining Room is open for dinner Thursday to Saturday and for lunch on Sunday. Thursday is BYO night, which the locals love.
‘I tend to cook what I love to eat,’ says Eon. ‘So we have a Balinese fish curry, a classic French cheese souffle or duck confit on the menu. It’s about the food, of course, but always about the service too, and the local support we have received has been absolutely extraordinary.’
The Guest House has 14 rooms and a separate two bedroom cottage. All up it can sleep 33 people, and has a big games room with pool table and table tennis, plus a bar that is open every evening for guests. I stay in room 16, an executive spa room. The rooms are large and well finished. There is a king bed with fine linen, complimentary port in a cut crystal decanter and freshly cut roses from the garden. The shower in the newly finished bathroom has the best water pressure I have enjoyed in any hotel, guesthouse or B&B in the Highlands. At night the trains on the track nearby slide by in my dreams, and in the morning the kookaburras and warbling magpies wake me.
Bundanoon Guest House is a place at home in its new skin. It is not trying too hard, but is revelling in its newly revamped beauty, bones and all. It reminds me a bit of a middle aged mama who has recently shaken off her domestic shackles and rediscovered her mojo with new hairdo, new wardrobe, new sass, new panache. You go girl!
The Bundanoon Guesthouse
10 Railway Avenue, Bundanoon