Winter Escape: Windmills Break, Yallingup
As regular readers will know, Renay and I spent a week in the Margaret River region recently to do some serious recharging of the batteries. Although we would both be tied to work to a certain extent, we decided to head south for some peace & quiet, and to indulge in some fine food & wine.
After doing a substantial amount of research, we decided to book four nights at Windmills Break, an intimate five star luxury boutique retreat in Yallingup. Since we returned they have revamped their website and packages; the deal we chose was in an Executive Spa Room with breakfast included at a very reasonable $330 per night (minimum 3 nights) – it’s currently $345 a night for the same deal. The “rack rate” for this room is $455 per night not including breakfast. There are various seasonal packages available depending on your requirements and length of stay – you can even hire out the whole complex, which would be amazing for a wedding.
Windmills is located on ten acres of gardens with swimming pool, spa, tennis court, walking track, licensed bar and dining facilities. All rooms have luxury furnishings with king size beds, large televisions, mini bars and private courtyards. Inside the main building there is a large lounge area with comfy seating, a fireplace and complimentary coffee, tea & cakes all day! There’s also a large media room with over 700 DVDs that you can take back to your room – there’s no complex loan system here, just take what you want and you’re trusted to bring it back. This is a retreat for adults only, and they make it quite clear – on the website and on signs around the property – that there are no facilities for children. For us, this unfortunately included our cat Buster who spent the week being pampered at Top Cats Country Club in Southern River.
We arrived right on 2pm for check-in and there was some kind of “security” issue going on – there was a police car on site and the staff were in a bit of a flap. In true form for a five-star establishment, however, the show carried on regardless and after just a few minutes delay (which we spent in the comfy lounge) we were told that we had been upgraded to a Premier Spa Apartment, the best room in the house! With a rack rate of $655 per night we certainly weren’t complaining.
Our room was spacious and well furnished, but you’d expect that from such an expensive room. This was a true apartment, with cooking facilities and the ability to close the bedroom off from the living room – no sitting on the bed to watch TV here, although there was a TV in the bedroom too. There were a surprising number of Foxtel channels available, and fast (but insecure) wireless Internet available throughout the complex.
As you would expect, the king size bed was very comfortable with plenty of decent pillows provided. Each guest room and the main building feature Christian Fletcher photographs throughout, which is a really nice touch and speaks to the class of the establishment.
The bathroom was very well appointed and the two-person spa a great indulgence.
The restaurant at Windmills Break is open for breakfast every day and dinner Thursday to Monday. The dinner menu changes frequently, and you can download a sample menu here. We ate in the restaurant on the Sunday night, but unfortunately it was too dark to photograph our meals.
I started with garam masala lamb samosas with tomato relish ($16) which were mildly spiced but still very tasty. For main course, I had the confit duck with sweet onion puree, grilled witlof and brioche vanilla crumb ($36) which wasn’t what I’d usually order but it was delicious. Renay had the handmade ricotta cappelletti with roast pumpkin, spinach and brown butter ($28) which was outstanding, one of the best pasta dishes either of us have tasted.
There were two desserts on offer, chocolate “pave” (mousse) with raspberry, chocolate soil & vanilla bean ice cream and flambéed bananas with candied peanuts, whisky prune ice cream (both $14). We tried one of each, and both were quite delicious. Hard to pick a favourite.
A full breakfast was included daily in our package, and you can download a sample breakfast menu here. The actual menu we had was quite limited compared to the sample one, with no omelettes or french toast (which I was really looking forward to). Food can be delivered to your room at no extra charge, and the only thing we felt was lacking at Windmills was some variety in the dinner menu. There were a few nights when we didn’t want to go out, but the only option to eat in was a relatively fussy meal in the restaurant. As cliched as it is, a club sandwich would have gone down rather well.
Most diners seemed to choose the full breakfast, which made sense since it didn’t cost any extra. There was certainly nothing to complain about, everything was tasty and well cooked – the sausage being chorizo made a nice change from the weird sausages you get in some places.
The coffee was unfortunately pedestrian, but you can’t have everything. Complimentary fruit juice was available at the bar.
Windmills is a five star resort, and when I asked for pancakes with bacon on the side it was no problem at all. The service was first class, and was so for the whole time we were there. All of the staff were friendly, with no request too difficult – even when we needed to send a fifteen page fax at 8am on Monday morning. Our room was respectfully cleaned and tidied every day, with a newspaper and printout of the day’s weather left outside every morning.
The thing we loved most about our trip away was how quiet the whole region was, from the relatively traffic-free Sunday drive down to the restaurants we had nearly to ourselves everyday. We were amazed that the locals felt the need to apologise for the weather, when that was one of the things we went for, and we were grateful that almost everything remained open. If you want to explore Margaret River but don’t like crowds then you should really consider visiting in winter.
If you’re looking for a luxurious place to stay and escape from the city – but still be close to quality food & wine if you feel the need to head out – Windmills Break would be hard to beat. We enjoyed our week so much that we are considering spending our honeymoon there next year. Highly recommended.