Taming the wild west
Perth is enjoying a renaissance, with fine wine, food and world-class accommodation leading the way.
COMO, Millbrook Winery, David Griffin and James McRory
6 August, 2018
The epicentre of the country’s mining boom a decade ago, Perth in Western Australia is experiencing a boom of a different kind, with its world-class food and wine proving as irresistible a drawcard to visitors from around the world as the rugged coastline and countryside of the region.
Home to 2.5 million people, the western capital is the entry point for many visitors from overseas as well as curious Aussies from around the country looking to explore a city with its own unique character.
The city is responding in style to its new-found popularity, with new hotels going up at a prodigious rate. With a Westin and QT recently opened, and work underway on a Ritz-Carlton and plans for two Hilton products underway, accommodation is in good hands, but for discerning travellers, the six-star COMO The Treasury is very much the place to stay.
Part of the COMO group of luxury hotels, it has garnered a host of awards since opening its elegant doors in late 2015. Best Hotel (AHA National Awards for Excellent 2017), Best Business Hotel 2017 (Qantas Business Travel Awards), Best Hotel in Australia and New Zealand - Readers’ Choice Awards 2017 (Condé Nast Traveler) … the list goes on.
Occupying the beautifully restored and revitalised State Buildings in the heart of Perth, this collection of buildings which boast 140 years of history, were once the seat of power for Perth and also served duty as the central post office and state treasury at one time – hence the name.
With just 48 elegant rooms and suits spread over four floors, COMO The Treasury is not your giant international hotel like the Star – the only other six-star hotel in Perth – but rather exudes an intimate charm and sophistication all its own.
With just 48 elegant rooms and suits spread over four floors, COMO The Treasury exudes intimate charm and sophistication rather than 'big hotel' splash
...a mammoth $110 million dollar restoration project overseen by Kerry Hill Architects, that not only restored the original majesty of the property, but brought it into the modern age...
Incredibly, what is now a stunningly restored Victorian-era building (or more accurately, group of buildings), sat empty and in disrepair for years – a restoration project of gigantic proportions that was simply beyond the means and imagination of most.
But that all changed with a mammoth $110 million dollar restoration project overseen by Kerry Hill Architects, that not only restored the original majesty of the property, but brought it into the modern age, with stunningly conceived contemporary touches, yet paying homage to the building’s history and foundation architecture.
The original character has been retained, with so many little touches – an old vault door here or original detail there – kept and woven into the new structure. The configuration has been beautifully adapted from administrative offices into elegant guest rooms and suits, areas like the original mail sorting room is now home to the elegant Post restaurant, while the two-hatted Wildflower –winner of the 2017 AHA National Awards for Excellence Best Restaurant – sits atop the hotel and affords views out over the city to the water. Or there is the Treasury Lounge and Bar that literally flows through three stunning ‘living rooms’ and serves afternoon tea each day or is the perfect place for a quiet drink before heading out for dinner – or night cap afterwards.
Also housed within the State Buildings are an array of other dining and drinking options, from the unbelievable Thai tastes of Long Chim in what was once the basement, to the Wine Shop, Petition Kitchen and its sister Petition Beer Corner – a veritable paradise for beer aficionados.
Nestled in the heart of the building, COMO’s own wellness centre and spa, the Shambala Urban escape offers a vast array of massage and physical therapies using the brand’s own range of exotic oils and balms. Or for those looking to perhaps atone for their over indulgence in the outstanding food and wine offerings, the indoor rooftop pool and gym afford a view over the surrounding city, while you recharge the batteries and prepare for the next indulgence.
And there are no shortages of indulgences in Perth, with the city on your doorstop and more boutique bars and restaurants than you can count within easy walking distance of the hotel. But slightly further afield is another gastronomic reason in itself to visit Perth.
As just one of the bespoke experiences offered by COMO The Treasury, the hotel has partnered with award-winning Millbrook winery to give guests a food and wine experience without peer.
“We found that many of our guests arrived in Perth for only two or three nights, wanting to enjoy the Western Australian wine experience,” says COMO General Manager, Anneke Brown. But given the solid three-hour drive to somewhere like the renowned Margaret River region, the practicalities of fitting in a visit simply wouldn’t work.
“We came up with a unique product that gives guests the opportunity of a world-class food and wine experience within easy reach of the hotel,” says Brown.
And this really is quite the experience.
“We found that many of our guests arrived in Perth for only two or three nights, wanting to enjoy the Western Australian wine experience"
Anneke Brown - COMO General Manager
A picture postcard vineyard with the winery perched on the edge of its own ornamental lake, the scenery alone is worth the trip
The picturesque Millbrook Winery is roughly an hour’s drive from the heart of Perth, or, for those wanting to enjoy all that this award-winning winery has to offer, there is a quicker way.
Just a 15-minute helicopter flight into the Perth Hills will have you landing at Millbrook in the heart of the Jarrahdale region. Taking off from literally the middle of Perth (just minutes by chauffeur-driven car from the hotel) and taking the scenic route, the trip is more like half an hour, and the perfect way to get a feel for the size and layout of Perth, before heading east into the foothills.
A picture postcard vineyard with the winery perched on the edge of its own ornamental lake, the scenery alone is worth the trip – but touching down on the edge of the ornamental lake is just the beginning.
Surrounded by ancient jarrah forests, the first grapes were planted in 1865 along with an orchard to supply local timber-millers with fresh fruit. Since then, it has gone on to produce some of the country’s finest wines, concentrating on quality rather than quantity and always ensuring the best and most sustainable practices are maintained to preserve the delicate and pristine environment.
That same approach carries over to Millbrook restaurant, where, under the watchful eye of last year’s Western Australian Good Food Guide’s ‘Chef of the Year’, Guy Jeffreys, it produces award-winning fare, with all of the fruit and vegetables grown right on the property.
Named in this year's Gourmet Traveller Magazine's Top 100 restaurants in Australia, it is one of only two WA restaurants to make the prestigious list. In addition it was named the best dining experience in regional Western Australia and second best in Western Australia overall - placing it above the likes of Rockpool, Vasse Felix and Wills Domain.
Guy Jefferys’ business card reads ‘Chef & Gardener’ and listening to him speak so passionately about his garden as he conducts a tour of the property makes it hard tell whether the kitchen or the paddock holds greater appeal for him.
In addition to the more than 100 varieties of heirloom vegetables, Jeffreys’ garden has an orchard, grows stone fruit, figs and citrus, as well as free-range eggs, olives and even honey. Meat and fish to accompany the fresh garden produce are sourced from local producers to showcase the best of the region and of course the menu changes to reflect the season and literally what has been picked that day.
The marriage between the award-winning wines and equally awarded restaurant, is one made in heaven. With 20 acres of vines, Millbrook is setup to produce small volume wines of the highest quality, with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot all under vine. As with all produce at Millbrook, the grapes are treated with the greatest respect, the pristine, gravity-fed winemaking facility reducing the need for mechanical intervention as the hand-picked grapes are processed and turned into liquid gold.
In addition to the more than 100 varieties of heirloom vegetables, Jeffreys’ garden has an orchard, grows stone fruit, figs and citrus, as well as free-range eggs, olives and even honey
Seasonal produce stars here, along with matched wines – making for the ultimate long lunch
As part of the experience, you will have the opportunity of blending your own wine under the tutelage of Senior Winemaker, Damian Hutton, which will be bottled for you to take home. Beware though, this is harder than it seems at first, and requires diligence and a willingness to keep revisiting and tasting each variety until your blend is just right. A task worth undertaking.
From the wine blending, the restaurant upstairs beckons, where the experience continues with a lunch prepared by Guy and his wonderful team of chefs. Seasonal produce stars here, along with matched wines – making for the ultimate long lunch. The menu is ever changing, but always memorable. Monday is known as ‘no waste Monday’ where diners get to feast on whatever is left over from the preceding week’s menu to ensure none of the stunning ingredients go to waste. This approach underscores the philosophy of Chef Guy Jeffreys and the Millbrook kitchen, and is without doubt the best ‘leftovers’ you will ever eat!
Indeed, the fare was enough to see the restaurant named in the top 10 WA restaurants by both Gourmet Traveller and Qantas Travel Insider as well as being listed in the country’s top 500 restaurants for 2017 by the Australian Financial Review.
This is one of those days you wish would never end, but the chopper flight home as the sun sets out over the ocean, and the knowledge you’ll be back in The Treasury again 10 minutes after you land makes the parting bearable.
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