Revive & restore
your body and soul!
I have it on good authority that many people visiting Australia from overseas hug the east coast without venturing west. They might trip to the eastern tropics, take a snap of the Sydney Opera House and The Bridge, and then maybe duck inland to visit The Rock (Uluru) before heading home to wax lyrical about the great down-under.
What they don’t know is that here in Western Australia we harbour a little secret called Your Margaret River Region, where they could, if they were so inclined, come for some peace and relaxation. A place where, instead of frenetically ticking tourist must-sees off the list, they could simply revive and restore their bodies and souls without the rush and hustle of tourism gone mad.
Even we ‘sandgroper’ weekend warrior locals from Perth like nothing better than heading down south for a weekend of healing moments in gorgeous settings where soothing experiences crystallise into magical memories.
Last weekend, after battling the dreaded Friday afternoon rush-hour traffic out of Perth, we headed south for a quick weekend of body and soul restoration, a little pampering, some fine gourmet Australiana cuisine, and a gentle walk in some of Your Margaret River Region’s prettiest places.
Empire Spa Retreat
As far as retreats go, Empire Spa Retreat is pretty special. Blink and you’ll miss the discreet entry which takes you off wooded Caves Road, and leads you along a winding drive surrounded by 265 acres of tranquil pastures, pristine native bushland, and the Empire Estate vineyards.
The driveway takes you through huge wrought iron gates into a woodland oasis where cute courtyard water gardens, an ancient monastery door and statues intermingle with quiet day beds and garden benches where you can sit and ponder or just watch the world go by. There’s an eastern flavor running through the retreat that made me think of Bali more than once.
The main part of the retreat consists of a 35 year old farmhouse where there’s a definite focus on style, and it’s just been revamped into something extra special.
To tell you the truth, the interior design is straight out of Homes Beautiful. Which is not surprising because Empire first originated from the owners’ love of design.
Perry and Jill Coleman originally set up a chain of stores called Pedlars providing stylish home products and furnishings, the forerunner to what would become Empire Homewares which now has stores in Perth, Fremantle and Dunsborough.
Beyond and surrounding the main part of the farmhouse you’ll find 10 luxurious suites designed for complete privacy.
Our suite was style personified, with a huge bed, an open fireplace, sunken lounge area, corner lounge setting, dining suite, kitchenette, fine linens and stylish soft furnishings (that I wanted to take home with me).
Let’s not forget the large spa bath overlooking a private garden courtyard with an outside rain forest shower, and the spacious living area which opened up onto a timber decked balcony with day bed and a secluded private balcony overlooking bushland.
We loved walking around the property, meandering around the dam and watching the comical geese, but most of all we enjoyed lazing in the large outdoor bush Jacuzzi, gazing across the vineyards while enjoying a cold glass (or two) of champagne.
Now that’s the life!
Empire Day Spa
Hidden in its own private glade is the Day Spa. The philosophy of relaxation and rejuvenation is carried through to the spa which is almost hidden from view amongst the native bush.
There’s a couple’s room if you like to do things together, and an extensive spa menu from which to choose your pamper fix; think traditional spa therapies or specialised Empire rituals.
I enjoyed a beautifully relaxing massage with Kerrie-Anne, who hails from Victoria. She’s been living in Your Margaret River Region and working at Empire for 5 years.
“It’s so peaceful and serene working here,” she told me. “I really love it.”
So which products are used?
“In the Spa we use Sodashi products which are made up in Fremantle, and also Eminence products which are made in Hungary and distributed from Queensland,” Kerrie-Anne told me.
“But why have a massage?” I asked – as if I needed convincing 😉
And Kerrie-Anne replied without blinking …
1. It’s great for relaxation
2. It can help to reduce stress
3. It’s good for both blood circulation and your skin.
Bring it on! And if you need a bit of R & R then it’s time to book your restorative treatment at Empire Spa.
Time for some exercise
As much as I would like to live the life of dedicated sloth, there has to be a balance, and we were torn that afternoon in choosing our exercise for the day. Would we cycle along the bike trail from Dunsborough to Busselton, or walk along the Meelup Reserve Trail to Castle Rock from Dunsborough?
Deciding on the latter we walked to this prominent landmark, a massive chunk of orange granite which is at the end of Castle Bay. Looking at it from a distance it looks hard to climb but really it’s fairly easy and the back section of the rock is about level with the ground along the Meelup Reserve Trail, which runs above Castle Beach.
From Old Dunsborough, Castle Rock is about a half hour walk along the Meelup Trail.
It’s all about the food – Piari & Co
That evening, with lungfuls of fresh air and the adrenaline running on high after a fabulous whale watching trip with Whale Watch Western Australia (more about that to come), we were ready for some tucker.
At Piari & Co. we found an intimate bistro-style set up buzzing with chatter and lively with laughter along with the smells of really appetising food.
The restaurant appeared popular, so much so that I felt sure it must have been open for years, and I felt silly for not having heard about it sooner. I was also curious as to how it got its unique name as well. So when co-owner Renee had a few moments to spare I asked her a couple of questions.
“We’ve only been open 18 months,” she told me, “and the restaurant is named after our children Pia and Ari. We were encouraged to name the business after something important to us – so we did! Just prior to opening Piari & Co. we managed Studio Bistro, near Yallingup, for 3 years, although we’d thought about having our own restaurant for about 29 years before that!”
Husband and wife team, Renee and Blair (who’s the chef) are passionate about food, and run the restaurant together with an efficient team of waitresses who, during our meal, were discreet but attentive.
I wondered how such amazing dishes could come out of the small kitchen which is visible to diners, and was impressed by the productivity happening in such a tight space.
At Piari & Co. it really is all about the food. The menu is extensive, and changes with the seasons and I think could be described as gourmet Australiana.
Go for the food, not for fancy surroundings. It’s not an architectural wonder nor a pretentious inner city eatery, but my goodness the food is spot on, and definitely showcases Piari’s philosophy which is all about the simplicity of local produce and changing seasons. The food is locally sourced, seasonal and house made.
It’s all about the small, rare and unusual (just check out the interesting wine list) with a focus on simple fare designed for sharing.
Fast Facts about Piari & Co.
• Parking is easy – right outside
• The house red was not (as I’ve had in some places) a cheap ropey wine, but it was a great local wine from Hayshed Hill – very smooth, well priced, great value for money.
• There’s plenty of room to sit outside under the stars in summertime.
• Great selection of local craft beer and local wines – read the helpful descriptions before ordering.
• Try the shared Charcuterie plate or the 18 hour Margaret River farm house ‘Big Red’ pork belly, creamed celeriac, rhubarb chutney, braised red cabbage & crackle – to die for.
• Actually, just go – and choose something yourself – but I tell you, the choice is unlikely to be easy.
Escape. Indulge. Unwind.
Immerse yourself in luxury at a Margaret River retreat.