In a clearing around a bend on the Goulburn Valley Highway, the grandiose Trawool Estate – a towering red-brick property offering boutique accommodation and a fine-dining restaurant helmed by ex-Coda chef Eric Kwek – is a commanding presence in the otherwise sleepy Victorian town.
It sits directly adjacent to the busy thoroughfare, where thundering semis make the journey from Melbourne to Brisbane – but inside, the roar of the road dissolves instantly. An easy hour-and-a-half drive from the Melbourne CBD, it’s also on the Great Victorian Rail Trail, the rail-line-turned-bike-track that stretches from Tallarook to Mansfield.
Trawool Estate occupies a former hotel that dates back as far as the 1870s, and remnants of its former life can be seen in the original turret, leadlight windows and concrete floors (which have required nothing more than a polish). The centrepiece of Wild Water, the 100-seat dining room, is a spectacularly coloured dome made up of 4500 individual pieces of stained glass that catch and diffuse the morning light.
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Twenty newly refurbished hotel rooms in the historic main building look out onto the undulating Trawool Valley. Through the French doors – and beyond the wrought-iron balcony – watch the sunrise as the fog clears. (If you stay long enough to forget the drive, the vista could be mistaken for the French countryside.) The bright and airy King Suite has a freestanding bath, a king-size bed and a wine fridge to fill with local drops.
Seven neighbouring rooms are perfect for families; expect a kitchenette, a queen-size bed and a separate room with two single beds. All room bookings come with two complimentary buffet breakfasts, plus access to the outdoor pool and tennis court.
In a dimly lit bunker-like space, Turbine is the jewel in Trawool Estate’s crown. Heavy velvet curtains envelop the two-in-one restaurant and bar, making it easy to lose track of time. Here, chef Kwek showcases the flavours of Thailand, Korea, Japan and China with snacky plates made for sharing such as roast-duck pancakes with hoisin sauce and lychee; spicy Korean soba-noodle salad; and his must-order sticky Vegemite chicken ribs. Kwek’s Singaporean chicken-and-potato curry – a recipe from his mother – is the hearty dish you need before heading back upstairs for a soak in the tub.
Over the road, Trawool has a purpose-built space, a former quarry, for wedding ceremonies, where tiered standing-room steps cascade behind the granite aisle. The team hopes to host Shakespeare in the Park and yoga classes here too, come summertime.
Opening in early 2021, Trawool’s restoration has been a drawn-out process thanks to Covid delays. Still to come? An indoor pool (that’s currently being used for storage); a squash court; the Herb Garden, an outdoor entertainment space with a woodfire oven, a stage for live music, gas heaters, and misters for summer; and a day spa.