Australian Financial Review Life & Leisure – Off-Menu Indulgences
Off-Grid Tasmania Wildlife Tour
Pepper Bush recently hosted guests from Saffire Freycinet at the Tyne Valley cabin for a Quoll Patrol. Journalist with Australian Financial Review, Katarina Kroslakova and Pasquale Trimboli, a restauranteur from Sydney enjoyed campfire dining and an evening with the Tasmanian wildlife. Katarina’s Australian Financial Review Life & Leisure article is below and writes about her off-grid Tasmania wildlife tour.
Off-Menu Indulgences At Saffire Freycinet – Katarina Kroslakova
Five-star resorts around Australia are offering guests unique experiences with a distinct local touch, wirtes Katarina Kroslakova.
As we descended towards our landing spot, the helicopter pilot holding a paper map in one hand, steering column in the other, with the only signs of civilisation being a tin and timber shack, a parked four-wheel-drive and a deadpan bushman looking at us from below, my partner and I gave each other looks of nervousness and anxiety.
Why on earth would the staff at Saffire, which is considered one of the world’s most luxurious lodges, recommend this as a suitable experience for the VIP issue of Luxury magazine?
In this remote – albeit picturesque – Tasmanian valley, we had no mobile phone reception (or Google Maps), no idea where we were, and very little idea of what we were to do or how to get back to the plush surrounds of our lovely resort. This third-party experience wasn’t listed anywhere on Saffire’s website. Sure, we like to bring readers unique experiences that are off the menu, but this was seriously off the grid.
But from the moment our mysterious bushman came up and asked the helicopter pilot for a selfie, it was apparent this would be an experience like no other. Said bushman turned out to be Craig Williams, a born and bred sixth-generation Taswegian who has a love and affinity for the Aussie bush like few I’ve ever met. He Runs Pepper Bush Adventures from Scottsdale, in north-east Tasmania, but he pretty much considers the entire island to be his office and his playground.
He trained as a master butcher and later owned a landscaping business, but now wildlife guiding is his bread and butter. He started Pepper Bush with his wife Janine 17 years ago and their son Ben has also joined the business as a guide.
His guests have included Saudi Arabian oil ministers (complete with security entourage), New York financiers, Russian billionaires (“The guy who owns Moscow airport”) – even the writer AA Gill spent two days with Craig. Predominately, Craig says, his clientele are wealthy internationals keen to immerse themselves in the Australian bush, in as remote a place as you can get.
Our experience was a highly condensed version of the standard Quoll Patrol. Normally, this takes up to 10 hours and consists of three parts: the first is a bush exploration with Craig, who points out animals and native flora. “We take you through the bush and explain the various tastes and smells, you really get to use your senses,” he says. “There are 32 species of eucalypts in Tasmania. We have native pepperberry, tea tree bush. We pick what you like, take it back and cook it up”
Then it’s back to the Pepper Bush Hut in the remote Tyne Valley (where we landed) for some campfire canapes. The hut is a very basic structure built 35 years ago but it fits the surroundings perfectly. Apparently you can sleep overnight in it, Craig and “the boys” do it frequently but, personally, I wouldn’t like to try it. “People just want to chill when they come here. There is no power, no reception,” he says. “I’m yet to encounter another person on the mountain in the 35 years I’ve been here.”
While guests sit around the smoky campfire, drinking champagne from tin cups, Craig gets to work on some bush tucker. “I just make up flavours as I go,” he admits.
And finally, as the sun sets (the golden light is magic on these majestic moutains), the animals slowly start to come out – they are the local residents, after all. We spot quolls, wallabies, possums, wombats, bandicoots. Craig boasts that he is the only guide who can guarantee a platypus sighting in a nearby creek – and he delivers. With pinpoint accuracy, he spots the native animal, notoriously difficult to see in its wild surroundings. This off-grid Tasmania wildlife tour will be unforgettable.
After a two-hour dirve (slightly nerve-racking, I’ll admit – kamikaze animals jumping in front of our 4WD on winding roads), we were back as base camp, otherwise know as Saffire Freycinet.
Much has been written about this resort, from the striking architecture to the impeccable service. Without a doubt, the food and beverage options are some of the best in the world. The quality of the ingredients, the sophistication of the menus, the impressive wine cellar, the “no such thing as too much trouble” attitude from the staff all added up to every meal being pretty much perfect.
But one meal was a little bit more perfect than the others. Guests booked into the top-line Private Pavilions can enjoy the included option of having one of Saffire kitchen’s chefs cook dinner in the privacy and ultra-comfort of their pavilion.
While guests enjoy an activity, such as the Schouten Island Cruise, staff set up the ingredients and utensils, bring in buckets (yes buckets) of wine to match all the courses, the chef then comes into the tiny kitchen to prep for the extravagant degustation meal. “It’s a much smaller kitchen than I’m used to!” laughs chef Mark Wilson, as I find him crammed into the nook from which he’ll produced the meal.
The six-course menu is as sophisticated and complex as they come. Salmon ceviche with quinoa, pumpkin and grapefruit, followed by hen’s egg with winter truffle, buckweat, nasturtium and cauliflower, then black-lipped abalone in chicken consomme with baby bok choy. For mains, Flinders Island pasture-fed lamb (how Wilson managed that delicious meat caramelisation on a domestic stove is beyond me) with broccoli, parsley and celeriac. Dessert was a strawberry sorbet, vanilla, soft meringue topped with gold leaf, and a generous serving of local cheeses to finish.
“I love coming up with a new menu each time,” Wilson says. “It has to be independent of the evening menu in the restaurant to make sure guests don’t double up.”
The writer was a guest of Saffire and experienced the Tyne Valley curtesy of Pepper Bush Adventures.
Australian Financial Times Life & Leisure – Read about Katarina’s off-grid Tasmania wildlife tour here – View Article