Halcyon House, Cabarita Beach, Australia

Of all the hotels I have visited around the world, a few stand out in my memory. Halcyon House made a lasting impression, with its fantastic bright beachy design, stylish innovative cuisine and prime seaside location. A recently renovated and transformed former surfer motel, this special hotel has already won a handful of prestigious awards.

I spent an afternoon enjoying lunch at the hotel’s destination restaurant, Paper Daisy, and relaxing by the pool. The décor is decidedly blue, from the crisp staff outfits to the books on the shelves.

The chef, Ben Devlin, is one of Australia’s most talented young chefs, having previously worked at Noma and Esquire. The menu reflects the seasons, and local produce is the main focus. The dishes are creative and thoughtful, sophisticated cooking without unnecessary fuss… which perfectly suits the setting.

Highlights included raw & preserved vegetable salad with fresh ricotta, a beautiful rainbow of ingredients paired with creamy homemade cheese. The Wagyu grade 9 rump with curry leaf, sesame and sugarleaf was the winner from the main course section of the menu. Irresistibly velvety-soft meat with a caramelised crisp edge dressed with Asian herbs.

Desserts are simple with a tropical theme. I loved the Stonefruit tart with caramelised white chocolate and nectarine, a satisfying contrast of sweetness and acidity. With our meal we opted for a refreshing Australian white, ideal in the hot climate.

After lunch we dozed by the pool and dreamt of staying in one of the eclectic Halcyon House rooms. I can’t think of a more idyllic place to spend a summer holiday.

If you are lucky enough to be staying at Halcyon House there are lots of interesting and quaint towns nearby, each with exciting eateries and independent shops to explore. Here are a few of my favourites:

Byron Bay – grab a flat white and healthy, organic brunch dish at Bayleaf, or head to The Farm for a wholesome lunch.

Brunswick Heads – Fleet is a trendy restaurant run by a husband and wife, with innovative contemporary cuisine and carefully selected Australian wines. Be sure to book ahead as the small venue fills up fast.

Mullumbimby – for a delicious wood-fired pizza and lovely local atmosphere, take a short drive to Mullimbimby’s Milk & Honey. The rustic pizzas are huge so get one to share between two.

Newrybar – this tiny village’s highlights are all on one street. Harvest serves inventive and tasty breakfast, lunch and dinner and sells its produce at the deli next door. Shopaholics will love the tempting homeware and gifts at Newrybar Merchants.

Coolangatta – avoid Surfer’s Paradise and Gold Beach and instead head to Coolangatta for a quieter, more picturesque, white sand beach.

Brisbane – often forgotten in favour of Australia’s larger cities, Brisbane is a great stopover city as you head further north. Head to Esquire’s casual eatery Esq for a tapas style dinner, and chic café Morning After for great coffee and food. Lone Pines Koala Sanctuary is a wonderful place to meet Australia’s best loved animals in a friendly environment.

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