Check In to Bannisters by the Sea in Mollymook

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Sep 01, 2017

This chic headland sanctuary has a mid-century soul and super-chef connections. By Steve Taylor.

The hotel:

Lurking somewhere beneath the gorgeous timbers and striking white tones of this effortlessly stylish retreat are the bones of a classic Australian seaside motel where station wagons once backed up to the door, brekkie no doubt came through a servery hatch and zinc-nosed kids hopped excitedly across pebblecrete to splash in a small pool. Now, a striking, solar-heated infinity pool melds with the rolling blue Tasman Sea below and colourful drinks splash into cocktail glasses. Breakfast arrives under the baton of superstar chef Rick Stein at his eponymous restaurant with its view over manicured grounds, through gnarly forest to the Narrawallee swell beyond.

The room:

Stein’s not the only celebrity shaping things at Bannisters. Fashion maven Collette Dinnigan was engaged to design and decorate two rooms and Penthouse Suite 29 is one of them. It’s an assembly of big airy spaces, lined in soft white timber panelling and wide, warm, beach-friendly floorboards. There are exquisite embellishments here and there – a polaroid triptych of an archetypal ’60s surfing safari, framed sea-themed flotsam and ephemera sourced from French markets, a stunning photorealist painting of boomer kids relishing the beach – all of which transform this hotel room into an inviting holiday home. Inevitably, it’s a celebration of fabric as well – fine Turkish towels line the entry like a welcoming committee and, behind the king bed, a bold Schumacher fabric bedhead is a swirling chaos of citrus, like a lime Splice melting in the sun. The main bathroom is enormous but, again, it’s softened and made cosy with clever Dinnigan foils like the bed of tiny, powdery tiles sweeping across the heated floor like clustered seashells. The living space, with its huge linen lounges, is framed around a gas-flame fireplace while a kitchenette – sans cooking facilities – serves onto a large dining table. The vast, deep balcony is arguably the star of the show with views across the lawn to the sea.

The lowdown:

Number of guestrooms: 34. The Pinnacle (above the two Dinnigan penthouses and spanning the length of them) features a Turkish steam room, media room, inside/outside showers and Bannisters’ most commanding deck, the Terrace Suites (featuring large terraces), a 70-square-metre Courtyard Suite, Luxury Suites (with wraparound decks), Ocean Deluxe Rooms (all with terraces) and Spa Retreat rooms (with either external hot tubs or internal spas).

Check in/out: 2pm/10.30am

Wi-fi: Free but it can be patchy in guestrooms and public areas. Who cares? You came to unplug so watch the waves roll in instead.

Food and drink: The menu at Rick Stein at Bannisters essentially mirrors the menu at the star chef’s famous Cornwall establishment with some tweaks for local produce. Have a crack at the fish pie and imagine him preparing it in his cheery, no-nonsense manner on his TV show. The restaurant is open Wednesday to Sunday for dinner and Friday, Saturday and Sunday for lunch. The Pool Bar, open daily for guests (check the website for times for visitors), offers a simpler menu and the woodfired pizzas star at dinnertime. Head there for late-afternoon cocktails and watch the sun slowly collapse into the loping sea.

Wellness: A wide range of massages, facials, exfoliations, waxes and mani/pedis at Bannisters Day Spa. There are four treatments rooms, a steam room and a semi-alfresco cabana for couples’ massages. 10am to 6pm, seven days.

Business facilities: Seriously? Just relax; the office can wait.

Minibar: International beers (Corona/Peroni $8/$9), WA whites and reds, Mount Edward Pinot Noir ($105), Veuve Clicquot ($120), mixers, chocolates.

TV: Comprehensive Foxtel offering throughout and an in-house library of DVDs.

Water: Free in suites and penthouses. Otherwise $2.50 a bottle.

Pillow menu: Cloud pillows come standard but memory-foam and feather pillows are available on request.

Bath: Deep and luxurious.

Bathrobe: Plump terry towelling robe with matching scuffs. 

Amenities: Appelles Apothecary & Lab. (It’s pronounced Ah-peh-less, by the way, in case you need to call down to restock, which you won’t. There’s boatloads here.)

Room service: Available during the operating hours of the restaurant and Pool Deck bar.

Parking: Yes, and it’s free.

The housekeeping test: We called down for an iron and ironing board but turns out they were already there, tucked away in a discreet compartment (we’re not telling; consider it a challenge).

The concierge test: The friendly folks at the front desk are a fount of wisdom when it comes to local activities. Stand-up paddleboarding? Sure! There’s a stash of boards available. Lessons? Australian surfing legend Pam Burridge runs a surf school at Mollymook Beach. Sorted.

Ask for: Room 29 or 30 for laidback beachside luxury.

SEE ALSO: A Weekend In... Mollymook, NSW