When my oldest friend Kate and her little girl Lily were home from Dubai we made the most of an early burst of spring sunshine to explore Burnham Beeches, Shannon Bennett’s venture in the Dandenong Ranges.
Burnham Beeches is an abandoned art deco mansion on 66 acres of land in Sherbrooke. Built in the 1930s by the Nicholas family (of Aspro brand fame) as a country retreat, it has had many incarnations since then – as children’s hospital during the war, science research facility and small luxury hotel.
In partnership with Adam Garrison, Bennett has a grand vision to make Burnham Beeches one of Australia’s finest food and accommodation destinations.
Phase 1 of ‘Operation Burnham Beeches’ is The Piggery Cafe, with the adjoining Burnham Bakery, an emu farm, a 500 tree trufferie, and six acres of organic fruit and vegetable gardens all in full swing. Australia’s first six-star luxury retreat with artist residences, spa, wellness sanctuary, rooftop croquet lawns, Australia’s longest chicken run, a 16-cow automated dairy, steakhouse and microbrewery are all in the pipeline.
The bakery and gardens are supplying big name restaurants like Rockpool, Bistro Guillame and of course Bennett’s own Vue de Monde and other Vue Group restaurants. The food philosophy is organic, sustainably sourced and ethically caught or harvested produce.
We enjoyed a yummy lunch of barbecued flathead wrapped in broccoli leaves (plucked fresh from the garden, of course), with house cut chips and a selection of seasonal salads. The guy on the BBQ was smiling like he’s got the best job in the world – with the sun beaming down, the sounds of nature, and the place abuzz with people, you can see why.
Head Chef Joel Bradley is pretty rapt with his new office too:
We’re up in the gardens every morning, picking the salads and garnishing. I love the connection with nature.
It’s a crime to leave Burnham Beeches without a stroll through the Alfred Nicholas gardens. A series of winding paths leads you under a canopy of towering mountain ash trees past water features, and rockeries to a quaint little boathouse on an ornamental lake, fed by two waterfalls. It is breathtaking – the stillness, the sound of trickling water and Kookaburras laughing, the smell of clean crisp mountain air and spring blooms, and the sight of Rosellas darting through the trees. Little Lily was in her element – even I felt like Alice in Wonderland, such is the magic and beauty of these gardens.
Burnham Beeches is a place that will only keep getting better with time. Only 40 kilometres from Melbourne, it’s well worth a visit next time you’re in need of a break from the city.
Want to know what else there is to do in the Yarra Ranges region? Check out my story here.
1 Sherbrooke Road, Sherbooke, VIC
03 9021 2100