Traveller: Lisa Perkovic
Room: Lakeside Room
Address: 3341 Caves Rd, Yallingup, Western Australia
Date: August 2020
Best for: Travellers who want to wine and dine in style, without worrying about driving, distances or itineraries.
When you need to get away from the world, yet you can’t leave your state borders, there’s no better place to hide out than Cape Lodge. With all the cosiness of a cottage in the countryside, the laid-back luxuries of a five-star resort and the finesse of fine dining worthy of big cities, once you’re at Cape Lodge, you won’t want to be found.
The Signature factor
Tucked into the northern edge of the Margaret River region, Cape Lodge is perfectly positioned as the jumping-off point to explore a region jam-packed with wineries, restaurants, world-renowned hiking tracks, and whale watching. It’s no surprise guests pop out for an hour or two to taste a local cabernet sauvignon or stretch their legs, only to rush back. This is a property that designs the day around slowing down, soaking up the serenity, and savouring all the lodge has to offer.
First, it’s impossible not to linger over coffee and freshly baked pastries from the lakeside dining room. Head Chef Tony Howell’s three-course breakfast gives guests plenty of time to ease into their day. Fresh local produce does the talking: local eggs, house-baked sourdough, honey from lodge bees, and fruit so packed with flavour it’s criminal to leave anything on your plate.
A stroll around the grounds, pausing in one of the many lounge chairs dotted under oak trees or beside the lake, and it’s soon time for afternoon tea. It might be a slice of hazelnut torte with vanilla cream, and a coffee by the fireplace. Settle in with a book, because then it’s time for Après drinks, where Cape Lodge’s own wines from the heritage vines you drive past on the way in and a cocktail of the day are on offer. Thursdays through to Saturday, wine tasting takes place in the vineyard – white tablecloth and all. You’ll learn about the history of the property, the vines and, of course, get to sample the wines.
Then it’s time for dinner – when the kitchen truly shines. The award-winning restaurant has a long legacy for produce-driven dishes that put the region’s bounty front and centre. Chef Howell’s signature marron tortellini is not to be missed, and the bisque has a local cult following.
In the late 1980s, Cape Lodge began life as a protea and asparagus farm. The South African Cape Dutch-style homestead harks back to a bygone era that’s brought back to life through the lodge’s modern interpretation of the style – think oversized wing back armchairs, stone fireplaces, tasteful collections of curios, art books, and antiques. Meticulous landscaping, Hamptons-style outdoor chairs, and tranquil fountains finish the look.
Within our first 30 minutes at Cape Lodge, an energetic labrador is weaving her way through people’s legs. With glasses of lightly dewing Marchand & Burch sparkling being passed around, we’re all quick to move out of Gidgee’s way. Gidgee is on the hunt for truffles; this is Cape Lodge’s second truffle lunch of the season, kick-starting with a live ‘truffle hunt’ on the grounds. As Gidgee, an Australian Truffle Trader dog shows off her skills, the kitchen is busy whipping up a four-course feast showcasing the king of the region – the Manjimup black truffle. Just under two hours away, Manjimup lies in the state’s south-west and produces 85% of Australia’s black truffles. Many are whisked off to Michelin-starred restaurants around the world, but we get our own special taste. Drinking bubbles while watching a truffle hunt on the manicured lawn – it’s certainly a memorable first impression and sets the tone for a stay that’s all about decadence, but also about showing off the bounty of a beautiful region.
There are just 22 rooms and suites at Cape Lodge – alongside a private residence – dotted around the property in five different standalone ‘wings’. We spend our time in a ground floor lakeside room, where the outdoor terrace couldn’t have a more picture-perfect view out across the lake to the restaurant. We perch on Hamptons-style beach chairs, but the fresh spring air drives us inside, where plantation shutters and floor-to-ceiling glass doors are easy enough to open up so we can curl up on the sofa with a blanket and still soak up the view for the afternoon. Rooms are a study in dove greys and the marble bathrooms with heated floors are a dream.
The Residence is a standalone, four-bedroom property set across one hectare within the grounds of Cape Lodge. With its own lawns, private lake and helicopter landing area, this is the kind of stay for very special occasions. In compliance with COVID-19 rules, it’s proving popular with small groups looking to spend some time together in style.
On my plate
Chef Tony Howell has a 20-year history with Cape Lodge; his name is certainly synonymous with not only the Lodge’s reputation for fine dining but also the region, having represented WA and Australia at international events. Guests will get to sample a good breadth of his talent during their stay – from fluffy French toast drizzled in Cape Lodge honey and topped with poached pears in the morning to delicate French-style gnocchi poached with mustard and herbs, and served with mushrooms lightly fried in Veuve Blanc and butter, come evening. If you’re planning a trip to Margaret River, pencil in dates during truffle season when local chefs get their hands on black truffles along with the world’s best Michelin-starred chefs. It’s a brief, but beautiful few weeks each winter, and Chef Howell loves to give the ingredient the limelight – think chicken breast with truffle stuffed under the skin served with celeriac, and a chocolate dacquoise paired with double cream truffle ice-cream. You won’t go home hungry. The Cape Lodge truffle lunch is an annual event, so pop it on your calendar for next year.
Highlights from the mini-bar
The complimentary mini-bar is well stocked with local beer, sparkling water and a bottle of Cape Lodge’s own wine. Jars of lollies and pretzels hit the 3.30pm afternoon lull well, but between a big breakfast, afternoon tea, and dinner, you may not even need them.
I wish I could take home…
If only a few freshly baked raspberry muffins from breakfast could have ended up in my handbag… but second best are fresh lemons and grapefruits straight from the trees next to the tennis court that made their way home with us. Guests are welcome to forage on the way back from their wine tasting in the vines.
In-room massages can be organised upon request, but deep soaking bathtubs and a good supply of local Vasse Virgin bath and skin products take care of the pampering.
We did stay in, in fact, we didn’t leave – the collection of art books and board games in the lounge kept us busy, as did the fresh supply of tea and cakes. There’s a piano in the restaurant bar area, that surely gets used during the lodge’s famous New Year’s Eve dinners.
There’s no shortage of things to do in the region, with Cape Lodge offering tour options with their preferred partners. Spend the day tasting Margaret River’s finest drops with a driver in your own Jaguar or Mercedes, or work up an appetite with The Margaret River Discovery Tour – a full day taste of the region that includes a paddle down the actual Margaret River and tasting in the Fraser Gallop barrel room.
A member of the Luxury Lodges of Australia, Cape Lodge has a slew of awards to its name – there probably isn’t a list it hasn’t been on.
If you’re travelling with a few couples, the Residence might turn into an affordable upgrade. The private house takes things up a notch.
Nostalgia kicked in hard when my sweet tooth spotted the jar of Jubes in the mini-bar. I can’t lie about being disappointed when they weren’t replenished when the beverages were, but my dentist probably says otherwise.
Attention to detail is the name of the game at Cape Lodge – the only outdated items are the TVs in the room. A smart TV would be a nice touch.
This is country luxury at its best – cosy, warm, comfortable and friendly, plus serious service and fantastic fine dining.
Where to find it
You’ll find Cape Lodge just past the small town of Yallingup, three hours’ drive south of Perth. With the grand Cape Dutch entrance, it’s hard to miss.
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Lead image: View of Cape Lodge Restaurant from the lake © Nick Cooper