Accommodation

Spicers Sangoma Retreat

10/11/2017 11:18:00 PM

Sangoma Lounge

Do you have any travel destinations or experiences that are on your bucket list? Is it a stunning hike, an ancient temple, a vibrant and crowded city-scape, or that perfect, hidden coral reef?

Sangoma Pool

Well, I'm all about luxury (really Sarah? This is brand new information!), and one of my bucket list destinations was an incredibly special retreat nestled in the Blue Mountains: Sangoma Retreat. I read about it ages ago on the lovely Lorraine's blog and immediately knew I wanted to go! They offer super boutique, luxury accommodation in beautiful surroundings, with delicious meals and drinks all included. I know, amazing, right? However, it is understandably expensive, so I put it in the back of my mind and forgot about it. You can imagine how thrilled I was when Sandra surprised me with a weekend away there as a birthday gift this year!

Sangoma Bar

Sangoma was originally opened and operated independently by a South African couple, but since Lorraine's visit they've sold up to the Spicers group. The group has done some minor renovations, but as far as I can tell, they've maintained the unique character of the retreat (just 8 suites!), and retained lots of the African motifs.

Sangoma Dining Room

We booked in for a weekend in August, thinking it would be a nice winter getaway. However, it was surprisingly warm and sunny up there, and all our scarves and jackets stayed packed away in the suitcase. (A lovely escape from wintry Melbourne!) It was an easy seventy-five minute drive from the airport to Sangoma, just on the edge of the Blue Mountains region, and then, it was time to relax!

Manager Sam: Are you taking a photo of this so I'll keep pouring?
Me: Shhh.. shhh... it's an action shot.

We started with a lovely four-course lunch, before checking into our room. I'd been pretty stressed at work leading up to the trip, so it took quite a lot for me to mentally switch off and get into holiday mode. Lunch and champagne was definitely a good way to start! I'll show you photos of the food later in the post, but let's have a look at the room now.

Our room was located directly underneath the dining room, in the main building. At first I was a little worried it might be noisy, but it was really quiet and peaceful in there. It was also huge, and just so comfortable!

Lounge room

Bedroom

Yes, those are chocolate chip cookies provided on the bed, and yes, I've had dreams like that. I'm not sure if the cookies were made in-house or brought in, but either way, they were excellent - all shortbready and crisp and rich and buttery, with huge chunks of chocolate all the way through.

Bathtub

Squeeeee! Gigantic rain shower.

Bathroom

Appelles Toiletries 

I loved the gorgeous view from the balcony, and it was so peaceful and relaxing.

Balcony

The mini-bar was also included in the room rate, and I was particularly excited that this included Veuve Clicquot. Prior to the trip, I had visions of me ripping through the mini-bar, Ross Gellar style, eating and drinking everything that I could. Eep! But I have to say, the breakfasts, lunches and dinners were so hearty, and the pours so generous, that we barely made a dent in the mini-bar.

Mini Bar

Mini Bar

Usually I am all about Nespresso machines in hotel rooms, but I didn't even use it on this trip. As I said, we were right under the main dining room, and on our second afternoon, I popped up to get a brownie, and the manager Sam happened to be there and kindly offered to make me a coffee to go with. (Hot tip: they leave cake on the bar in the afternoon).

"Try Me" - good advice

I spent our second afternoon wrapped up in a fluffy blanket next to the gas fire, with my coffee and brownie, getting stuck into a good book. Aaah... bliss.

Snuggly blanket!

Ok, let's look at the food! The culinary offering at Sangoma was extremely impressive. Multi-course breakfasts, lunches and dinners were all included, and Chef Matthew Ostrenski and his team put together some seriously fantastic food. We ate so well! The meals are all offered in set windows during the day, and the dining room has one table per room, so you just need to wander up to the dining room when you're ready to eat. We were there for two nights, so we had breakfast, lunch, and dinner twice each. The photos are a selection from both days.

For breakfasts we'd start with a little something-something sweet (granola and fruit one day, a muffin the next) with a coffee and juice, and you could then pick a cooked dish from their menu. They were slightly fancy brunch dishes - think options like mushroom bruschetta, eggs your way, french cassoulet with poached eggs and so on.

Coffee, OJ, Muffin

Granola, fresh fruit, yogurt

Potato & Celeriac Rosti, house smoked salmon, pickled radish, poached egg, herbed crème fraîche

Pumpkin date loaf, cultured butter, house made (quince) jam

The pumpkin and date loaf was so good that Sandra ordered it two days in a row! It was moist and sweet, with they'd toasted it so the edges were crisp. Delicious. For banana-phobe Sandra, it was lovely to have a breakfast loaf that wasn't full of bananas. This is the kind of cake I'd love to bake at home if I had the recipe!

I liked the lunches even better than the breakfasts, and not just because it was an acceptable time to drink wine. (Although having said that, if you were feeling mega indulgent, I don't see why you couldn't ask for a glass of champagne with your breakfast - you're on holiday, and I'm not your mum!) Lunches started with some freshly baked bread, a main of your choice, a side, and a chef's choice dessert.

House-baked bread with goat's cheese and za'atar 

I'm not going to describe all the dishes in detail, but suffice it to say they were excellent - the individual elements were all perfectly cooked (al dente rice in the risotto; sweet and juicy broad beans; succulent and flaky fresh flathead), and the flavours were well balanced and very fresh.

Mushroom risotto, ragout, truffle

Rabbit Raviolo, broad beans, capers, sun dried tomato

Flathead, artichoke, smoked potato, brussels sprouts

Potatoes

Special shoutout for these potatoes - they were ridiculous. They tasted like a baked potato, but a thousand times better than any baked potato I'd had before. They were super fluffy on the inside, with a super crisp skin, and the blanket of chives really pushed them over the edge. Could easily eat a huge bowl of these for lunch in itself.

Dessert on the first day was a warm and buttery semolina and berry cake with crème anglaise (again, the type of thing I'd love to bake at home)...

Semolina and berry cake with crème anglaise

... and on our second day it was a much fancier looking, but equally delicious chocolate mousse, with sponge cake, raspberries, and toasted nuts.

Chocolate mousse, sponge cake, toasted nuts, raspberries

There are a couple of sweet spots to have a drink before dinner. You've seen the lounge room at the top of this post, and we particularly liked the outdoor area with the fire. There were blankets and pillows too - such a cosy place to enjoy a drink. (Whiskey for Sandra, port for me).

Sangoma Outdoor Fire

Dinners were a four-course set menu - a vegetable starter, a light seafood / meat entrée, a generous shared main, and dessert, with a palate cleanser between sweet and savoury courses. You could also choose matched wines, or obviously just order whatever you like from the wine list. As mentioned above, all wines were included, but they also had a list of premium wines (the Cellermaster selection), that you could pay for if you were feeling extra fancy.

Maple baked parsnip, smoked potato, coffee, mustard

Pan-seared prawns, brussels sprouts, swede, jus gras

These prawns were very meaty and delicious, and I loved the strong flavours in the jus gras. (Sandra got seared chicken breast with a similar sauce).

Braised pork, De Puy lentils, jus

On our first night, the main dish was a very generously portioned lamb-crusted lamb shoulder, which was fall-apart tender. It came with more of those ridiculous baked potatoes and a little jug of rich mustard jus.

Herb crusted lamb shoulder, seasonal vegetables, mustard jus

On our second night, the shared main (for most tables) was a whole baby snapper. Given that we had a non-seafood eater, the manager told us the original plan was to give me a single snapper fillet, and a fillet steak for Sandra. However, they'd noticed me taking photos and decided to give me a whole snapper anyway (just removing the fillet underneath), to make it look prettier. How sweet!

Baby snapper, asian greens

The fish (and the steak, actually), came with a mild and citrussy south-east Asian curry sauce, and some wilted Asian greens. The only downside was the rice, which I found quite undercooked and hard. But not to worry, there was more than enough snapper to make a very substantial meal. (And come to think of it, out of the many, many meals we ate over the weekend, this was the only single element with which I could find fault).

Eye fillet, Asian greens

Cucumber, coconut

Apple tart Tatin, crème fraîche, lemon

On our first night, the dessert was a very nice, shared tart Tatin. And the next night we each got a petite coconut panna cotta. (Just quietly, after all the food across the weekend, I was more than happy to receive a smaller, lighter dessert).

Coconut panna cotta, raspberries, blueberries

I promise you we didn't just sit and eat the whole weekend! (I definitely took a couple of naps and baths too, so you know, productive). In terms of actual activities, we took a little self-guided walk near the property (highly recommended after one of those hearty breakfasts), and on our second day we took a drive further into the Blue Mountains, to see Jamison Lookout, Wentworth Falls and the famous Three Sisters.

Jamison Lookout

Wentworth Falls

Three Sisters

And that was our lovely weekend at Sangoma Retreat! I think two nights was a great length of time - any longer and I think I would have started getting overwhelmed by the amount of food! Two nights was just enough to relax, unwind, and indulge a little (a lot), before coming back to reality. When you've been looking forward to something for a long time, and it costs quite a lot, there's always a lot of expectation and the chance to be disappointed. But I'm glad to say I loved it! A few friends have asked me if I think it was worth it - it's definitely a splurge (check out their website for latest price information), but the rooms are fabulous, and as you could see, the food and drink offerings were terrific. If you don't drink or don't have a big appetite I think it would be hard to feel like you've gotten your money's worth, but if you like good food and wine, then this is the place for you! (And me. Definitely me).

Thank-you to Sandra for the best birthday present ever!

Spicers Sangoma Retreat
70 Grandview Lane
Bowen Mountain, NSW 2753
Ph: (02) 4572-2592
Website

Have you ever done an all inclusive resort or retreat? Did you enjoy it? Do you have any recommendations for fab luxury accommodation?

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1 comments

  1. Ooh I've been dying to read this post ever since you told me you were there! I'm glad that they didn't mess or change with it too much. It's such a unique property! And those potatoes?! I love chives so I'm going to have to try making that!

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