'I don't think he's going to make it, ma'am,’ the waiter remarks helpfully, staring at the evidence of my restaurant faux pas; a yoghurt-slathered piece of barramundi bobbing in my glass of water. It’s the kind of gentle cheekiness I've come to expect from the staff at Pinctada Cable Beach, and I've grown to love it.
Caught locally in the tropical Broome waters, the grilled fish is the last dish on our ‘Spice Journey’ tasting menu in the resort's sleek Selene Brasserie. A notable finale, it looks like a sophisticated little number until it slithers off my fork and back into water. I was thinking that the cocktails were pleasant but nowhere near strong enough, but judging by my food-handling skills and Mr Smith's repeated fumbling of our share plates, the drinks do pack a punch.
After two hours of feasting, and unending indulgence from our servers, we retire to our Shinju Studio. A mercifully air-conditioned sanctuary from Broome's at-times oppressive humidity, the room is a sizeable and simple space with dark wooden flooring and a lot of wicker furniture. They really like wicker at Pinctada. Decor is neutral but somehow still stylish and the shower and bathroom are big enough for a football team, despite the clientele almost exclusively comprising couples (no kids, rowdy groups of young lads or anyone hilariously drunk in sight).
A mellow, meditative garden beckons behind our ground-floor room. It’s a peaceful spot combining a few Asian-style elements with magnificent local baby boab trees. Our studio doors open out to a small deck surrounded by bamboo and overlooking a huge communal pool dominating the grounds. Scattered seating nooks also look promising for a moment's stolen solitude.
Pinctada Spa is the other star feature, although some seductive bars (one toting a jaw-dropping long wooden table) give it a run for its money. I phone room service and attempt to bag a treatment, but despite being the wet season it’s fully booked (top tip: put your name on the spa list as soon as you reserve your room). Sasha, at spa reception, must have heard the desperation in my voice because she works miracles to find a slot for us to have a rub down the next day.
It could have been the vodka mule, the lychee martini or the incredibly comfortable king-size bed with feather pillows, but we sleep very well. Although the continental breakfast offerings the next morning are nothing special, the cooked breakfasts back at Selene Brasserie are worth getting out of bed for. ‘Your vegetarian breakfast… with bacon, ma'am,’ the waiter says with a wry smile.
Having devoured my breakfast, I make a beeline for the spa. It’s a beautiful space, complete with entirely unnecessary but utterly calming bubbling rock pools. Oddly kicked off with a middle-aged white woman performing an aboriginal smoking ceremony, the massage is an intensely good one. Mr Smith reports that his is also spot-on, although he admits to feeling suspicious that I might have ordered him something off the menu when a blonde bombshell named Misty enters his room. Of course, Misty is the consummate professional and leaves Mr Smith tongue-tied but knot-free.
During wet season most of the boating tours don’t run, but there are still scores of activities on offer if you get tired of relaxing, including a day trip to the Willie Creek Pearl Farm and another to Gantheaume Point. We’d visited the latter our last time in Broome and I’d loved travelling there by hovercraft. Am I the only one who thinks that hovercrafts only exist in sci-fi fantasy? Well, they’re big news in Western Australia, too, and can whisk you across the mud flats to ogle dinosaur footprints and spectacular scenery where rich red earth contrasts with brilliant blue water. A must.
Cable Beach, another Broome highlight, is just a short walk from the resort. Aptly named after a cable that used to run from the beach to Indonesia’s capital Jakarta during the town’s pearl-diving peak, it is a magnificent stretch of white sand voted among the world’s best. Daily camel rides along the shore make for a surreal experience.
Infamous for its tropical-flavoured beer and cider, one of Broome’s most celebrated restaurants is bayside Matso’s, which doubles as a craft brewery. We catch a bus there on our second night, but I recommend taking a cab because it’s about a kilometre from where the bus drops you off at backpacker-friendly Chinatown. It’s a tough choice between catch of the day, curry and ginger beer-topped, braised pork belly.
Yes, this remote Australian town rich with indigenous history has a Chinatown. Its roots in the pearl-diving industry saw an influx of labour and fortune-seekers from Asia from the late 1880s onwards. The Asian influence here is still unmistakable; it’s part of what makes Broome unique. It’s also why the Asian inspiration at Pinctada Cable Beach makes sense. This is the beauty of Broome and with it the resort: dichotomy's exist – Japanese and European cultures, western women performing aboriginal ceremonies, cheeky but incredibly professional and helpful staff – but it works, just like a vegetarian breakfast with bacon...