Can there be anything more decadent than shooting off mid-week for a quick break? This Mr and Mrs Smith certainly think not. In less than an hour outside Melbourne (not too far to induce guilt about leaving kids and work behind), we take a leap back in time, to a town that couldn’t be more removed from the noise and stresses of big city life. Mollisons boutique ‘accommodation’ (its owners don’t call it a hotel), located in a renovated old bank building in the heart of historic Kyneton, stands out as the most stylish and intriguing among the few overnight options here, but be prepared for simple chic rather than all-out luxe.
If isolation and solitude are what you’re after, arrive late on a Tuesday as Mrs Smith and I did. Once we’ve collected the keys to Mollisons from the elegant shop next door, which sells gifts, furniture, jewellery, clothes and even Ugg Boots, we’re left alone to fend for ourselves, and to discover that nothing much opens until late in the week (when we’re assured that the weekend tourist influx begins). Kyneton in the gold rush days was once a buzzing hub with a population larger than that of Melbourne. Now the main attraction, apart from the peace and quiet, is the growing food and artisan produce scene, with the town boasting some inspiring restaurants well worthy of the short drive up the Calder Freeway.
Mollisons’ signage is quirky, resembling something out of an old-school horror flick, but the interior is more contemporary, with a definite designer feel. Guest rooms are modest – the entry of our One-bedroom Apartment opens directly into the well-appointed kitchenette and small dining/living area, and leads through to an adjoining king-size bedroom and generous bathroom. There is a stark, crisp feel to the decor, with everything in white except for the polished floorboards and antique-style furnishings. Fresh flowers, two small-screen plasma TVs, a little bag of macaroons and a decanter of Liqueur Muscat with silver goblets to toast with, are all extra touches that make us feel welcome.
We find ourselves yearning, however, for many of the other services that we’ve come to expect as standard from city hotels – a concierge to point us in the right direction, bathroom amenities over and above soap/shampoo/conditioner, a bath to wallow in, and a telephone in the room (overseas guests with no mobile phone would struggle to call the owners’ after-hours mobile number for assistance, and ‘after hours’ at Mollisons starts at 4.30pm!). Oh, and if you would like your room serviced, then just ask… I’m sure they’d love to!
Luckily, you really don’t have to worry too much about there being a scarcity of provisions in what is essentially your upmarket self-contained bedsit, as Kyneton has truly established itself as one of the new foodie getaway towns. Several ex-chefs and restaurateurs from Melbourne have moved to Kyneton for an inland ‘sea change’, so you don’t have to look far to find some great food and a decent coffee. Brisk walks to and from the produce stores and quaint handicraft shops are especially enjoyable in spring and summer, and within walking distance of the hotel you’ll find some excellent and noteworthy restaurants. Annie Smithers is always on hand at her eponymous bistrot on Piper Street, where she also grows produce for use in the kitchen and teaches classes from the garden out the back (unfortunately for us, the Annie Smithers restaurant, as with many others in town, only opens Thursday through Sunday). Mr Carsisi and the Royal George Hotel are thankfully open earlier in the week, and boast delicious local produce with cooking skills to match, and with some exceptional local wineries nearby, there is always a fine label to be discovered.
A wonderful cooking class beckons at the famed Piper Street Food Co., on one of the town’s three main drags, and Mrs Smith and I revel in making pate and rillettes in true rural fashion. Had we had time I’m sure that we would have also enjoyed some of the local walks, including up nearby Hanging Rock, which are outlined in the brief but somewhat informative visitor booklet at Mollisons (you may still have to ask a local for the location of the supermarket to buy essential supplies though!). As with any country town, there is horse-riding up for grabs, a small golf course that you can always get a game on, and if in the midst of your romantic escape you feel the need, then you can buy a tractor, a gun safe or a hand-knitted beanie all in the main street (the latter was much appreciated by Mr Smith). If outdoor pursuits are not your thing, you can just sink into the pillow-topped bed in your room and guess the price of the furnishings, as everything is for sale, with price tag attached.
If all you need is a clean, comfortable and stylish bed on which to rest your head for a couple of nights, but you’re happy to forage out to eat and drink well locally, this is definitely the place for you. It is how Daylesford was about 20 years ago. Residents will smile and talk to you, you will find it hard to resist buying something from quirky little shops, and of course the food on offer in Kyneton makes all other shortcomings disappear like the Liqueur Muscat from my goblet.