It’s a bush retreat – not the type of place one would expect restaurant-quality fare. But I find the Bay of Fires Bush Retreat is full of surprises. It’s just 10 minutes outside Binalong Bay in Tasmania’s stunning north-east corner.
For someone who loves camping, the idea of glamping sounded a fitting experience. The great outdoors minus the hassle. No tent pegs to hammer in, no camp cutlery to forget and no dehydrated fodder to pretend is delish by firelight.
I arrive to a warm handshake. The petite bell tents are arranged neatly in front of me, seemingly at random, with names like “Cosy”, begging me to peek inside.
“This is you, make yourselves at home,” says our host as he opens our canvas door to reveal a scene more befitting a hotel room. But there’s some subtle, delightful differences. In front of the super-comfy mattress topped with high- end linen is a little jar of marshmallows. It hints of good conversation over the fire pit late into the evening. There’s a heater that assures warmth on the cooler Tassie evenings. And there’s the best of all – a cosy bed and just a canvas roof separating you from the east coast’s grand outdoors. It means the wildlife calls are clear, the rain will fall close and the bright stars are only a quick zip away.
As dusk settles in at the retreat, owners Tom Dicker and Anna Hoffmann take to the stage. Come meal time, those who have opted for dinner (an absolute must) are invited to large timber tables. Tom and Anna have a humble and quiet manner, much like the trees that wrap their retreat. They’re not showy. They deliver board after board of exquisitely-cooked pork and crackling served alongside roasted cauliflower. They just smile and walk away.
“This is like pulling a chair up in a fine dining restaurant,” murmurs one excited backpacker to her partner, loud enough for us all to hear. We nod in unison. This isn’t your standard bush grub – even the chattiest fall deliciously silent. Those in the know understand why it’s so good. Tom, former head chef at celebrated Angasi Restaurant at Binalong (now Lichen Restaurant and Café) and Drift Café in Devonport, is well known for his talent in the kitchen. Dinner is served up with a casual honesty bar that invites guests to choose from a Tasmanian-strong lineup of everything from Moo Brew through to warming coastal pinots.
Some retreat to the fire pit for a chat. Others set up board games. It’s about time out and letting nature have its way.
Come morning there’s no surprises when breakfast is delivered. It’s once again brimming with Tasmanian produce that magically appears. Nectarines fresh from the tree in a gorgeous fruit and muesli duo served on rustic earthenware made by a local ceramicist. Then there’s the eggs and bacon (the bacon hailing from Deloraine) served on a crispy potato rosti. For someone who usually doesn’t line up for a big brekkie, I couldn’t stop eating. It was simply too good.
As we roll away from the bush retreat I wish we could linger a little longer at this surprising fine restaurant tucked in the bush. But that’s Tasmania. Full of characters and surprises and adventure for those who seek it.
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