Established in 1893, Coonara Springs Restaurant has reopened its fine country dining doors in Olinda. The extensive three-year refurbishment programme to create a piece of paradise for urban dwellers in which to enjoy delicious, slow food, fresh local produce paired with fine wine, and surroundings to enchant the most discerning soul, is already resulting in rave reviews for this unique destination.
Owners Sally and Adam Whitford, chef Adrian Upward and the team are enjoying excellent posts on TripAdvisor, boding well for their efforts in reimagining the elegant history of this charming property.
The scenic drive through mountains and forests, combined with the tranquil gardens and magical vistas on reaching Coonara with its welcoming fire-places and fine cuisine, make for an ideal setting in which to linger longer for an intimate or celebratory dining experience.
The timeless seven-acre property, complete with a natural spring, overlooks the Silvan Dam and the Yarra Valley. Stroll in the garden, savour a glass of local elixir or a cup of tea at leisure, unwind further in front of a crackling fireplace in one of the comfortable lounge rooms with a scrumptious cheese platter and dessert wine – and perhaps spend a night in one of the myriad boutique B&Bs in this spectacular region, less than an hour’s drive from Melbourne’s city business district…
Coonara Springs cuisine is contemporary Australian with country flair, from slow roasted Aga lamb, to quail, chicken terrine, and roasted beetroot with black savourine – to mention some of the already popular dishes that feature in the current winter menu.
The a la carte menus reflect local seasonal fresh produce from the kitchen garden, the Yarra Valley boutique wines, Coonara’s unique reserve wine list, the chef’s creative alchemy, and popular requests from regular diners.
Says Sally: “Over the past three years we have meticulously restored and reimagined the garden property to reflect its fabulous history, to create an inviting, contemporary ambience with Edna Walling inspired intricacies to pay homage to the traditional Victorian weatherboard homestead.
“We are committed to supporting local businesses and landscaper Sam Donald exceeded our expectations in redeveloping the magnificent gardens, complete with a kitchen garden to ensure we harvest fresh seasonal produce.”
Much of the fascinating history of Coonara is reflected in the décor and artefacts, which include framed original menus from a bygone era.
Historical records reflect the property serving as a significant neutral territory in pre-European settlement times for native Wolworung, Bunurong and Taungurong clans, to nurse their sick and wounded in the healing waters of the natural spring located here.
The Dandenong Forest Village Settlement was established in 1893, when an early selector built the Victorian homestead in anticipation of a glamorous future.
By the early Twentieth Century, the Dandenong Ranges had blossomed as a popular tourist destination for urban dwellers partial to the cooler climate, fresh mountain air and the visual feast of forests, mountains, creeks and waterfalls the region had to offer.
Australian landscape painter Arthur Streeton and Prime Minister William ‘Billy’ Hughes were instrumental in creating a chic weekenders destination in the Hills, resulting in two enterprising women, Mrs Faulds and Mrs Hall, opening their Coonara Springs Tea Gardens, thereby setting in motion a glorious hospitality tradition on the property. Their advertisements reflected the tranquillity, scenic beauty and lilly-of-the-valley growing en masse, with morning and afternoon teas served on the sprawling lawns and glass-enclosed balcony.
Coonara was purchased in the 1940s by the internationally acclaimed American opera singer Grace Angelau, who was food editor for The Argus newspaper, where she used her married name of Hutchinson in her byline.
By the 1960s Mrs Joyce Bankin and her famous scones with homemade jam and clotted cream had become a household name for visitors to the region, whereby her culinary vision resulted in Coonara Springs becoming a popular fine dining restaurant by the 1980s.
Today, Coonara uses the very same Aga Mrs Bankin installed, now lovingly restored, to create memorable dishes in honour of her gourmet menu choices, which included turduken, chestnut soup, popovers and the like…
Coonara seats forty people in the main restaurant, and an additional twenty-six in the private dining room suitable for groups, events and conferences.
Operating hours are:
Lunch 12-3pm – Wednesday to Sunday
Dinner 6.30-11pm – Wednesday to Saturday
Closed – Monday & Tuesday
Bookings essential to avoid disappointment.