Luxury House Review – Bannisters Oceanfront. Beachfront oasis, cooks nivarna & vineyards

In recent years Mollymook has become just as synonymous with Rick Stein’s restaurants as it’s always been for its glorious beaches. Back in the UK (Rick Stein’s homeland) Padstow often goes by the name of Pad-‘Stein’ such is the affection for this chefs prolific impact on the town. Seriously, its enough attention to make a Cornish Pastie blush.

Mollymook hasn’t quiet suffered the same fate, but we Aussies adore this gentle chef: his love of seafood, Chalky his beloved cheeky Jack Russel and his down to earth personality. We have adopted him as an honorary Aussie (well, he married one and spends half is time here).

Stay at Rick Stein’s Bannisters by the Sea and you are easily looking at upwards of $500 a room. So why pay for a room when for a fraction more you can have an entire house? The views, location, sauna, sea and you don’t need it to share with anyone! So set your GPS for Bannisters Oceanfront. It’s a three bedroom property where you can tip toe to dinner and have the luxuries of space and privacy.

The Arrival: A quiet suburban street isn’t where you would expect to find a schmancy restaurant icon, yet Bannisters by the Sea is literally a few houses down the road and we share the same view. The house is hidden from view, behind large security gates. A few problems with keys boxes are fixed with a call to Sydney owner Lily and we are in. It’s exciting to witness those big gates shut, now we feel like we are in our own 007 private compound!

Entrance: Opening the blue double entrance doors, everything changes –
the only thing your eyes take in are that view.  The house is set on several cascading levels from entry bedroom level, lounge, terrace, garden, lower terrace (with a fire pit) and then boom! The trees and ocean.

Top Level: Two of the bedrooms are on this level. To the right is the master bedroom with a king size Sealy Posturepedic Tranquillity bed (hurrah). Doonas are Onkaparinga and bedlinen is Sheridan . Tick, Tick. It has a huge ensuite including a freestanding bath and a shower we could do pilates in. Bathroom products are thoughtfully sourced which are ‘Thankyou’ and full size. A scrummage in the vanity unit reveals a treasure trove of goodies, bath salts, wipes, soaps and more. This is better than a trip to Priceline!

The dilemma which we really had to grapple with on our stay – is that whilst the bedroom windows soak in beautiful ocean views, they also look onto (and into) the 3rd bedroom in the level below. We share this stay with this writers’ parents and made them promise that no hanky panky would be going on! However, it takes great trust to know that the only thing between privacy and voyeurism is a roller blind controlled by the master bedroom. Well if that’s your thing – you’ll love it! You will be pleased to know the parents behaved themselves!

The second bedroom is cosy with two bed affair and is opposite a Swedish timber masterpiece…a bathroom with a sauna! Wooo! Its such a treat in winter to have these experiences that most of us have to go to a gym or hotel for.

Second level: This is the heart of the home and all three elements combine – kitchen, living, outdoors and bedroom. Windows dominate the entire width of the house with doors which can be pulled back so you are not quite sure where nature starts and the building finishes…

kitchen and dining table

Kitchen: I am not sure if we can convey how much we love this place for its kitchen. Many houses are functional, design-led but value occupancy efficiency over customer experience. Bannisters Ocean Front is the place to book for cooks.  What an absolute treat. It’s hard to create a balanced review when the thing you love most is the kitchen of your dreams. Its equipped like a Navy seal! Top notch branded appliances Fissler, Circulon, Luigi Bormoli, Le Creuset, Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver. Gadgets like blenders, Nespresso, popcorn makers all create a cooks playground with views to boot.

So many recipes to try out…

Rick Stein’s ‘Fish & Shellfish’ cook book is open just urging you.. ‘go on stay in, drink wine, lap up the views and cook’. What a welcome. The fridge is stocked, including a puzzling big bag of oranges, until we see that there is a Miele electronic juicer! We can’t tell you the fun and pleasure we all had with something as simple (but rare) as freshly squeezed orange juice the next morning.

Pantry: Ok we are OD’ing now. It’s a delight. There are different types of flour, including bakers flour, soups, salts, spices, rice, pastas, sauces, teas and thoughtful additions like Greens’s cup cake mixes which kids love. If this is lock down we are covered! This feels place makes us feel at home.

Lounge & Living: It’s all open plan. Suddenly the dining room table is converted into an arts space. Over the next 48 hours we communally (note that some family members were more dedicated than others) attack a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, which is just one of the many games in the cupboard including Monopoly, Taboo and Twister!

The Lounge: With one large sofa its not quite set up for a crew of six, so we roll inside a few of the outside loungers and create our own home from home. We attempt at a card game, but Netflix is a dangerous, nefarious disease which ultimately wins out other game requests.

Third Bedroom – Situated next to the lounge, it has a king size bed and the doors open onto the rear deck with ocean views and breezes.

The Verdict

We are Addicted toThe Views & that Kitchen. The weather wasn’t kind, so we didn’t get to lounge in the sunshine on the decadent sun soaked terrace furniture or have a BBQ. We would have loved to have roasted a marshmallow or three on the new firepit at the next level down.  We love the generosity and thoughtfulness of creating a home, the kitchen, the games and the view from garden through to the trees and ocean is magical, healing and timeless.

To get us more Addicted – Privacy between the master bedroom and the 3rd bedroom below is the thing that would win us over.

Out and About – Restaurants to Wineries!

The Milton Hotel – Milton (10-15 mins drive from Bannisters Oceanfront)

There are some iconic locations such as Berry and Mollymook but Milton, hmmmm, it just doesn’t have a sexy ring to it. Perhaps that’s why the little town is so endearing, its still a bit of a local gem. Meandering lane ways, coffee shops and art galleries at the end of an arched walkway you can’t see the end of. Milton is worth a stopping for. So too is this hotel. We arrive on a Friday night. It’s a heritage building but as you step towards the back, the big reveal is an open airy space of glass, light, and architecture.  The menu is tight and unexpected. Starters of Bluefin Jervis Bay tuna are burgundy squares on a lake of white soy topped with grated horseradish and pickled ginger it’s a wonderful balance. Understated, clean and speaks volumes.

crispy tofu, bluefin tuna and fromage de tete

A slab of tofu is rarely a thing you go home and dream about, but the crispy tempura batter is a delicate counterpart to a dashi, togarashi broth and mushrooms. Fromage de tete is an ancient recipe from the 19th Century not one for the faint hearted. Skill, time and cooking render a rectangle of brawn into a symphony of rich flavours over a carpet of parsnip cream and a slender length of slow cooked leeks.

BBQ Bluefin Tuna honours this wondrous fish with a salsa verde and punchy beetroot puree. Make no mistake, this is no ordinary pub fare, it’s a wonder it doesn’t have a hat. The execution, inventiveness and curiosity on a plate is something we should travel three hours south for.  

The Ruse – Ulladulla (10 mins)

We head out to nearby Ulladulla which is just a few minutes’ drive. It’s all about good people, times and Central American flavour.  The place is buzzing, with a cocktail bar downstairs and a dining vibe upstairs. We kick off with ‘Cravings’ of ceviche tostadas which are popable corn tortillas topped with cured orange roughy. The pulpo bravas is a hit – lovely slow cooked tentacles of octopus are chargrilled and tossed with aromatic coriander and picante tomato salsa. We go hard on the tacos, with good reason but perhaps lacking restraint for the mains to come – baja fish, pork belly and crunchy prawn. Mains divide our group; some go market fish, which tonight is Atlantic Salmon served with large juicy green lip mussels and accompanied with a trio of salsas. Skirt steak arrives Argentinian style (but not moo’ing) its fanned into slices and all you need is a steak knife! These guys know how to party, so it’s not surprising everyone is ordering Tommy’s Margaritas with with 23 Blanco tequila and fresh lime. It’s the taste of Mexico in Shoalhaven.

Cupitt’s Estate Winery – Ulladulla (10 mins)

Not all of us have the nose of a bloodhound (1000 times better than ours) or the tastebuds of a catfish, (170k receptors compared to our pathetic 10k) so the ‘experience’ of a winery is what makes a visit special. Don’t get us wrong, Cupitts have won many awards, but what makes this place memorable is the sum of all parts. Wines, cellar door, restaurant, brewery, views, service, vines and outdoor fun.

Cupitts kitchen garden

We have booked a table in their popular restaurant which has its own kitchen garden and is committed to the slow food philosophy from building chemical free soils to recycling kitchen scraps.

It’s a stunning space with concrete floors, wooden beamed ceilings and the entire dining area is floor to windows about the view. It’s almost Beatrice Potter perfect in beauty; rolling hills, wisps of greenery and a patchwork quilt of land which is the backdrop to shared starters of three golden polenta chips per plate, lined up like soldiers with a dollop of carrot ketchup and a shavings of pickled carrots.

Next is garden of smoked feta beetroot, garden pickles topped with pangranatta and edible flowers. But it’s the garland of silky
cured ocean trout, dotted with pickled fennel around a perfect sphere of golden garden yolks which is a breathtaking piece of art. Is it cruel to eat it? Mains of crispy skin barramundi and a chargrilled skirt steak topped with singed bronze cones of brown onions are a delight. We end with a baby cheesecake which delivers all the flavours of peanut butter, caramelised popcorn and crumbs of white chocolate. Whilst some of the family head home, we enjoy a wine tasting experience (make sure you book) and finish up out side in the gardens in the late afternoon sun with a delicious Cupitts Estate craft beer ‘Mosaic Session Ale’.

Bannisters Oceanfront Mollymook Accommodation
171 Mitchell Parade Mollymook NSW 2539

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).


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