The Halcyon Days of our Childhood – Revisited
A lot has already been said and written about Halcyon House, so I’m not sure that I can add much to the superlatives which have been used to describe this perfect balance between childhood whimsy and worldly sophistication…but I’ll give it a go.
But first, let me take you on a journey….it’s maybe the 1970s or 1980s and you are spending yet another endless summer at the beach. But this is the sort of summer holiday which involves not much more than literally going to the beach, because in those days, that’s what you did when you went to the seaside. There were no theme parks, no fancy restaurants, no computer games or social media. When it was sunny, you swam and buried each other up to your necks in the sand (why was that game so timelessly engaging?), and when it rained, you played cards or monopoly. You were happy, because even though boredom was only an eye blink away, you managed to fill your time with just that – carefree, creative, indulgent space to do whatever you could physically and imaginatively do. But in your own innocent way, you truly connected with everything around you – your usually annoying brother or sister suddenly became a partner in crime, strangers became instant friends, a beach that stretched as far as the eye could see transformed into the most enormously enticing playground on earth, and an ocean which was both warm and inviting, became a terrifying and exciting pleasure dome.
Remember those days? You might be thinking that all sounds rather twee and old-fashioned now, and of course, it is, because since then you have sailed off the French Rivera, sipped Prosecco on the Amalfi Coast and cruised the Caribbean. But what if you could somehow combine both? The simplicity of that childhood summer with the right amount of sophistication to satisfy your adult sensibilities?
A former surfer motel from the 1960s, hugging the shores of Cabarita Beach, has been transformed into a vision of blue and white splendour, reminiscent of a glorious family home in the Hamptons, whilst still retaining a hint of nostalgia in its, now whitewashed, besser brick walls. With the interiors expertly designed by Anna Spiro, the entire place just dares you not to feel in holiday mode, the moment you step into its breezy, inviting corridors. Many of the staff have been transposed directly from Capri, with Manager Mauro de Riso hailing from the infamous JK Place. His attention to the aesthetics (including having the staff uniforms custom-designed to his no doubt exacting Italian standards) and his “la dolce vita” approach to customer service sets the tone for a relaxing and welcoming stay.
Initially intended to be a holiday house for sisters Elisha and Siobhan Bickle, who between them have nine children, the entrepreneurs, whose other interests include Cloudland and Birdie Num Nums in Brisbane, couldn’t resist the temptation to turn the hotel into what no doubt will become one of the most desirable destinations on the eastern Australian seaboard. We need to thank them wholeheartedly for this selfless decision!
The 19 rooms and two luxury two-bedroom suites are all unique, with lush fabric wallpaper, vibrant contrasting cushions, and quirky antiques and artwork sourced from around the world. All with balconies or courtyards, they overlook the inviting pool area, and beyond, to greenery, beach and sea.
Perhaps exciting the locals most of all is the world-class Paper Daisy restaurant, headed by 2014 Queensland Chef of the Year, Ben Devlin, who is also ex-Noma and Esquire. Mixing European know-how with regional accents, befitting of a seaside setting, you will be tempted with delicacies such as paperbark grilled goldband with soft onion and seaweed; coal roasted young lamb with gem lettuce, black garlic and capers; radicchio with walnut and orange; and mandarin cake with almond milk and fresh curd ice cream. Despite its casual and relaxed vibe, especially evident in its beach-side bar, which appears to have become a ritualistic aperitivo spot for locals, the restaurant manages to maintain an enviable standard of sophisticated dining.
Breakfast is also a treat, with all the usual healthy options to kick start your day, particularly if you have already indulged in beach yoga, a brisk walk to the headland, a private surf lesson, a bike ride on one of the in-house bikes or a refreshing ocean dip. The whole wheat crumpets, with ricotta, roast fruit and honeycomb are a particular favourite of those in the know!
Not wanting to miss a beat, the Bickles have also thoughtfully included a conference/function space, which spills onto an inviting lawn, begging to be used for morning coffee breaks, pre-dinner cocktails, wedding ceremonies or team-building lawn games.
Being only 30 minutes from Byron Bay, 15 minutes from Gold Coast airport, and in easy driving distance of a multitude of dining, cultural and shopping experiences in the Tweed Valley and northern NSW coast, it won’t be enough to stay at Halcyon House for just a weekend or a few days. Trust me, you will never want to leave, and you will absolutely want to go back. You have been warned….
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