For as long as I can remember, I have been a regular visitor to the Yarra Valley, and recall my father telling me as a young girl that the huge gates on the bend just past Coldstream were the entrance to the estate of Dame Nellie Melba, whom I knew to be a great opera singer.
If you have, like me, ever wondered what lies ‘behind the hedge’ , the news is good.
Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful and perfectly restored, it is also now open for the public to enjoy, and not just as an historical homage. Coombe Farm is styling itself as an artistic hub, which will play host to thousands of visitors every year, as people stream through the gates to explore the gardens on guided tours, as well as to weddings, corporate events and opera performances as part of the Dame Nellie Melba Opera Trust. They will also, like me return for the wine, as Coombe Farm Wine Cellar door is also located here.
Dame Nellie Melba was in her day one of the most famous women in the world, the first woman to ever grace the cover of Time Magazine, and counted amongst her friends Charlie Chaplin, (who apparently swam in her pool at Coombe Farm) movie idol Douglas Fairbanks, and members of the Royal family. She lived a lavish, flamboyant life of concerts, travelling the globe with her monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage and custom-made Cartier jewellery, and was celebrated all over the world for her magnificent voice. She was also lauded for her unending support for charity, as well as nurturing the talent of budding artists, including Arthur Streeton who would, with her patronage go on to be one of our most celebrated painters. Apparently Dame Nellie also had a wicked sense of humour, and had a bit of the Aussie larrikin in her. Quite frankly she sounds like someone I would have loved to share a
glass bottle of wine with. Take a tour of the grounds and gardens and your guide will regale you with all manner of lovely anecdotes and snippets about this national treasure. They’re all in love with the history of her and are full of enthusiasm for sharing her legacy with as many people as possible.
The beautiful Providore stocks gardening wares, handcrafted pieces from independent artists, and specially-commissioned Melba memorabilia including monogrammed teatowels, crockery etc, as well as the stunning biography written by Melba’s beloved granddaughter, Pamela, Lady Vestey which is on my Christmas list this year.
The gardens were originally designed by Guilfoyle (he of the Royal Botanical Gardens of Melbourne fame) and at every turn you are rewarded with stunning views over different parts of the Yarra Valley.
The gorgeous morsels served as part of brunch, using local and homegrown ingredients, included the award-winning Coombe Farm Wines’ Dame Nellie Melba Blanc de Blanc, fresh baked scones with Peach Melba jam, truffles, lemon meringue tartlet, Coombe Farm pate with Melba toast, and pork and apple sausage rolls.
The restaurant is open, and serving seasonal and largely estate grown produce, for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea 7 days a week. They will also be open for dinner on weekends during peak holiday periods as well as for special events.
View the current menu here
Bookings for Garden Tours are essential. The cost is $25 and includes morning or afternoon tea and I am looking for volunteers to come with me so I can do it all over again (and again)
Sincere thanks to Coombe Farm and Two Hands Agency for having me along to discover what’s #behindthehedge
Visit Coombe Farm’s beautiful website here for more information: http://coombeyarravalley.com.au/site/