“Innovative, romantic and restorative retreat in the north of the Hunter Valley, 2 hours from Sydney”
Don't be put off if your room appears small on the outside; inside the sloping roof and big windows ensure a light and airy feel. All eight rooms share the same minimalist design: white walls and polished concrete floors contrasting nicely with bold colours in the headboard, cushions and modern artwork. Kingsized beds are plump with goose-down duvets and dressed in crisp linen and velvet throws. We even had a welcoming message on the blackboard offering cake, and a friendly teddy smiling at us from the pillow.
Sliding screen doors lead out to your balcony overlooking the dam; louvre windows with mosquito netting allow cool breezes to flow through and the air-con to stay switched off. There's a white table inside and an aluminium one on the balcony - either will do for breakfast. Seating ranges from bean bags and squashy pouffes to funky modern chairs and rattan cubes.
There is also an apartment which has a living/dining area with fireplace, a larger kitchen and maxibar, and two kingsized bedrooms each with an ensuite bathroom.
Bathrooms are sleek and spacious, with an extra-long bathtub, a separate power shower wet-room, twin round porcelain sinks, Aesop toiletries and marble tiles with underfloor heating.
There's no restaurant; instead the maxibar in your fridge provides a copious continental breakfast of Tonic-made muesli and juices, bread and croissants, butter and jam; and you can top up (at extra cost) with local bacon, smoked salmon and eggs from the mini-deli in the Tonic Lounge. After a week of hotel stays, we really appreciated waking up when we wanted, breakfasting at our own pace, and choosing what we ate.
The lounge also has deli bites (cheese, paté, dips) if you fancy a light lunch in; and a freezer full of curries (with drinks from your maxibar) for lazy dinners. There's a guest kitchen with BBQ and full crockery.
But most will venture out for dinner. The nearest and most popular option is Mojos (2km away; closed Sunday), which offers great food simply presented, as well as picnic feasts. Leaves and Fishes (closed Tue-Wed) specialise in seafood at reasonable prices, while Tatlers wine Bar also serves lunch and dinner 2-3 days/week, alongside superb Semillons and Chardonnays.