At a hop, skip and jump away, to the country town of Griffith welcomes you with open arms to experience their thriving agriculture, expansive wineries, great food and rich Italian heritage. Only a 4-hour drive from Canberra’s CBD we ventured on a one night stay to the prize of Griffith, the Gem Hotel, for a much-needed getaway.
As we begin to escape the city, passing through Murrumbateman and Yass, the country vibes really start to settle in, and we couldn’t be more excited to breathe in the fresh air and get in holiday mode.
Arriving in Griffith you can’t miss Gem Hotel on the main street, we are greeted by welcoming staff and head up to our rooms. Booked in the Premium King Room, the modern design is refined yet simple, keeping in touch with its country roots.
Going under major renovations in 2017, designed by Sydney interior designer Paul Kelly, the upgrade was derived from mid-century design with timber panelling, geometric patterns and warm but subtle colours. Our room has an abundance of space with beautiful natural light filling the room. Fit out with everything from a mini bar, kitchen area, desk, bathtub, and smart TV, it’s got everything you’d need for a comfy stay away.
A Griffith local, Gem Hotel General Manager Tim Olivero has watched the hotel flourish. He says the hotel has come a long way and while extravagant – “it still has that country town mentality.”
“You really get a good country rural kick, while still having those luxuries of the city,” he says.
However, our favourite part of the room has to be the bathtub. Nothing beats a bubble bath after a day exploring, especially with the sunset filtering right through to the bathroom.
Showing love to other local producers, Gem goes above and beyond, adding a half bottle of the region’s most notable wine Durif, from Calabria Wines to each room with a QR code feature sending guests to the wineries page to learn more about them and the region.
“We all work together to help flourish our businesses; they all intertwine. We’re like family,” says Executive Chef of the Gem Hotel restaurant Bull & Bell, Anthony Fullerton.
“They support us, we support them. That’s the Griffith way.”
Following the 1950’s aesthetic, the foyer, games room and bar area pay homage to Griffith’s Italian history and community, which saw many Italian migrants settle in the region during the Depression and in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Separated to the restaurant by glass panelling, the bar is the perfect place for a casual meet up with friends or a quick drink before heading next door for dinner. With an expansive cocktail menu as creative and elaborate as one from a big city bar, you’ll find locals enjoying a taste of that city lifestyle in the afternoons through to late-night.
While introducing a more modern design with a city feel, the Gem prides itself on friendly hospitality, keeping in touch with their surrounds and making it a place that locals also feel welcome.
Trying some cocktails ourselves, we opt for Gem signatures. Firstly we try ‘Mint & Co’, made with white chocolate Mozart, Crème De Menthe and local Mandolé Orchard sustainable coconut almond milk. While being sweet and minty, the freshness and nuttiness of the milk cuts through and makes it light and refreshing. Next, we try the beautifully coloured ‘Arose Tonic’, made with ink gin, butterfly pea, lemon juice and tonic. It’s another must-have from the cocktail menu – if the country life tastes this good, we are hungry for more.
We’ve been told to wholeheartedly experience the Gem Hotel you must dine at their steakhouse Bull & Bell. Boasting rich terrains and farmland surrounds, Chef Anthony went on a journey sourcing the best food producers in the region to find the best way to utilise as much local produce as possible. His farm to table philosophy is unlike many you’ve seen before, using beef, cod, eggs, olives, fruit, veg, small-goods and cheese soured within a 300km radius of the restaurant. While also taking a serious approach to in-house techniques and production, him and his team also make a range of products you’ll find on the menu.
“We’re serving dry aged steaks that are 150 to 170 days old and it’s a big commitment to do that. A lot of love goes into making that product,” says Anthony.
“We make everything from fresh pasta, wagyu bresaola, salamis, cured Murray cod and we also do all our own butchering.”
As the menu heavily focuses around steak, specialising in Black Angus, we decide to get the best of their beef menu and try the ‘Stanbroke Signature Tasting Plate’. A combination of dry aged Angus striploin on the bone, Flinders natural grass-fed eye fillet and signature Black Angus, it’s the perfect plate for two. To pair with our meat, we choose a roast beetroot and goats curd salad and baked gnocchi with smoked cheese, which Anthony tells us is his Italian spin on a mac and cheese. For wine, we keep it local, trying a pinot noir from Dee Vine Estate.
“I believe that the food should talk for itself, and it should be about the quality of the ingredients,” says Anthony.
Cooked to perfection, each cut offers a unique flavour equally melting in your mouth. However, a standout has to be their signature Black Angus, which is perfectly tender and rich. The love and thought that goes into each dish clearly shines through.
Also offering breakfast over the weekends, we get a very special try of Anthony’s favourite breakfast dishes. From mushrooms on toast, hash brown and eggs, smoked cod and eggs and waffles with berries, we are overwhelmed with the delicious range available. For us, it was nice to try the local smoked cod and eggs, a dish you won’t find in most cafés.
As our little getaway comes to an end, we feel as though we needed more time to explore the region, which has left us looking through our diaries to find a time to come back, before we even get home.
With Christmas only a week away and school holidays in full swing, Griffith offers the perfect care-free getaway that you didn’t ask for but so desperately need. If you’re anything like us, we were glad to get out of the city and go somewhere new and unexpected.