Dame Nellie’s Travelling Trunks
With 14 fancy monogrammed Louis Vuitton trunks in tow, Dame Nellie Melba travelled between Melbourne, Paris, Brussels, London and New York – to name a few – and conquered the world of classical music.
Lastminute Lovely Kate and I are travelling with one suitcase apiece and there aren’t any monograms in sight, but we’re in Coldstream – the gateway to the Yarra Valley – and we plan to conquer high tea at Dame Nellie’s home, Coombe, The Melba Estate.
For generations, a 600m cyprus hedge encircled Coombe like a protective green wall. It was only last year that curious peeps have been able to get a peek inside, with Dame Nellie’s great-grandsons (the keepers of her estate) opening this gem up to the public.
We need to work up an appetite before our high tea, so Kate and I catch up with Diane Logg for a tour behind the hedge.
There are seven acres of pretty fancy gardens surrounding the Coombe Cottage, which was Dame Nellie’s residence, and the gallery, cellar door and restaurant. Everywhere you turn there’s a pathway with a vista to draw your eye, and Di has an anecdote for every curiosity.
Dame Nellie and I obviously have a mutual love of unexpected, quirky quotes. The old garage has been converted into a restaurant-café and still features the clock tower inscribed with the words ‘East, West, Hame’s Best’ (a quick Google on my iPhone reveals that ‘hame’ is Scottish for ‘home’).
A little further on we stumble across the best one of all: a sundial etched with ‘I count the bright hours only’. In my book that’s a pretty wise saying!
Our last stop is the pool (apparently the oldest in Victoria!) From the pool gazebo, which is wrapped in sprawling wisteria, you can gaze out to the rolling valley beyond. Charlie Chaplin visited Dame Nellie at Coombe Cottage during the 1920s and I can just imagine the two of them drinking mint juleps by the pool.
Judging by her garden, her home and her company, the namesake of Peach Melba had some serious style! For Kate and I, it’s time for wine… and high tea.
Inside the restaurant we’re seated in the new section – a posh glass conservatory with views out to a pretty avenue of trees. With a glass of crisp Coombe Farm Dame Nellie Melba Blanc de Blanc in hand, a huge three-tier stand is set down in front of us.
Cue jaw drop.
Gathering some willpower to stay away from the scones on the bottom tier, we start in the middle with some pork and apple sausage rolls, Coombe Farm pate with Melba toast and delicate finger sandwiches.
The scones are fresh, light, and come with a heavenly Peach Melba jam. We barely have room to move to the top tier, where two different tartlets and some chocolate truffles are arranged. We could spend a few hours slowly sipping Blanc de Blanc and grazing, but sadly we need to hit the road.
Before jumping back in the car we wander over to the providore (located in the adjacent stables) and scope out the estate-grown produce and Melba mementoes. We stock up on some of that fabulous Peach Melba jam, then head into the cellar door. The Blanc de Blanc was a top drop, but we’ve got a plane to catch, so I file away the details for ordering at home.
For $25 you can take a tour of Dame Nellie’s gardens with morning or afternoon tea to boot… those scones! Just make sure you book. Tours run between 10am and 2pm, Monday – Saturday.