Australia's favourite food blogger Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, experiences river views and 'crocodile cheesecake' at the Daintree Rainforest's Silky Oaks Lodge.
About an hour away from Cairns airport, Silky Oaks Lodge is a treehouse lodge set right on the Daintree Rainforest, downstream from Mossman Gorge. It’s an idyllic setting, destined for honeymooners and couples.
Originally built by ocean liner company P&O, the lodge was bought by a Melbourne based Dutch family, the van Mins, who now run it with a ‘can-do’ attitude. Nothing is ever too much trouble and the most challenging guest may find themselves placated by the staff’s willingness to help.
The most popular accommodation package is the Silky Oaks ‘Indulgence’ package – five nights’ stay at $5,000 per couple, but this includes canapes and Moet on arrival, breakfast and dinner daily, a two-and-a-half-hour spa treatment, helicopter tour, full day safari tour, tropical picnic hamper and transfers to and from Cairns.
The rooms are all free-standing, luxury treehouses and there are three levels of accommodation – the ‘32 Deluxe’ treehouse, the middle tier ‘riverhouse’ (11 suites) and the two top tier ‘Billabong’ suites.
'Riverhouse' accommodation at Silky Oaks Lodge
I’m staying in a Riverhouse named after the native mammal Melomy, right near the main building. As I walk in, a Bose sound dock plays a fitting forest soundtrack.
The suite is large and private – there’s no indication of nearby busy Port Douglas. As if to demonstrate this, a bush turkey walks by with an almost indignant gait, chest pushing back and forth, as if I’ve disturbed his tranquillity.
The bed is a large king size and faces the Mossman river. A hammock straddles the balcony invitingly and I slide open the tall glass doors to breathe in the perfume of the rainforest. (And to answer the most common question – there are no crocodiles).
A day-bed and an armchair and footrest provide other options for relaxing. I take the cue and make myself a cup of tea and help myself to the selection of homemade biscuits.
The Healing Waters spa is a standout, an ‘experience’ spa if ever there was one. Here they use Sodashi products from Western Australia. A therapist takes myself and Anne, another journalist, into the ‘couples’ room’, which is decorated in soothing shades of green with a large, sunken travertine bath facing the view. I close my eyes and she applies a rose scented eye mask.
I’m booked in for a 60 minute ‘Pure Radiance’ facial and therapist Maya explains that it will be a “sensual journey”. It’s slightly different from other facials that I’ve had in that there is, fortuitously, a lot of massage involved, from smooth movements to light pressure points, followed by several warm compresses to the face. The tell-tale sign of a good massage is of course the sound of light snoring, and both Anne and I find ourselves dozing off. We finish the treatment with a glass of chilled raspberry and lime tea in the waiting lounge.
I return to my treehouse and open the doors and breathe deeply. The air of the ancient rainforest fills my lungs and it’s easy to relax while staring hypnotically at the variegated foliage and gently running river below.
The sun falls and brings with it darkness and new sounds of animals that chorus, and a blanket of rain that lasts for a few hours. I make my way to the Treehouse Restaurant in the main building and take a seat at the table.
I had read enough reviews of Silky Oaks to know that the food is one of the standout features of the lodge – followed by the service. There are seven chefs at the restaurant and the menu is a mix of modern Australian cuisine with an Asian bent to it, and some pasta dishes as well.
Everything is made from scratch here, from the bread to the jams to the ice-creams and cakes. Prices are on the high end with mains around the $40 mark, bread at $15 and entrees at $28.
Bread comes out first and it is served with a sweet, creamy carrot dip. The bread has a soft interior and a nice thick, brittle crust, and while it’s great bread and serves two people, the price is quite high.
Next we have oysters done three ways: a shot glass shooter with chilli, ginger and mirin; crusted with arancini and served on olive salsa; and fresh with citrus foam, chives and caviar.
Tasmanian oysters served three ways $28
With its refreshing mix of flavours, the shooter my pick, followed closely by the citrus foam. I’m not such a huge fan of cooked oysters and though good, the olives are quite strong in the third dish, amplifying the oyster flavour even more.
As another entree I try the crocodile and tarragon cheesecake with smoked barramundi, pickled papaya and chutney and herb salad – more for the curiosity value than anything. But it ends up being a big hit. It’s their signature dish and one that they just cannot take off the menu.
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