TO borrow an old saying, look and you shall find. But dig a little deeper and that’s when the real magic happens.
And so it is with Sophie and Chris Zalokar, who in 2005 swapped the maritime charm of Fremantle for the pristine, unspoilt, inhale-deeply beauty of Pemberton.
Or more specifically, a new life as proprietors of the then Pemberton Breakaway Cottages.
But while the nine-hectare property ticked all the boxes for a new start in a small country community, for Sophie – a Barossa Valley born and bred cook whose CV includes time alongside Maggie Beer at Pheasant Farm – food, not accommodation, was always her finishing line.
Six and a half years and an unquantifiable amount of elbow grease later and the Zalokars’ property has been reborn as Foragers, a nod to Sophie’s mission to seek out local Southern Forests food, be it cultivated or wild.
“Every chef dreams of that perfect 40-seater where there’s creative licence to cook your heart out,” she says.
“I also feel a great sense of freedom by being situated in one of the most naturally beautiful locations in the South-West and outside of the city hustle and bustle and industry jostle.”
Although spiffy eco-chalets contribute significantly to the property’s new look, it’s the self-built cooking school and private dining room that best argues the case for a drive down the South Western Highway.
From learning the finer points of cheese-making to dinners that directly channel the flavours of the season, no other property in the Southern Forests region champions local food quite like Foragers.
Moving from the indoors out, Foragers’ garden of eatin’ (a play on Garden of Eden) planted to heirloom varieties is an inspiring throwback to self-sufficient home gardening of yesteryear and the likes of Jersey cows and rare breed Silver Grey Dorking chickens supply the kitchen with milk and eggs respectively.
Together with the area’s idyllic beauty, it all amounts to a must-do trip down south.
Yet while all the ingredients are there for a memorable country getaway, it’s what the city slickers bring home with them that makes Foragers so highly recommended.
Foragers, cnr Roberts and Pemberton Northcliffe roads, Pemberton, (08) 9776 1580, foragers.com.au. Accommodation from $160.