Published in Coast & Country, Spring/Summer 2006 issue.
“Richard’s dream was to have a restaurant and my dream was to have a B & B,” says Evelyn Everson. “There was just no way we could afford it in Europe. Out here we could give it a go.”
The dream meant a new life in Australia for German-born Evelyn and a return home for husband Richard, who had done his chef’s apprenticeship in Canberra before embarking on a promising career overseas.
Four years ago, the couple opened their Country Guesthouse Schőnegg at Murrumbateman, in a tranquil rural setting about 30 minutes drive north of Canberra.
The guesthouse is built in a contemporary, solar-passive design on an eight-hectare property on which they have worked tirelessly to establish an organic orchard and vegetable garden, despite years of drought.
Driven by a passion for hospitality, a commitment to low environmental impact living and a desire to create a family-friendly lifestyle with their two children, Mathias, 8, and Katja, 6, the Eversons have carved out an impressive business from a bare patch of earth.
They decided to call it Schőnegg, a Swiss/German name for “beautiful corner”, reflecting Evelyn’s German origins and their shared experience inSwitzerland, where they worked for several years. They met in 1990 at the Mayfair InterContinental Hotel inLondon, where Richard was working as a chef and Evelyn was housekeeping supervisor. They later worked on the QEII cruise ship before coming toAustraliain 1995.
Richard worked in commercial catering inCanberrawhile they were establishing their business but in May last year, he took the plunge and gave up his job to concentrate on the guesthouse full-time.
Schőnegg is a country guesthouse in the truest sense, with Richard turning out superb dishes using seasonal local produce, and Evelyn drawing on produce from the garden and the surrounding region to create jams and preserves that are sold in the café and locally.
The café is open from noon till late on Fridays and Saturdays, and noon till 4pm on Sundays and public holidays. They also do picnic hampers and cater for functions. On nights when the café is not open, B & B guests can enjoy dinner by arrangement.
The Capital region is home to a burgeoning number of food producers, whose products Richard uses in dishes such as roast duck with pistachio amaretto sauce, and peppered beef and roast cashew salad. He usesGallowaybeef, a juicy, finely marbled Scottish breed produced at the nearby Minto Stud. The duck is sourced from a farmer friend who also supplies free-range eggs for breakfast.
Locally made Gallagher labneh (cheese), Le Barr olive oil and Evelyn’s own bread and quince paste also feature, along with David Cooke’s Frork sausages. Local cherries are added to the sausages, hence the name derived from fruit and pork. Spinach from the garden goes into little filo tartlets with blue cheese, while garlic chives are blended with ricotta to fill parmesan flutes.
“We only use our own produce or produce that friends give us that we know has not been sprayed,” says Evelyn.
A slow-combustion fire keeps the café deliciously warm in winter, and B & B guests are invited to lounge in front of the fire with a glass of bubbly on arrival.
The two guest rooms have in-slab heating and their own bathrooms, one a spa and the other disabled-friendly with double shower. The rooms are decorated in contemporary earthy tones and feature limited-edition paper cuts fromSwitzerland. Another four guest rooms and a separate lounge are due to open by the end of the year.
Murrumbateman is at the heart of the Canberra cool-climate wine district, making the guesthouse a convenient place to eat or stay while visiting the local wineries. It is also on the Poachers Trail (www.poacherstrail.com.au), a self-drive route taking in local wineries, food producers, cafes and other attractions.
Country Guesthouse Schőnegg, 381 Hillview Drive, Murrumbateman, NSW.
+61 (2) 6227 0344 www.schonegg.com.au
© Christine Salins