Knife and Fork in the Road write up

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On Luxury Villas & Asian Spice

Set on the fringe of the pretty Adelaide Hills town of Stirling, the Sticky Rice Cooking School instantly tosses you into an exotic world of aromatic spices, hot woks and scented candles. The popular school, just 20 minutes from the centre of the city, was founded by passionate foodie Claire Fuller in 2008 and offers hands-on teaching in a variety of spicy cuisines from Thai and Indian to Vietnamese. Classes are taught by local chefs and masters of Asian cuisine (think David Thompson and Ty Bellingham) and conclude with a sumptuous banquet-style feast, accompanied by local wines.

Those who love culinary adventures now have even more reason to head up the hill to Sticky Rice. Three luxurious villas have just been completed on the property, enticing guests to extend their stay and escape into their own private paradise. Yesterday was the launch party.  Beautiful finger food was whipped up by the chefs, guests mingled with drinks on the lawn and there were tours of the new accommodation. The lovely balmy evening, unseasonal for this time of year, added to the atmosphere and helped transport us all to Asia.

The gorgeous villas are architecturally designed with floor-to-ceiling glass and the environment in mind; all have solar power and under-floor hydronic heating. Stunning designer furniture adds a wow factor while the hanging lamps and remote-control block out blinds create drama and a romantic mood. Those who love to cook, however, will be won-over by the dreamy Jag kitchens.

Each of the three villas has a unique style and ambience. The Japanese inspired Yoko is all clean lines and calm, complete with shoji screen doors and two private gardens, one with a contemporary tea house and a Japanese maple.

Soothing music and serenity are only part of the attraction in the Zen villa. There’s a stand-alone bath in the open plan bedroom that boasts a sumptuous king size bed and an indoor shower under the branches of an ancient pine tree. It’s sleek black-and-white with contemporary black leather couches and a state-of-the-art kitchen designed for private cooking classes. The sweeping island bench can seat 10.

Bali is my favourite. There’s a warm feeling with rich colours, antique carved wooden doors and a stone bath. In the courtyard, a Balinese hut with a giant day bed is perfect for lazing on, and out the back in the tranquil bamboo garden is a Buddha water feature.

It’s the little touches that I love: the Japanese tea set in Yoko, the elephant-patterned throw in Bali, and the sheer black curtain that separates the bedroom in Zen, giving an intimate feel. Guests receive a welcoming fruit platter and bottle of wine, and provisions for a cooked breakfast. Gorgeous Asian cookbooks are strewn open to delicious recipes on benches and side tables, begging to be used, but I’d be tempted to spend the day mooching about in a fluffy robe after a deep, relaxing bubble bath, and flicking through the pages.

Claire offers various Cook & Stay packages that incorporate a class at the school, and there’s the option of an Asian pantry bag for those who want to cook up their own storm. Guests may prefer to order an Adelaide Hills produce platter, engage a personal chef to whip up dinner for two or perhaps deliver a private cooking class in their villa. Alternatively, they can join a gourmet tour of the nearby markets and farm gates with a local guide before returning to cook lunch with a chef in one of the villas.

It’s the perfect break for keen cooks and food lovers who enjoy exotic cuisines, and a wonderful base to explore the cosy pubs, cellar doors and restaurants of the Adelaide Hills, which are currently exploding in a show of autumn colour.

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