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It started with a Sunday flick through Zomato (was it more memorable as Urbanspoon or am I still adjusting?) for a Sunday drive destination and finished with this newsletter. Funny how you think you know a place but then realise it’s been too long since the last visit.

And so it was when the gang and I pulled up at The Piggery Cafe, one part of a foodie retreat being built by investor/developer Adam Garrison and entrepreneurial restraunteer, Shannon Bennett. “Wow, how bloody long has this been here? Surely it wasn’t that long ago I hiked the Sherbrooke Forest loop?” said me in my head. Sadly it was, by at least two years to be precise as that’s exactly how long (give or take a few months) Burnham Beeches Stage 1 development has been operating for.

Burnham Beeches Estate is located at 1 Sherbrooke Rd, Sherbrooke, two minutes drive from the Mount Dandenong Tourist Road which hugs the Dandenong Ranges spine. It’s an area well frequented by nature spotters in pursuit of the elusive Lyrebird, lycra-clad weekend warriors, garden pervs and trail-runners looking for a scenic jolt.

The estate was formerly owned and inspired by Aspro creator Alfred Nicholas, the centre-piece of which is a monstrous 1930’s art deco mansion whose straight lines and curvature is said to be a tip of the lid to ocean-liners of the era. Downhill from this are the expansive Alfred Nicholas Gardens whose garden hero feature has been the main-stay of Dandenong Tourism for decades, rightly so too. Mrs Nicholas must have had legs like a mulga tree to walk up and down those terraces all day long.

First impressions of The Piggery were amazement at its sheer land size and variety of activities tact onto the cafe/restaurant for guests to be entertained by. The role call goes as follows; pig sty, emu enclosure, olive grove, bocce rink, lawn bowls, croquet and a noodle lego set for the kiddli-winks. This place is doing a massive trade, running off the back of a unique setup in beautiful surrounds and owners with a successful track record of previously dilapidated Melbourne refurbishments. Admittedly this next comment is based on a sample size of two visits but a number of the cafe staff could do with a reminder on the value of a smile and simple pleasantries. It would appear that in the hurly-burly of The Piggeries early popularity this has gone missing on some. Funny how such an important facet of hospitality, the human interaction, can be one of the most commonly overlooked.

The Burnham Beeches ode to food and relaxation still has plenty left in the works on top of the $65million already invested (Shannon Bennett’s six-star vision for Burnham Beeches, The Age, Milanda Rout). A further $22million will be thrown at the refurbishment of the Burnham Beeches Mansion (Masterchef Shannon Bennett’s Dandenongs mansion revival causing stir among locals, ABC News, Liz Hobday). Will watch this space with interest on the line to be towed between commercial interest and retaining local harmony, hopefully the right balance can be struck.

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