Right on Melbourne’s doorstep is one of the most significant estates in Australia – Coombe – The Melba Estate. Located in the Yarra Valley this estate was once the home of Dame Nellie Melba – the renowned classical musician and opera singer of the early 20th Century. Now owned and operated by her descendants, and available to bridal couples, the magnificent gardens, and restaurant situated in the restored motor house and clock tower, offer a taste of history with thoroughly modern touches. Dame Nellie Melba once walked these paths, marveled at the oak tree and entertained famous guests within these walls – and now her ‘impeccable sense of style’ lives on in weddings, opera events and private functions. It seems to me that we should raise a toast of Coombe Farm wine to the very special lady whose house this once was.
Coombe – The Melba Estate has quite a history – would you please explain it?
Coombe the Melba Estate was once the home of Dame Nellie Melba and is still owned by her descendants and great grandsons. The Estate opened to the public in September 2014 and has quickly become a must see in the Yarra Valley… well I think so anyway!
Image by Daniel John Bilsborough
The restaurant – sits within the restored old motor house, the bricks have been bead blasted back to create an industrial look. The old clock (that still chimes on the hour) has been brought down from the clock tower to feature in the restaurant. The restaurant is modern, spacious yet intimate and overlooks the landscaped market-style courtyard of the beautifully restored facilities. The view from the conservatory is of the Coombe cottage garden ‘avenue’ and gives glimpses of the oldest swimming pool in Victoria.
The buildings –
Sitting alongside the Melba Gallery, the providore and the Coombe Farm Wines cellar door offer restaurant guests a gourmet wine, food, retail and artistic experience in one unique location and all situated within the old stable block.
The garden and vineyard –
Our vineyard is located on St Huberts Rd and were established on the estate in 1998, when 60 hectares of vines were planted on both sides of the Maroondah Highway.
Coombe Farm’s Chardonnay is much sought after and widely regarded as some of the best in the Valley for both table and sparkling wines.
The gardens of Coombe Cottage were prepared in 1909, under the personal direction of W.R.Guilfoyle the curator of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens.
Behind the six hundred metres of cypress hedge lie a succession of terraced lawns, native, Mediterranean and vegetable gardens, a croquet lawn, an old tennis court, a newly established rose arbor and the oldest swimming pool in Victoria.
The gardens contain beautiful old world trees, including an English oak rumoured to be over 180 years old. As Coombe Cottage is still a private residence access to the gardens is via appointment only or a guided tour.
Other (Estate) attractions –
We also have a Gallery that houses various artworks, and timeless pieces that were given to Dame Nellie Melba. It’s nice to gain a little bit of insight into the History of Coombe and the world’s greatest opera singer of her time Dame Nellie Melba when people visit.
Do the bride and groom have exclusive use of the Estate for the duration of their wedding?
We only conduct evening weddings, so couples have exclusive use of the Garden for their ceremony and restaurant for their reception. The Estate closes at 5pm so essentially unless we have a private function at ‘Hedge’ they have the Estate exclusively. And we will only ever have 1 wedding per day.
Is the bridal couple able to have their ceremony on site? Are there wet weather options?
Yes! We have seven acres of manicured gardens, there is so many options that couples can choose from. From underneath the Old Oak to the ‘rustic’ Mediterranean garden or the open space of the old grassed tennis court. And our Gallery space is the perfect setting for an intimate wet weather alternative – a must have due to the wonderfully unpredictable Melbourne Weather!
Image by Blumenthal Photography
Do you have a favourite garden or property location for photo opportunities, or ceremony/post ceremony drinks?
You can’t go past the Old Oak at the front of the Cottage, for a ceremony location. The Tree is over 180 years old and is charismatic, couples usually see this and instantly fall in love too!
For photos though it’s too hard to choose just one! The Hole in the Hedge, the oldest swimming pool in Victoria, the spiral staircase on Coombe Cottage – I’ve been told it’s a photographers dream & I’d agree (I may be a little biased!)
Please describe the areas/rooms of the Estate buildings suitable for a wedding reception?
Our Restaurant is best described as Modern Industrial. Bead blasted bricks, ambient drop pendants lighting, concrete flooring and bare timber tables. Floor to ceiling windows that retract to allow the outside in on a warm summer’s night. The room speaks for itself and doesn’t require a lot of dressing.
Image by Blumenthal Photography
How many guests are you able to accommodate at a reception?
Our restaurant space fits 150 guests with a sizeable dancefloor.
Estate grown produce is a hallmark of your menus. What do you grow and use from the Estate?
Our Kitchen garden is a feature at Coombe and we are very proud to offer estate grown produce as much as possible.
We have tomatoes, fruit trees (apples, pear, persimmon, lemon and lime) a variety of herbs, parsley, coriander, mint, basil, thyme… the list goes on.
One of the dishes Risotto of zucchini, 20 year aged balsamic pear and rocket is just one of the current Kitchen garden offerings (well except for the rice!)
Can you describe some menu favourites for the coming winter months?
I can’t go past one of the newest additions to our menu, “Shady Oak free range chicken, our chef’s foraged mushrooms, pearl barley, wilted parsley, jus” with a side of “Roast pumpkin, feta, pinenuts, mesclun pickled red onion salad”. It has everything I want in a hearty winter meal and goes perfectly with our Coombe Farm Pinot Noir!
Image by Blumenthal Photography
Do you offer a wedding planning service?
We don’t, but it is something we are considering.
How much (or how little e.g. on the day) assistance can you give the bride and groom with their wedding planning? Do you offer packages?
We don’t offer a structured advice package as some couples have a clear picture in their mind and already know who will be supplying their wedding. Others book with us then admit they have no idea what they are doing and it’s those couples I could sit with for hours and help them plan. I love to help couples any way I can.
What do a bridal couple need to bring in themselves?
Our reception packages take care of almost everything! We have a fantastic florist Youki from Sugarbee Flowers who works with the couples in terms of floral arrangements for both the ceremony and reception. The couple just need to arrange their cake, an awesome band or DJ and any extra items such as a photobooth or favors for their guests.
Can you recommend vendors for the couple to use?
Most definitely! I have worked with some amazing vendors and even if what the couple is looking for isn’t on our preferred suppliers list I can assist with other recommendations.
Is there accommodation for wedding guests, close by?
We can recommend a variety of hotels, cabins, houses, B&B’s all within a 15-20 minute radius of Coombe.
Are you able to offer a brunch or afternoon tea to departing guests the next day?
Of course! Our restaurant is open 9am – 5pm and we can offer larger groups either al la carte or a set menu. Bookings are essential though!
Image by Coombe – The Melba Estate
I love working here because………. I love Weddings and Coombe is such a magical place, its perfect for weddings! As an event manager my favourite moment at a wedding is when everyone hits the dance floor with big smiles, a belly full of delicious food & wine ready to celebrate.
And when I’m not organizing weddings and events I love to……
I love to discover new restaurants and coffee hang outs in the city. There is nothing better than good food and coffee.
Thank you Georgia for sharing your story. For more information about Coombe – The Melba Estate visit the website.
Headshot courtesy of Georgia Green.