The Verdict | Willow Urban Retreat

By Megan Whitfield
17th May 2018

As Ferris Bueller said, 'Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it.'

And that's kind of the business model behind Willow Urban Retreat in Armadale. Slow things down, take a moment. A place where well-being takes priority above all else. Part cafe, part yoga studio, part meditation members club. A tiny oasis where you can rest and recharge the batteries. 

It starts as soon as you step inside the heritage listed building on High St. Owner Sharon Bassat has literally built wellness into the space, with rose quartz buried in each corner of the café (these crystals promote inner healing and energy). Talk about attention to detail.

It continues with a glance at the menu, each dish is decorated with a specially selected medicinal herb and description of its properties, and dishes change with the seasons. And of course, the wellbeing-vibes keep coming with the food itself. Bassat planned the menu to incorporate Ayurvedic practices—a traditional healing process about balancing the body, mind and soul.

In terms of food, this means balancing ingredients to extract the most nutrients and ensure it all goes down smooth. “We work with a chef and naturopath…balancing each meal so they are easily digestible,” says Bassat. “We’re aiming to change the menu seasonally, and use a farm to table concept,” Bassat says.

The owners are even bringing in some produce of their own, grown on their property in Red Hill. At the moment, it’s “pickles, apples…and we’re making chutney.”

This café seriously embodies that whole ‘nutritious and delicious thing’. Our personal picks are the baked eggs in yellow split pea dahl, cumin yoghurt, and charred flatbread, with the wilted greens salad. And the Tri-dosha smoothie with almond milk, mixed greens, banana, nori, pomegranate molasses and matcha. If nothing else, do it for the ‘gram. 

Just next door is ‘Retreat’ bit, and you can tell it’s Bassat's pride and joy. Not surprising, given how beautiful the space is. High ceilings and arched corridors seeped in natural sunlight, lush textiles, a tea lounge tucked in the corner if you’re not ready to leave the post-facial haze. Need we say more?

The list of treatments here needs its own menu. Willow offers various wellbeing workshops, sound healing meditation, yoga, meditation classes, holistic facials, massages, and a whole wellness retreat (if a single session hasn't done the trick). There’s even an infrared sauna.

Sharon clearly catches my confused expression when we step into this one. “It heats you from your core, promoting anti-ageing, detoxification and skin rejuvenation.” Far less intimidating and with fewer deadly lasers than the image in my head.

The idea for this venture came from Bassat's own wellbeing journey when she attended an overseas retreat. That was six years ago, with the last three dedicated to educating herself, sourcing her team, and planning all the finer details.

“Some of the treatments [I experienced overseas] I found I couldn’t source back home, like Ayurveda. I wanted to create a one-stop-shop for Wellbeing,” she says.

And that she has, with treatments tailored specifically towards each client. “We work with the client to find out what they need, whether it's Ayurvedic practices, Chinese medicine, or something different again. It’s about creating a supportive environment for the client to take responsibility for their own wellness journey.”

Even just watching a spa treatment was relaxing—actually get one and you might never leave. But then, would that be such a bad thing, really? The staff wouldn’t mind, would they? Asking for a friend.

Image credit: Jenna Fahey-White

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