Doma Christmas Masthead

Cooking up a family escape

Amanda Whitley

I can’t actually believe it but July school holidays start today.

The winter holidays are traditionally a great time to catch up with friends, and being so close to the snow Canberra is a perfect stopover. If you have friends or family coming to town during the next couple of weeks (or any weekend, really) we’ve found a really fun family adventure.

Doma Hotels invited us to roadtest their Kids MasterChef package, which includes overnight accommodation and is available at both Hotel Realm and Burbury Hotel in Barton. Mr HerCanberra (Drew) and I are always up for a staycation – particularly one that comes with built-in entertainment for the Little Miss HerCanberras, Olivia (nine) and Sophia (seven).


Here’s the deal.

The mini ‘Masterchefs’ in the family will be entertained and educated at a cooking class specialising in everyone’s favourite – chocolate. Each child (aged between five and 14 years) gets to create their own chocolate, including painting the mould and filling with sweets and decoration.

While they spend 90 minutes learning the cooking basics, mums and dads can enjoy a charcuterie platter in Ostani bar and restaurant, or join in the class. Let’s be honest…which option are you going to choose?

As I was documenting my girls’ experience, I had to forgo the charcuterie in favour of getting chocolately – and I have to say it was oodles of fun. They joined Doma’s Executive Chef, Fabien Wagnon, and his daughter Mirabelle (who is a schoolmate of my girls) for a sweet — and sometimes messy — chocolate making session that really was quite ‘MasterCheffy’. If you’ve seen any recent episodes, you’ll know that chocolate spheres are the dessert du jour — the girls whipped up their own ‘mini’ take on them — filled chocolate domes.


Fabien started the session by talking to the girls about different types of chocolate (each with a different origin or percentage of cocoa) and got them to taste each of them; Sophia preferred the darker Venezuelan chocolate, while Liv preferred the milk (no surprise there, as she has a real sweet tooth).


From there, he showed the girls how to melt the chocolate down, and how to paint it into silicone moulds, which would form the sphere’s outer shell. And then…they got to fill the domes with whatever they wanted: chocolate mousse, popping candy, berries, chocolate pearls, marshmallows — I nearly fell into a sugar coma just looking at it all. My girls were in heaven.

Sophia, who is a keen cook, was in her element — taking charge of putting trays in the blast chiller, whipping up some banana muffins with Chef while the domes set, and then flawlessly turning them out of their moulds when they were ready. We went back to our Atrium Suite in Hotel Realm with enough chocolate for a week’s worth of dessert!


But first, dinner at Lilotang – one of our favourite places to eat as a family. It’s a spot you may not think of as kid-friendly, because it’s an elegant spot that serves Modern Japanese, but it’s our go-to when Mr HerCanberra and I want a beautiful meal but don’t want to organise a babysitter. It was a busy night, and we let the girls order as many Chicken Thigh skewers with Inherited Homemade Yakitori Sauce as they could eat while we let the experienced wait staff bring us whatever dishes took their fancy. We walked the short distance back to our room stuffed and happy.


I hadn’t actually realised that Hotel Realm had ‘family friendly’ accommodation options, so I was pleasantly surprised by our two-bedroom suite with full kitchen, living room and two bathrooms. It was wonderfully spacious — the two bedrooms were separated by the living area — so there was plenty of room for us all to do our thing without tripping over each other, and for Drew and I to relax and watch a movie once the kids were in bed.


After a brilliant sleep (their beds are seriously like big clouds – I want one for home) we awoke to a grey, rainy morning and headed downstairs for breakfast at Buvette. The hot breakfast was certainly not your ‘standard’ hotel breakfast, and there were just-cooked pastries, charcuterie, cereals, fresh fruits and more. Chef asked the girls if they wanted pancakes, and they were each presented with one big fat one — larger than their head — topped with cream and coulis. This had been a good food 24 hours for them! Oh, and as part of the MasterChef package, their breakfast was free – as was their stay. Parents also get a discounted breakfast, complimentary secure parking and a late checkout.


After a leisurely 11am checkout, we meandered home feeling relaxed and happy. It was a fantastic way to chill out and reconnect as family after a busy week, packed with lots of fun and lots of food — we recommend it for any visitor to Canberra (and you!)

For more information about the Kids MasterChef package or to book a stay soon, you can find package details at and

The author and her family received accommodation and meals free of charge from Doma Group for review purposes. Her opinions remain her own. This review complies with the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission’s guidelines on Online Reviews


Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her 'spare time', she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She's done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women. More about the Author

MEJ leaderboard