SNEAK PEEK // What's this Berrima Vault House people are talking about?
The Fold got an exclusive sneak peek at this very cool, contemporary hospitality and event concept coming to Berrima in May.
There’s been a bit of buzz around Berrima Vault House in the Highlands. Anyone who has walked past the beautiful, double storey Georgian building on the main road that started life as Taylor’s Crown Inn back in 1844, would have noticed the place has been a hive of activity since January.
Saws are buzzing, hammers have been well…hammering, furniture is being moved in and positioned, a bunch of laser-focused [and occasionally dusty] people have been running in and out of the building, the bars [yep – plural! Woohoo!] have been stocked.
Berrima Vault House is about to open, and we are lovin’ the whole vibe.
The Berrima Vault House guys must have got sick of us smooshing our faces up against their windows, so on Friday they invited us in to have a look around. It took about 2.3 seconds for us to start touching all the things, oohing and aahing at…well, everything really, snapping pics like crazy people and getting the lowdown from two of the local co-owners, Director Oliver Peagam and Director and CEO Simon Philby, on what Berrima Vault House is all about.
So people / us are very curious. What is Berrima Vault House?
Oliver:: It’s a stylish and functional space where people can socialise, work, play, create, celebrate, connect and relax. We’ve reimagined this beautiful old building in this heritage listed village for the 21st century – there’s a café and restaurant, and some pretty spectacular rooms and places for Berrima Vault House members and their guests to use for business meetings, work, private events, intimate dinners, keeping the kids entertained, celebrations and more.
Wait, so it’s a private club?
Si:: Part of it is, yes. One of the silver linings to come out of the global pandemic is people have realised they don’t need to live in the city or if they’re living in the Highlands, commute as much – or at all - anymore. They’re also a bit tired of working from home so are looking for somewhere they can hold business meetings, take business calls, have great Wi-Fi with high-level data security, print, scan, whatever they need to work…….but they also want to relax and socialise.
Grab a nice breakfast in a stylish cafe, sip on a good coffee, have lunch with a client, catch up with the family for a tasty al fresco style dinner and finish with a nightcap at the bar.
You can start and finish your day at Berrima Vault House.
But the café and restaurant is open to the public, right?
Oliver:: Absolutely. We’ve refurbished the café giving it a contemporary look but keeping all the heritage elements, like the original stonework, that makes it so special. The restaurant is down the stairs at the back of the building and has had a complete makeover that includes a new bar area, outdoor dining space [with heating!] and an English-inspired menu created by Executive Chef, Tommy Prosser .
Tommy has worked at Michelin star restaurants in the UK and run his own award-winning eateries in Australia. His menu is all about giving traditional English dishes a modern vibe by tricking them up with fresh flavours and seasonal produce.
Si:: We’ve also created an incredible, world class cocktail and wine menu in partnership with Pernod Ricard and Diageo, one of the world’s largest producers of spirits, so that’s looking pretty special. We support local, so Southern Highlands Brewing is our craft beer provider, for example. Another space we’ve freshened up is the garden which now has a huge outdoor fireplace – we see that as the perfect spot to sip on a sundowner.
The team have done a brilliant job of blending the character and history of the building with modern interiors and lots of shiny, fabulous things. Why was that so important to get right?
Oliver:: We’ve worked with some pretty amazing people and companies to do just that. Paul Nemeth, one of our partners in this project, is looped into the local Berrima historians who have been helping us understand the heritage of the building, how each of the spaces were used and why they were built. That’s allowed us to continue to tell the story of the building but in a modern way. The original jail cells with their stone walls built by convicts are now private dining rooms, for example. And it was one of the Berrima locals that told us about a tunnel that was supposedly underneath the building and runs across to the jail. We found it! But nobody’s been game enough to crawl through it and see how far it goes.
Si:: We have utilised a global network with the best of local talent. By that I mean we've collaborated with an award-winning company in the UK called Javelin Block that specialise in breathing new life into heritage buildings, while Dan Flower, the former Creative Director of Soho House Group has also advised us. They are part of our overseas advisory but it's the team here that have really owned and executed the creative vision.
Local builder Mark Takla of Paramount Trade Group, has brought in a trusted and fantastic team of trades on the building and renovation work; my wife Carlie, who owns CP and Co, has developed and delivered the interior design project; and the team at Background CC has done all the unseen grunt work to get the project off the ground.
Oliver:: We’ve basically done a year long renovation in four months. It’s been a pretty amazing team effort, with all hands-on deck to pull it off.
But it’s not just about the look of the place. It’s also about the vibe and service.
Si:: That’s right. We’ve had Dan Lywood of Playlister curate our music. Ali Hillman, who is Director of a company called Friday Trampoline, is our in-house art curator. Ali has worked on the world stage with some very impressive clients and art.
Oliver:: Service will be a key element of what Berrima Vault House is all about, so we're delighted to have Jason Cooley on board as our General Manager. Jason has extensive experience from his time at the QT Hotel Group running five-star hotels around Australia and he'll be supported by Joe Collins as Venue Manager and Prue Walker as Concierge. We want every experience here to be personalised and memorable, and we're still hiring for a few roles during our soft-launch phase, so get in touch if you want to join our team.
The focus is on opening, of course but we bet you’ve got some ideas brewing about taking Berrima Vault House to the next level.
Oliver:: At the moment we’re all still in pre-opening mode before soft-launch, but we’ve got plans for creating events and experiences we’re hoping will become landmark events that give locals something unique to experience and bring people to the region.
Si:: We’ve also partnered with some high-end, luxury brands and are creating a unique retail concept, so we’re excited to share those collaborations with everyone once we’ve opened.
Can we just cut to the chase and move in?
Oliver:: Ah no.
But you can buy a membership! Or swing by for breakfast in the café, catch up with friends by the big outdoor fire and sip on a Pimm’s while the sun goes down, book a table in the restaurant for dinner or invite friends from out of town to stay in the accommodation upstairs and bunk in with them.
Fine. You had us at Pimm’s anyway.
Berrima Vault House is a contemporary reimagining of the Taylor’s Crown Inn [built in 1844]. It’s a 5-star hospitality venue and private members club – an innovative and creative space to gather, celebrate, work, drink, dine and reside. Find out more about this unique venue opening in the Southern Highlands in May.