Levantine Hill is a breath of fresh air in the heart of the Yarra Valley. The skyrocketing curved roof of the dining establishment and cellar door show up from the road, in sync with the rolling hills near Coldstream. The sculptural building, held up by spans of glass, was designed by designer Karl Fender of Fender Katsalidis, with interiors by Anja de Medspa of Molecule Architecture. Three giant barrel-shaped cubicles protrude from one side. They keep an eye out over the grape vines and the surrounding green hills. Levantine Hill includes a vineyard with well recognised Levantine Hill wines, two dining spaces with food by Teage Ezard, a bar and a cellar door.
It is the vision of one man translated by Fender, the multi-award winning designer. That male is Elias “Eli” Jreissati, Melbourne residential or commercial property designer, self-made millionaire, and creator of the Bensons Property Group, art collector and philanthropist. Almost a year after the dining establishment and cellar door opened, Eli is still like a kid, excited about this latest addition to the 103-hectare estate that includes a truffle grove and homestead. He likes the wine-barrel booths, the bar with angled brass trim that deflects sound and the way the space can be expanded by moving a basic shelving unit.
“I understood Karl Fender was the man to create it,” he states with a sweeping gesture across the space. For Karl, the result is “quite the vision we jointly had”. “I’m pleased people like it which it melds with the landscape and is of its place,” he says. “The structure, in one sense, had to be observed from the highway. It needed to be a greater, more obvious piece of architecture, but it was so engaging to make it a place of repose inside. “When the customer decided to pursue it, the obstacle was to perform it and make the constructed outcome measure up to the vision.”
Anja de Medspa, one of Molecule’s 3 creators, was included from the beginning. Coming from an architecture background rather than design training, Anja turned her academic mind to products and function and the zoning of the space to preserve views in between all locations, but permitting everyone to work separately. She did this, in part, by selecting the best home furnishings and by zoning the space. “There is the cellar and bar, the all-day dining and the signature restaurant. Each has its own different location and they are divided by a transparent, moveable unit,” she says.
The brass detail on the bar is a crucial element. The brass is “pleated” in a manner that is nearly reminiscent of the contours of the original landscape design. It is repeated from the tasting bar right through to the service bars. “In the dining establishment space we wanted to create a more intimate and luxurious environment, so the flooring there has a big carpet,” Anja says. Having dealt with Eli on his homestead way up at the top of the hill, Anja was influenced by the local flower symbols such as the kangaroo paw that appears in the printed material in the upholstered dining establishment chairs.
The palette of tan leather, teal and dark green consists of tabletops of regional hardwood and rather a great deal of black in the steel frames of the chairs and tables. Timber also includes in the main bar. The area had actually never ever been built on before and Karl Fender wanted the building to connect with the fields, the vineyards and the beautiful mountains. The idea has to do with putting the structure in a proper context so that it feels and look as if it belongs and suits the existing landscaping design. Inside, there is more place-making by association. The place is decorated with giant wine barrels that are lined internally and externally with wood, giving you the feeling of being cosy, having an intimate dining experience and a view of the vineyard. “They really came as a doubt,” Fender says. A fortunate reservation, as it ends up, since diners almost always wish to sit in a barrel.