When restaurateur Adam Abrams decided to found a hotel among the gumtree forests south of Sydney, he knew precisely what its look should be. We check into a former 19th-century residence that we’d be happy to hunker down in.
Towering fennel plants line the freeway south of Sydney. A turn from the main road brings you to a canopy of eucalypt that snakes through Exeter, a village with a stone church and antique shops lining a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it high street. After a few more bends, you reach Bundanoon (an Aboriginal name that means “place of deep gullies”) and on its edge a new hotel, Osborn House. Built in 1892 as the residence of British settlers George and Dinah Osborn, the property offers striking views of the gullies and a gumtree forest that seems to stretch to the horizon. The Osborns ran the home as a guesthouse and it housed Dutch interns after the Second World War; until recently it operated as a spa and retreat.
On a pilgrimage to the forest about a decade ago, Sydney-based restaurateur Adam Abrams decided that the area would be perfect for his move into hotels. “On a map I drew a circle around Sydney that stretched to just two hours by car,” he says. “I wouldn’t drive more than two hours for a weekend trip so why would a guest?” Over the following two years, Abrams stayed in every hotel, motel and guesthouse within that radius until he found Osborn House.
“I want guests to feel that each room is different. Some are masculine, others feminine”
Abrams knew right away that he wanted to work with Linda Boronkay, Soho House’s former design director. “I’d stayed in hotels that she designed and a mutual friend put us in touch,” he says. “Her first question was, ‘What’s your style?’” His answer was: “Boronkay.”
The designer brought in Alan McMahon of Mac Design Studio as her partner. “Having worked together at Woods Bagot studio in Sydney, we understood how our skills complement each other,” she says. Despite border closures and lockdowns, which limited opportunities for Boronkay to be on site, the pair ploughed on via video calls and post. “I sent paint samples to Linda in London,” says McMahon. “And I posted back fabric samples,” says Boronkay.
Throughout the property the work of artists Jai Vasicek and Vicki Lee adorns the walls. “We were so lucky to have a client who let us commission artists and design furniture and lighting,” says Boronkay. With 15 guest rooms and seven cabins, the hotel offers a unique interior behind every door. “I want guests to feel that each room is different,” she says. “Some are masculine, others feminine. Colour, art and lighting are important tools in achieving that.”
The combination of masculine and feminine extends to the public areas, including George’s Bar and dining room Dinah’s, named after the founding couple. Executive chef Segundo Farrell’s menus draw on produce from nearby farms and techniques that he learned while working alongside his mentor Francis Mallmann. “The landscape is perfect for us to use fire and Francis’s techniques,” he says. “We couldn’t do what we do here in a city.”
Three unexpected delights, from smart hospitality to retail.
The word “resort” might evoke faraway destinations but for the team behind The Londoner, the Edwardian Hotel Group’s 250-key, 16-storey new-build at the heart of the UK capital, city resorts are the next frontier. Designed by New York-based Yabu Pushelberg, it is home to an art gallery, champagne bar and five restaurants, from Whitcombs for French Mediterranean fare to a tavern named after artist Joshua Reynolds. “The hotel embraces the heritage of the area,” says director Charles Oak.
Dining in style
Shopping can be hungry work but retailers in the South Korean capital are serving up a solution. Watch specialist IWC Schaffhausen has a high-end coffee shop in the Euljiro area, while Breitling has opened its first restaurant in its flagship shop in Hannam-dong. Nearby, Gucci is cooking up an osteria, expected to open later this year. These aren’t the first luxury names to drift into hospitality: just look at Bulgari’s fleet of hotels. But the new pairings of fashion and food suggest an appetite among shoppers to make a day of it and, perhaps, of brands to entice customers back into physical shops.
So how does hunger chime with horology, or cuisine with couture? On the first floor of Breitling Townhouse Hannam, the seating areas are themed by land, air and sea in a nod to the brand’s nautical and aeronautical heritage; a private dining room and terrace offer the ideal settings to seal a deal. Enhancing a retail experience with alluring food is a savvy move. After all, a gourmet tease guarantees that there’ll be more eyes on products, as well as more time spent in shops. Though perhaps it would be prudent to order a size up.
iwc.com; breitling.com; gucci.com
Orient Express La Dolce Vita
Recognised for its strides in high-speed train travel, Italy is preparing to slow things down with a new service that builds on the Orient Express brand. Spearheaded by Italian hospitality firm Arsenale with French hotel group Accor, the Orient Express La Dolce Vita is expected to launch in 2023, when its first two trains will depart Rome for Paris, Istanbul and Split, as well as running journeys on long-forgotten lines in the bel paese. The rolling stock will consist of 1980s Trenitalia Intercity models, with interiors given a 1970s-inspired revamp by Milan-based Dimorestudio. Each train will hold 31 premium sleeper cabins and have carriages for a restaurant and a lounge bar. You know where we’ll be.
We survey the best new gadgets that fuse innovation with life-enhancing function and elegant design, and push the right buttons.
Writer: David Phelan
Galaxy S22 Ultra
Early every year, Samsung unveils the latest iterations of its flagship smartphone series, the Galaxy S. The S22 is just out, along with the larger S221 and this phone, the S22 Ultra. The leader of the pack has a spacious high-resolution display that looks glorious whether you’re checking out photographs or watching video, thanks to the rapid “refresh rate” that makes playback butter smooth. It also has multiple cameras, including a 108-megapixel sensor. If that sounds like overkill, it’s mostly used to combine data from individual pixels into bigger blocks to enhance images, especially in dimmer conditions. It also means that you can zoom in by a factor of 100, capturing details that you might otherwise have missed.
For the first time in an S-range phone, there’s a stylus on the base of the unit, which lets you scribble down notes that get turned into editable text. Samsung has discovered colour in recent years; this season’s matte-green finish (pictured) is subtle and attractive.
622 Magnetic Battery
Battery anxiety is a 21st-century malady. Even if you have a top-of-the-range smartphone, you still might see the dreaded red-battery icon by the end of the day. Plugging a phone into the wall or a portable power supply isn’t always convenient either. But now you can avoid the faff with batteries that charge your device wirelessly, especially if you have an iPhone with Magsafe capabilities, such as the iPhone 12 or iPhone 13.
Magsafe is a ring of magnets at the back of the phone that ensures a snug contact between your phone and charger. It allows a battery with corresponding magnets to snap on to the back of your iPhone. Apple makes its own Magsafe battery but this one from Anker offers more charge and comes in a range of cute colours, from “misty blue” to “buds green” (pictured). And it has a neat extra feature: the back folds down to form a stand, which is handy for video calls or propping up the phone in landscape orientation.
Bang & Olufsen
Robust enough to offer high-quality audio in the great outdoors and with enough battery life to last for more than a day, this Bluetooth speaker is aptly called Explore. It has punchy bass and a lively mid-range that sound impressive even in open spaces. There’s a grille that delivers 360-degree sound, which means that you can put it anywhere. At about 12cm in height, it’s compact and has a grippable shape, making it ideal for taking on the move. It’s dust- and water-resistant too, giving you peace of mind if you’re sitting on the beach or next to the pool.
The design is classy enough to look elegant indoors, especially in the discreet but eye-catching navy blue or chestnut (pictured). As you’d expect from Bang & Olufsen, the build quality is excellent; made from anodised aluminium with a rubberised base, it’s scratch-resistant, lightweight and durable. You can also turn it up to 11 by pairing it with a second speaker.
Smart Dog Collar
Pet technology is increasingly big business and several manufacturers have already released GPS-based dog gadgets (though the sight of pooches sporting them is still rarer than a well-behaved puppy). But what makes French firm Invoxia’s Smart Dog Collar unique is that it comes with sensors that take biometric measurements and can give early warning of illness in the wearer, especially heart-related conditions. Helpfully, it monitors the dog’s respiratory and heart rates without the need for electrodes. A persistently high resting respiratory rate can indicate heart issues, so the collar’s capacity to spot anomalies is potentially life-saving, not least because the monitoring is continuous.
Invoxia worked with vets to ensure that the software can detect disease early. It can also measure the dog’s response to medication or its rate of recovery following surgery. The collar recognises regular activities and can differentiate between walking and running. It also tracks how often your dog is eating or drinking. It can even tell how much it is scratching. There’s an accelerometer, GPS tracker and buzzer too, so you can locate your dog when you can’t see it – though that rather defeats the point of a game of hide and seek, doesn’t it?
still life: Tony Hay. model: Molly