Review: Lux Nomade checks in to Bangalay Luxury Villas
The dark wooden boardwalk that flanks the row of architecturally designed villas in the quiet seaside town of Shoalhaven was designed to mimic the bush-shrouded beach paths that are quintessential to New South Wales’ south coast. It’s the magic of that very moment – at the end of a path when a stretch of ocean and sand emerges from the thicket and the ground below you turns to sand – that husband and wife team Michelle and Tom Bishop were seeking to emulate when they set about creating Bangalay. That, along with a luxurious resort-style holiday experience, a stone’s throw from the city.
As an interior designer and builder respectively, Michelle and Tom had worked together on a number of projects in Sydney, and as working parents, understood the incredible impact that restful time away from city life can have. Having both grown up in the Shoalhaven area, the couple harboured a fondness for the town and the nostalgic, unpretentious memories it holds. When a stretch of land on an oceanfront corner of the golf course became available, they decided to take the leap and embark on their biggest passion project to date – a boutique resort-style destination, designed to allow guests an indulgent, seamless hotel experience, just two hours from Sydney.
The spacious, open-plan ironbark villas were designed in partnership with Paddington-based architecture firm Studio Internationale, and the team collectively agreed that the ineffable importance of connecting with nature should act as a guiding principle for the design. With a reverence for the natural environment undergirding their approach, the sixteen north-facing villas are flooded with natural sunlight from glass doors and floor-to-ceiling windows, and the interior decor is neutral-hued and minimal, with the texture coming from the gardens and golf course beyond. If you follow the boardwalk all the way past the villas and Bangalay’s glass and wood-panelled restaurant, you’ll reach Seven Mile Beach – the long stretch of sand that runs 12 kilometres down the coast from Gerroa. Heading back past reception, you’ll find yourself in the laid-back, village-style town of Shoalhaven. “Luxury is experiential: it’s a feeling, it’s about the way our senses interact with a space. It’s a sense of freedom and ease,” Michelle explains, when I asked about what she and Tom want guests to experience at Bangalay. “We wanted to create somewhere that people could feel totally at ease. The villas themselves are designed with that feeling in mind, but it’s the whole experience,”. And that’s really the magic of Bangalay. If you leave Sydney at 12, you can arrive by 3pm, walk straight onto the beach, stop by the restaurant for happy hour cocktails on the way back to your villa, and enjoy a six-course degustation menu without having to get in a taxi, wake up to a swim in the ocean and then take Sonoma pastries and barista made coffees straight to your bed.
We arrived on a winter Saturday, the stars already beginning to emerge behind the blanket of clouds that loomed threateningly above us. The storm-charged surge of the ocean was the only sound as we opened the door to our villa, and the fireplace at the far end threw a comforting glow across the gentle, neutral-toned interiors.
Dinner was booked in the restaurant at 7pm, so at 6:59pm we left the warmth of our villa for the warmth of Bangalay Dining – a high-ceilinged, wood-panelled space with a hatted chef at the helm. Simon Evans – whose previous work includes running Wollongong’s Caveau restaurant – joined the Bangalay team back in November 2020, and has since elevated the already high-end fine dining restaurant to a destination in its own right. With a focus on native ingredients, the seasonal tasting menu included sweet compressed cucumber delicately piped with goat’s cheese, blue swimmer crab with fresh daikon and dill, and perfectly roasted flathead wrapped in a buttery artichoke jus. We were both a cocktail and a half deep by the time it came to dessert, but I stand by our claim that the honey-burnt custard topped with shaved persimmon and crumbled honeycomb was “the best dessert we’ve ever eaten”.
Bangalay Dining isn’t the only notable foodie option to have popped up on the NSW south coast over the past few years. The Patch Tomakin opened its doors in early July, and the hatted chef Douglas Innes-Will has recently taken up the executive chef position at Arthur Boyd’s architecturally striking Bundanon gallery. And although they’re happy to offer guests the ease of a resort by offering exceptional food offerings on-site, the Bangalay team are keen to shine a light on the other outstanding options in the area. Some personal favourites of Michelle and Tom include the Parisian-inspired Queen Street Eatery and Jervis Bay Brewing Co’s barn-style brewery.
For our brief stay though, we stayed on site and didn’t feel the need to leave.
After a deep sleep serenaded by the sound of rainfall that has characterised 2022 so far, I took an icy plunge in the stone tiled swimming pool that occupies the western corner of the Bangalay grounds. Breakfast in the Bangalay Dining space – which is flooded with sunlight during the daytime – started with Will & Co coffee and bowls of fresh fruit. From the a la carte menu, breakfast classics are elevated with Evans’ touch: the avocado toast comes on sourdough with avocado butter and gremolata, and there’s an Archie Rose spiked Bloody Mary for guests looking to start their day in true resort holiday style.
Learn more and book your stay via bangalayvillas.com.au