“Glamour, sophistication and luxury have arrived on the Peninsula.” Gourmet Traveller
Indeed it has. In what has been a somewhat controversial, divisive and ultimately defining moment for the Mornington Peninsula, Merricks North is now home to Jackalope Hotel. Created on the site of Willow Creek Vineyard where the majestic Edwardian McCormick House has been part of the landscape since 1876, Jackalope has broken new ground and made quite a buzz since it opened in April this year. And last week the hotel was acknowledged with three prestigious Gourmet Traveller Hotel Awards – Hotel of the Year, New Hotel of the Year and Regional Hotel of the Year. Impressive hey?
This contemporary cutting edge designer property offers travellers, tourists and locals a 46 room hotel, a formal degustation restaurant, a spectacular cocktail bar (where else can you find one on the Mornington Peninsula?), a casual dining experience and a cellar door. Aimed at the well-heeled traveller, the property is also proving a local favourite, with a waiting list already emerging for the hotel’s signature restaurant.
The vision of Louis Li, a 29 year old Chinese national who has been living in Melbourne for ten years, Li moved here as an 18 year old to study film making. Well versed in luxury property development through his prestigious lineage, Jackalope is his first solo project and it showcases his appetite for art and design and food culture. His vision shines through every element in this property. Li says he was inspired by MONA, that it gave him confidence that people would appreciate his daring, bold style – merging art with hospitality.
For those who don’t know, a Jackalope is a mythical North American folklore character, a rabbit with antlers. The Jackalope theme flows throughout the property, with ‘dens’ and ‘lairs’ for hotel rooms, a casual dining offering called Rare Hare, a cocktail bar called Flaggerdoot (a pack of Jackalopes of course), and the hotel’s contemporary restaurant is called Doot Doot Doot (which is the leader of the Flaggerdoot).
“I was blown away by the insane fit out at the amazing Jackalope Hotel,” enthuses Kate. “It is one of the most inspiring interior fit-outs I have ever seen. It’s an intense feeding frenzy for all the senses. Jackalope’s restaurant Doot Doot Doot offers incredible cuisine and wines, and an equally impressive interior. My new local favourite!”
Doot Doot Doot is a stylish, exclusive, ultra-modern dining experience that offers a well priced degustation menu of four or eight courses (with or without matched wines). Melbourne artist Jan Flook created the bespoke light installation, and it is simply incredible. Designed to represent the process of wine fermentation bubbling away in vats, this 10,000 globe chandelier took two weeks to install. Pascale Gomes-McNabb, a Restaurant and F & B Consultant, helped shape the concept of Jackalope’s breathtaking dining design and it is full of theatre and light, and her trademark craftsmanship. Every detail has been thought through to create an experience for all the senses.
Jackalope’s culinary fare is headed by Executive Chef Guy Stanaway. Originally from New Zealand where he collected a number of prestigious chef awards, Stanaway made his name with roles at two world class Aman Resorts in Rajasthan in India and in Bali, where he honed his passion for food – combining his love of foreign cultures, cooking and native ingredients.
His food is simply fabulous, not overly fussy or contrived, and he combines his intuitive nature with modern design and local ingredients to offer diners a wonderful experience. Says Stanaway, “the tasting menu offers a respect for the feast, contrasted by a disrespect for the familiar. Time-honoured techniques meet culinary curiosity, in dishes that are methodical yet explorative and designed to evoke a unique sense of place.”
Importantly, Willow Creek wines are very much at the heart of Jackalope Hotel. The wine list for Doot Doot Doot (’11 Hectares’) has been curated in honour of Willow Creek Vineyard, which has 11 hectares under vine. Under Head Winemaker Geraldine McFaul, Willow Creek has grown in reputation as one of the premier wineries on the Mornington Peninsula – renowned for its elegant single vineyard wines.
Louis Li and his team have been ground-breaking in their design collaboration, engaging some of Australia’s leading creatives to forge this level of luxurious, cutting edge design and high-end accommodation. Custom-made, curated and commissioned, every element of the Jackalope Hotel has been thought through in redefined detail, and the result is a property alive with art, design, innovation and sophistication at every turn. Extraordinary, contemporary and bold, the Jackalope property is indeed a unique environment from a design point of view.
Carr Design Group is one of Australia’s most influential architecture and interior design companies and Sue Carr led the design aesthetic of the hotel. The bold, contemporary and somewhat challenging architectural form, with an ultra-modern interior, is a daring design that creates a thought provoking juxtaposition against the soft and familiar rural setting.
The landscape design of the property, developed by Taylor Cullity Lethlean, explored the site, the context and the community in detail to marry the hotel with its surrounds and pay homage to the vines and the hinterland. The result is a harmonious blend of contemporary rural design.
Inside the building, the art installations are many and varied. They provide a contrasting interior landscape yet each take its place comfortably alongside the other. Kate Robertson’s photography is a series of works commissioned specially for the property, and they perfectly complement the furnishings throughout the hotel, each image making a statement in its own right. Much of the furniture was commissioned and individually crafted by Zuster specially for Jackalope. Each piece is so effective, fit for purpose and beautifully designed. And Flaggerdoot, the cocktail bar, is set to be a key attraction for the hotel with its herringbone floors, open fires and a 1970s style pool table surrounded by gold leather armchairs.
The hotel rooms are a triumph of luxurious, contemporary design, from the bathroom fit out that blends harmoniously with the sumptuous beds and occasional furniture to the cool comfortable colour palette. Custom mosaics and bathroom fixtures are finished in gold, bronze or copper. Again it’s all in the details, with custom-made skincare and grooming essentials designed by Melbourne-based Hunter Lab exclusively for Jackalope.
This level of luxury accommodation is new for the Mornington Peninsula. The 46 designer ‘dens’ deliver, absolutely. The interiors are lavish yet calm and understated, with custom-made comforts, and the floor-to-ceiling windows and private terraces connect the room’s contemporary design with the natural environment.
The king-sized beds are super comfy and the bathrooms offer more than most, with rain showers and double vanities in each room, and the option of deep-soak Japanese baths in the spa suites.
The large and opulent studios open on to an oversized private terrace with an outdoor lounge. A complimentary breakfast in the restaurant and a complimentary mini bar (excluding wine) are all part of the star quality of the hotel.
The Signature Suites feature loft ceilings and provide the ultimate getaway, with a huge terrace overlooking the vines, a cocktail bar and a personal wine cellar – and a feature that will be hard to beat – a double sided indoor/outdoor fireplace. A spectacular crystal and copper Christopher Boots lighting installation illuminates the loft and complements the colour, tone and form of this magnificent room.
With panoramic vineyard views and surrounded by the hinterland, the hotel’s private pool deck has a heated plunge pool and offers all day dining.
The pool deck pavilion provides a private spa space with massage treatments. Called the GEODE, it is a design triumph in itself, sitting alongside the hotel’s spectacular black 30 metre infinity pool.
As part of owner Louis Li’s drive to lead the way in contemporary commissioned art – the hotel’s creative narrative is brought to life through a series of works by world-renowned artists and designers. These curated works transform the property to another level with each installation of art adding to the hotel’s story.
Melbourne artist Emily Floyd (well known for her prominent Blackbird sculpture on Eastlink) designed the seven metre Jackalope sculpture that stands as a monument in the hotel’s forecourt. The 5 Flaskes ‘light chemistry’ lamp was created by conceptual artist and designer, Rolf Sachs and local artist Andrew Hazewinkel was commissioned to create a striking series of agate face bust sculptures which are an incredible blend of art and symmetry. American fashion designer Rick Owens designed the Stag Bench, combining colour and texture with a stark modernist look.
The overall identity and art direction of the hotel and its brand environment was created by Fabio Ongarato Design, and they have really excelled – creating such a strong brand identity that has cut through the noise to establish a unique style.
In terms of striking contemporary design, artistic collaborations, fine local wines, fabulous food and luxurious accommodation, Jackalope Hotel seems to have struck gold. What do you think?
166 Balnarring Road, Merricks North.