From Hunter Valley dreamers to coastal culinary royalty – the journey of Karina and Brian Barry
Nestled atop Killcare Heights, amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Central Coast, is a destination like no other – boutique accommodation, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, a cocktail bar, and an artisanal bakery – all wrapped into one.
Introducing Karina and Brian Barry, the owners and operators of renowned Bells at Killcare Boutique Hotel, celebrated restaurant The Wild Flower Bar & Dining, and Pretty Beach House – region’s only member of the exclusive, Luxury Lodges of Australia collection.
Before settling on the Central Coast, Karina and Brian were living in the Hunter Valley, working at Karina's family resort. Little did they know that their journey was about to take a thrilling turn when they were approached by local businessman John Singleton to manage a Bed and Breakfast he had recently acquired.
Despite its remote location with only six villas, the couple instantly fell in love with the area and the surrounding Bouddi National Park.
They took a leap of faith and decided to lease the business in 2007. They immediately established a destination restaurant based on the concept of a French Auberge - a classic countryside resort complete with a manor house, restaurant, pool, day spa, kitchen gardens, and luxury accommodation.
In 2015, they purchased the freehold property from Mr Singleton. Choosing Killcare as the location for their culinary haven was a natural decision.
“Guests visiting the area find a sense of rejuvenation and inspiration, thanks to the positive energy exuding from the nearby Bouddi National Park and pristine beaches,” Karina says.
Wild Flower Bar & Dining's farm-to-table aspect was an integral part of the original concept for their in-house restaurant. With the privilege of residing on 25 acres, Karina and Brian were able to create and expand their kitchen gardens.
“The original garden has grown considerably larger and even more significant to our menu planning.”
Head Chef Dean Worthy and Head Gardener Megan Jackson work closely to ensure seamless coordination between the garden's produce and the menu at Wild Flower.
Pasta lovers are in for a treat with fluffy house-made Ravioli, served with prawn, scallop, ricotta, and rich burnt sage butter, adorned with salmon pearls – it’s an absolute delight.
The Fresh Ocean Shelf and Raw Bar take centre stage and offer Russian Sturgeon Caviar and Sydney Rock Oysters to Grilled WA Octopus, paired with kipfler potato and a caramelised vinegar dressing. The Fisherman's hot pot pie is a showstopper, perfectly flaky with a medley of seafood treasures, served alongside grilled sourdough and a petit salad.
Try the gelatinous Braised Beef Cheek, served with a root vegetable puree, a delightful farro ragu, roasted baby turnip, and a sprinkling of parmesan. The Savoy Cabbage is a perfect accompaniment paired with Pecorino and 'cacio e pepe' dressing. The Duck Fat Roast New Potatoes, infused with confit garlic and rosemary are an absolute personal favourite of this writer.
Under Brian's watchful eye and personal selection, Wild Flower boasts arguably the largest wine list on the coast. A true oenophile's delight, it feels akin to a bible brimming with an exquisite collection of aged cellar wines.
The interior blends the charm of a country home with the laid-back vibe of a beach house. Crisp linen napkins, pops of blue and white, resurfaced timber tables, and attentive yet relaxed service set the scene for an inviting dining experience. Take in the scenic views of the perfectly manicured gardens, which also serve as a sought-after wedding venue.
For those seeking a more casual indulgence, the bar is the perfect spot to unwind with a refreshing cocktail or a glass of Hunter Valley wine at any time of the day. Additionally, snacks are readily available, making it an ideal spot for a quick bite.
Always striving to elevate the Bells experience, Karina and Brian are currently building four two-bedroom luxury lodges with private plunge pools offering breathtaking views of Palm Beach and beyond. These villas will add a new level of unpretentious opulence.
“They’ll be like your own private beach house with full luxury hotel service provided.”
There are also future plans to expand the day spa and add a full service wellness centre at Bells, surrounded by a beautiful walled garden. This new addition will complement the overall 5-star experience, allowing guests to further indulge in relaxation and rejuvenation.
Bells’ sister property, Pretty Beach House, and its affiliation with Luxury Lodges of Australia sets it apart from other accommodations on the Coast.
Among only 19 properties in Australia holding this prestigious membership, the ultra-exclusive Pretty Beach House offers unique and all-inclusive packages with a fantastic array of experiential activities.
Nestled in Bouddi National Park, the property boasts a highly personalised service and tailored menus to suit each guest. Some villas come with private plunge pools and outdoor fire pits ensuring an extraordinary and personalised stay.
The Barrys have carved a special place in the hearts of those seeking true Australian luxury, tranquility, and a taste of French-inspired elegance on the Central Coast.
Whether savouring freshly baked pastries and coffee from the bakery, indulging in a rejuvenating massage at the day spa, or embarking on a delicious Mediterranean adventure at Wild Flower Bar & Dining, there is something extraordinary for everyone to cherish at Bells at Killcare and Pretty Beach House.