The Bold, Elegant And Inimitable - Circa 1936
Circa 1936, the near century old heritage building originally erected to house the former Rural Bank of NSW, where you walk in off of your typical country town ‘Main Street’ and are immediately welcomed in to an unfamiliar, unforeseen yet astonishing space that resembles that of the 20th century, taking you back in time as it holds its historical significance but has been fantastically modernised in a way that gives the building new life, vibrance and cultural diversity using foreign art and decor – completely contrasting from the outside world.
Upon entry, you can expect to be welcomed by the owners, Kevin and Ririn Yaxley - two humble, gracious and incredibly passionate souls who invite you in to experience their star creation, the stupendous world that is Circa and all of its elements. Lester, the professional butler ensures you don’t go any longer than a couple of minutes without offering you a beverage of your choice from the local wine and beer collection or spirits bar as well as a berry, citrus and mint infused glass of chilled water (it’s like nectar from the heavens, honestly!). Their full attention is on you and they focus on your needs from the get go. You can’t help but feel incredibly rude while they are talking to you because you can only keep your eyes fixed on them for no longer than a few seconds at a time before your gaze uncontrollably wanders around the room, bouncing from the wall to wall and floor to ceiling at the foreign, edgy, bold and slightly more contemporary wall art, pendant lighting and furnishings - dissimilar to the preserved sheath of the original buildings’ interior that, while clash together style and era wise (if you’re going by the books that is) just works. Everything is ingeniously blended together in the one room! how they do it, I don’t know, but they are incredibly skilled and thorough when it comes to their interior design work.
As you look around the dining room you see many incredible ‘things’, from hand crafted Indonesian furniture, to the unconceivable state of the Javanese petrified wooden table tops (two-million-year-old wood!), to the enormous custom made lamp shade that puts out a harmonising yellow glow and makes for the perfect, ceiling height enhancing centre piece above the open fire place and lounge chairs, to the Michael Moerkerk ‘Pennies From Heaven’ art work dangling over the 1937 Steck Grand Piano, to the aged log ends mounted on the stark white walls and the vintage pendant light display inviting you down the hall. Little do you know though, every one of these ‘things’ are strategically placed to ensure there is a stand out feature that pulls your attention when you’re facing each particular corner or wall of the room - no matter where you stand in the main lounge there is an artefact there to attract and consume you from every angle.
What also absolutely makes the dining room that is your first impression of Circa are the more simple, structural aspects and preserved art deco features from the original design that don’t normally stand out as much of a feature in your average building - like the original hardwood floor boards that have been lifted, re-coated/‘Japanned’ in a shining black glaze and put back down, the original pressed metal ceiling that has been painted over in a beautiful, crisp white to match the walls and shutters, the old bank vault that used to secure the wealth of the prosperous farmers that now houses the finest of local wine and the old bank managers’ office that is now occupied by a small wine bar, also furnished with stunning Indonesian goat hide chairs that perch you up beside the glistening silver bar - a refurbished, more impressive finish than the counter it once was, as well as an impressive imported Chinese bird art piece that carries the unique foreign art theme through from the main lounge.
There are many material aspects to Circa that meet the eye, amaze you and make for an unforgettable experience, but the qualities you can’t take home snapshotted in a photograph are what I find the most special about it – like the aromas that slap you in the face when the doors open - a fusion of scents from the Hotel Day Spa, the roasted coffee beans and teas in the kitchen, the scents that seep from the timber furniture, the fresh mint, lavender and blooms from their garden that have been picked to garnish the dining tables, the wine in the vault and a collection of other fragrances that factor in to that heavenly, inimitable Circa smell.
The buildings critical importance as a bank no longer stands, now, it is a luxury Hotel - its sole purpose is to inspire joy, encourage relaxation and influence intimacy between yourself and the person you share your stay with, forcing you to leave the stresses that come with your day to day life outside. When I asked Kevin what the ultimate experience he wishes for his guests to enjoy at Circa was, he said he hopes that people come and take it all in, be present in the moment, utilise every service on offer and explore every corner of the building to ensure they don’t miss a thing - but most of all, he loves the idea of every individual establishing their own personal outlook and favourite memories upon their visit, because everyone experiences things in their own way and will appreciate some aspects more than others. He told me of one couple in particular that he distinctly remembers because of the evident contrast in their attitude from the minute they arrived to the minute they left, their bitterness and frustration toward each-other as a result of a long trip from the city was completely wiped after they had taken the time to relax in their up-stairs suite, soak up the classical, humble environment around them that almost makes time stand still and were reminded of what it was like to enjoy each-others company. He explained his reluctance to interrupt when he needed to deliver their next dish because he felt it would be a shame to interrupt their deep, intimate gaze. It was as though the team at Circa felt somewhat responsible for encouraging this reconnection between the couple and that it was just what they needed to replenish their love and remember why it is that they appreciate each-other so much - a sensation that they took home with them.. incredible!
I can definitely see how this would have come about after enjoying a night’s stay at the luxury hotel myself, when you walk through those doors and take the time to relax, unwind and forget what you left outside, let Lester – the hospitable and most gracious butler allow you to sit back and let go of any responsibilities, you don’t need to lift a finger unless it is to take a sip of a beverage of your choice or delve in to one of the 10 courses of Tapas!
You can dine in for tapas lunch or dinner and a few beverages or sit on the lounge by the fire place and enjoy a smooth, rich coffee (the beans roasted and traded out of Rutherglen, VIC) or a house made tea blend from the Circa collection to accompany a freshly baked desert treat. If you opt to dine in on a Saturday night, you can expect to be entertained by a talented pianist, playing soft tunes in the background while you enjoy your meal, for the rest of your time in the dining area classical 19th Century style music is played – it truly is what I would imagine a 19th Century wine and dine experience would have been like. Even if you don’t go and stay the night in the Hotel suites or utilise the spa, you MUST go and dine in to see and be impressed by the astonishing world that is Circa 1936.
Even though I couldn’t help but write about a lot of the finer details.. please don’t let my first impression and experience dictate your own.. you have many expectations set already after reading my article, and a visual representation too, but it is nothing on what you will actually see and experience when you step in to those French doors – there’s no 360 degree shot that can capture absolutely everything there is to see, you must go and see for yourself – it is so important that you acquire your own connection to Circa based off of your individual experience. Even just to walk in and smell it for yourself – seriously, if there were a Circa smell scratch and sniff on offer I’d by enough to last me a lifetime!