Kerr himself is the son of an architect and an interior designer. “My parents taught me that if you’re going to do things, you can do them elegantly and functionally.” Working on “every element woven through the retreat” with Cammeraygal elders, on whose land it sits, Kerr says he is hopeful that the offering will bring the zoo to life in a different way for new and established guests.
Part of that is by upending expectations about staying at a zoo. “People don’t expect the food to be great,” he says. “But we knew it would be a huge part of what we do.” To that end, the retreat’s restaurant, Me-Gal, focuses on indigenous ingredients – though the point isn’t laboured: these are just great dishes that happen to incorporate natives. That zip in your butter is lemon myrtle, that crispy herb on top of fresh spanner crab is fried saltbush.
After breakfast, and before the zoo opens, guests are treated to another insider gift: a private tour including a rare-bird show and visits to the red kangaroos and Tasmanian devils. Sure, rooms here start at $790 at night, but this is money-can’t-buy stuff.
And that’s what is truly remarkable about all this, rather than the luxury trappings (although, of course, they make everything much nicer). Where else in Sydney can you watch koalas nestled in the eucalypts as you have your morning coffee or catch a glimpse of a wallaby settling in for the night as you settle in with your chardonnay? Where else can you walk among potoroos and pademelons and bettongs and, yes, Robbie the echidna?
As Kerr says, “There’s plenty of accommodation in Sydney, but I can honestly say there’s nothing like ours.”
NEED TO KNOW
Wildlife Retreat at Taronga is open now. Room rates are from $790 a night including evening meal, breakfast, tours and zoo access.