Team behind Higher Ground takes on The Beach House, Geelong

Nathan Toleman and Geelong mayor Bruce Harwood outside the heritage-listed Beach House, Geelong.
Nathan Toleman and Geelong mayor Bruce Harwood outside the heritage-listed Beach House, Geelong. 

The team behind some of Melbourne's most popular cafes – Higher Ground, Kettle Black and Top Paddock – is busting out of Melbourne, taking a 10-year lease on the Beach House in Geelong.

The Eastern Beach restaurant, in a heritage-listed 1930s brick building on Geelong's foreshore, has been shuttered since April 2016.

Mulberry Group director Nathan Toleman says they've been working on the design for the past three or four months. 

Built in the 1930s, the Beach House, Geelong, has been shuttered since 2016.
Built in the 1930s, the Beach House, Geelong, has been shuttered since 2016. Photo: Supplied

The restoration plans need heritage approval but Toleman hopes that, with support from Geelong council, they'll have the Beach House Geelong open by January. 

If approved, a 120-seat cafe will occupy much of the ground floor. 

They've hired chef Ben McMenamin (ex Liar Liar and Supernormal) to serve the kind of modern cafe dishes that have earned the group's Melbourne venues a loyal following.

Kettle Black, in a Victorian terrace in South Melbourne.
Kettle Black, in a Victorian terrace in South Melbourne. Photo: Peter Clarke

In Geelong, he'll showcase regional produce, giving some dishes a #wellness spin to suit habitues of the popular sea baths and recreation spot. 

A ground-floor kiosk will deliver family-friendly kiosk fare – house-made soft serves, smoothies, fish tacos, sausage rolls. 

Above, the team envisages a 250-square-metre event space used as a community hub day and night for launches, talks and events.

Toleman says despite the challenges heritage buildings can present, they find the projects rewarding. "People have a connection with these buildings. They are already part of the story of people's lives."

Previous Mulberry Group projects have included Kettle Black, inside the last Victorian terrace in Albert Road, South Yarra, and Higher Ground, in a 19th-century powerhouse in Spencer Street, Melbourne.

The Beach House Geelong is at 95 Eastern Beach Road, Geelong. It is expected to open in late-December or early January 2019, subject to heritage approval.