Review - Berkelouw Book Barn, Berrima NSW

February 3, 2019 / By Sally Renouf

My husband and I are avid readers and books have long featured at the heart of our relationship – from our first encounter over weighty textbooks at university, to getting married in Fitzroy Town Hall’s Reading Room in Melbourne. The photo below was taken at the end of our first dance (thanks Corey!). These days, we enjoy reading bedtime stories to our one year old daughter and one of our favourite places to spend time together is at the Berkelouw Book Barn in Bendooley Estate

Bendooley is located around 90 minutes drive from both Sydney or Canberra, near the village of Berrima in the Southern Highlands. The Estate comprises the Book Barn, restaurant, vineyard, cellar door, antiquarian rare book library and newly-built guest accommodation (read on, Weekenders!). We like to arrange catch-ups with friends and family from Sydney at Bendooley, as it provides a charming and convenient halfway point between the two cities.

The heart of the Estate is the Berkelouw Book Barn. The Berkelouw family story features both tragedy and hard-won success, spanning three centuries and the globe. This book dynasty began in Rotterdam, Holland in 1812 and almost came to an end when its founder, Soloman Berkelouw, fell into Rotterdam harbour and drowned in its freezing waters, his bag full of vellum-bound theology books sinking with him. But the bookseller seed had been planted, and Soloman’s family worked hard to maintain the business through the generations. 

Over 160 years later, and on the other side of the world in Sydney, Australia, fifth-generation antiquarian book dealer Leo Berkelouw (Soloman’s great-grandson) recognised his collection had outgrown its premises and relocated Berkelouw books to its current home at Bendooley Estate. 

My husband’s favourite part of a visit to Bendooley comes immediately after we’ve placed our lunch order. Every time, he jumps up and wanders the rows and rows of bookshelves in search of something special. On our last visit, I snapped the photo below of him with our daughter. 

Over the years, we’ve found many treasures, including a rare book on antique silverware and an old copy of Prize Proceedings in the Admiralty Court, a historical legal book for a friend who is both in the navy and in the legal profession. On one occasion, my husband took an old, dilapidated book to the rare book library, and Leo Berkelouw carefully restored it to its former glory. I guarantee that anyone who visits this extraordinary library will find a special book for someone in their lives.

Bendooley has it all; the restaurant even boasts the most spectacular bathroom view I’ve ever seen (it may be worth the drive just for that!). If you are looking for a unique and special place to spend some time, I recommend booking a trip to Bendooley Estate.

First image by Callan Robinson

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