Vault 91

Last updated 03 Mar, 2023

It all started with... the most magnificent empty foyer in town.

Previously, if you'd walked into the ground level at Westpac House, 91 King William Street in 2021, you might have barely have paused to take in its grand height, ornate ceilings and glossy marble. Now, Vault 91 wine and coffee bar gives you an excellent reason to linger. Over a bespoke blend coffee, one of the 91 wines available by the glass, or a private dinner, you'll be wondering why this space wasn't used sooner.

Maybe it's the fact that the towering Westpac House is almost obscure at street level, tucked away down a walkway and beyond a covered plaza. The foyer's grandeur hails from 91 King William's origins as 'The State Bank Building', built in the 1980s as a hybrid of stately old-school banking style, and the excess of the times.

Vault 91 is a strictly weekday operation, so we highly recommend you find some important business to discuss there with someone, pronto.

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New the fit out may be, but it's seamlessly integrated with the existing interior. The freestanding bar echoes the blunted wedge shape of the building and. Marble is matched to the lift surrounds. As co-business-owner Paul Shaw says, 'it's like it's always been here'. Paul brings high-end hospitality skills to the business, as a hotelier from world-renowned hotel chain the Hotel Intercontinental.. Co-owner Micha Ilic is chef and sommelier, formerly of the Adelaide Club. Together, The pair masterminded the Vault 91 space together. 'You walk in from from the street and come towards the bar,' says Micha, 'and it has that feeling of a 1920s bank. Brass and glass and marble.' A little bit Gringotts, but make it friendly.

Launched March 2022, Vault 91 is a striking combination of towering space and quiet seclusion. 'There was a gap in the market for people to meet, have a coffee and a conversation and hear each other talk and hear yourself think,' says Paul. During the day, there's a relaxed business-like vibe. Later, Wednesday through Friday, Vault 91 loosens its tie. 'When the lights drop down, about five, five-thirty,' says Paul, 'it just gets crazy for a few hours. It's a great place to come and see and be seen.'

Our interview is constantly interrupted - in a good way - by appreciative customers, offering words of thanks to Micha and Paul as they exit. Their attention to detail and hospitality is not unnoticed.

Vault 91 wine

Coffee, naturally, is up to the notoriously demanding standards of Adelaideans. Vault 91 brews with a bespoke blend Micha created with Vittoria, and a state-of-the-art coffee machine. 'We've got some bloody great baristas as well,' says Paul. With attractive Monday to Friday hours, the cream of Adelaide's hospitality hospo staff can work in enviable surrounds and enjoy that rare beast, a real weekend.

A bar menu of tasty fare is available throughout the day and features premium South Australian produce, enhanced by Micha's respectful light touch.

With 91 different wines available by the glass, you may be wondering how on earth they keep them fresh. Aside from a high turnover, Vault 91 employs the Coravin system and imposing Enomatic machine, which preserves the freshness and dispenses precise doses, including tasting samples sampling tastes.

Vault 91's signature cocktail holds special meaning. 'My mother passed away about four years ago,' says Paul. 'Her name was Frances, and she loved Southern Comfort.' He told this to Micha, and 'unbeknownst to me, he went away and designed Note to Frances, based on an Old Fashioned. Southern Comfort, bitters and different secret bits as well'.

Tailored private meals are a growing specialty, particularly in the sunken lounge that was once the Currie Street entrance of the building. Walled in, softened with undulating curtains and upholstered seating, the space takes full advantage of a richly ornate ceiling that could easily be from 1888 rather than 1988.

The bar holds an off-premise licence, meaning that if you love a glass of something, you can buy a bottle to take home. Micha and Paul propose to extend this to food as well. 'Our own steaks and wines to take home... grain fed South Australian Angas beef, a beautiful bottle of red wine, and maybe some dark chocolate' will be the first offering in time for upcoming Father's Day celebrations.

Vault 91 coffee

When we visit, there's an art exhibition in residence. Machinations are underway for a collab with LaMilago Bespoke Tailors, with men's and women's clothing on display and an evening of 'suit fitting, whiskey and champagne'.

There are plans for the spacious undercover entrance plaza, too. Prior to opening Vault 91, Paul helped bring the space to life with food, bar and DJs for the city's 'FOMO Fridays' program in 2021. 'About three or four hundred people out there for a big party... it's a unique space in the CBD, it's weatherproof... all the lights, it looked gorgeous, like an Italian piazza.' Watch this space.

Seek out Vault 91 at 91 King William Street, on the western side between Waymouth and Currie Streets. Look for the red 'W' Westpac House sign, and follow the walkway through to this hidden haven.

Instagram: @vault91bar

Words: Jane Goldney

Images: JP Media


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