QT Canberra brings new meaning to the term ‘political party’– but, asks Nikki Wallman, does it deliver on the serious side of the hotel experience?

Politics, it seems, is having quite the pop-culture moment. Witness the download-now-or-die success of political TV drama House of Cards, with its cloak-and-dagger bed-hopping and backstabbing. Or Seinfeld’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus as feisty, gaffe-prone US vice president Selina Meyer in the hilarious Veep (Foxtel viewers, that one’s for you). Hell, even our real-life pollies seem increasingly focused on the power of pop politics (see: K-Rudd’s selfies; Abbott’s front-row fashionista daughters…).

It’s snappy timing, then, for the QT brand to pull up at the former Rydges Lakeside hotel in Canberra, bringing its signature formula of crazy/sexy/cool to an extensive redevelopment of this 205-room former political hotspot (the hotel hosted several milestone party meetings, celebrations and conferences in its previous incarnation). The end result, according to QT’s website, is a site where “luxury chic and politics meet in the nation’s capital”.

QT Canberra’s April opening follows hot on the heels of the new design-led Hotel Hotel, which sits in the foreground of the view of Parliament House from our balcony. Both hotels are located in the emerging arts and cultural precinct of New Acton, a testament to Canberra’s rising stock in ‘cool’.

Our room is rendered in minimalist chic; the monochromatic theme accented with touches of colour and quirk (the signature QT cocktail station; a cute glasses-wearing dog on the chair pillow). The spy-themed minibar offers everything from an emergency bowtie and ‘Intimacy Kit’ to requisite booze and snacks. The large TV, mounted above a desk complete with postcards featuring infamous pollie quotes (“I wanna do you slowly” – Paul Keating), elicits a happy sigh from my husband as he flicks on the footy.

And the bed… oh, the bed. Marshmallow-soft, it’s easy to imagine a few missed early-morning diplomacy phone calls (or just, ahem, breakfast). The small bathroom ticks most boxes: big mirror, large rain showerhead; good lighting, and quality toiletries from New York brand Malin + Goetz.

However – and maybe I just don’t get minimalist chic – the room feels slightly lacking in the ‘luxe’ factor promised by the website. It might be the unadorned white walls (save for one odd, red wire ‘sculpture’); the way the furniture doesn’t seem to quite fill the space; or – a personal bugbear – the thin bathroom towels. Overall, however, these are small detractions, forgotten once we venture downstairs.

Encompassing reception, lobby, lounge areas, cool barbershop-slash-entrance to Lucky’s Speakeasy, and the Capitol Bar & Grill, the sprawling ground floor is QT’s crowning glory. Dominated by dark tones and complemented by blond wood and monochromatic, patterned furnishings, it’s modern and sophisticated, full of playful, cheeky winks and nods to the site’s heavyweight political history.

Service is smooth and friendly, the young staff obviously chuffed to be part of Canberra’s sexy new thang. Neon Twitter feeds scroll down mirrors next to reception, and the wallpaper is brilliant: a kaleidoscopic pattern of pollies, with miniature Tony Abbotts overlapping grinning Kevin Rudds.

The central lobby area feels slightly redundant: a few glass-domed cabinets filled with politically-themed knick-knacks failing to inject much character into the large space. It’s a rare example of where, thanks to the existing structure, the design feels retro-fitted rather than purposeful.

Turn the corner though, and you come to a cool lounge area where neon and pop-art portraits of world leaders past and present – from Kim Jong-un to Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy – line the corridor. This leads us to the Capitol Bar & Grill, where we settle in for a drink by the slick gas fireplace before dinner in the buzzing restaurant – the highlight of our stay.

QT’s food guru Robert Marchetti presents a menu packed with confidence (our shared rib eye is smoky, perfectly cooked – the best steak I’ve had in years), flavour (hello, truffled mac’n cheese!) and that signature QT playfulness (crunchy, fluffy donuts come with jam and custard-filled syringes for you to inject). It isn’t cheap, but well worth the splurge.

Vote QT? Why, yes. Yes, I would.

The details: QT Canberra

The verdict: QT is set to shake up Canberra’s hospitality scene with its signature blend of playful, chic décor and serious bar and dining clout. The ‘luxe’ factor could be dialled up a little in the rooms, but really you’ll want for nothing.
The score: 16/20; great
We rated: The dining experience is reason alone to visit; the cloud-like beds will make you linger a while longer.
We hated: Sometimes it feels as though attention to political knick-knacks takes precedence over thoughtful furnishings. And we didn’t try the antipasto buffet, which is apparently ah-maz-ing. Our bad.
Where: QT Canberra, 1 London Circuit, Canberra, ACT
Notes: We paid $229 for a Queen room (plus $12 overnight parking fee)
Contact: 02 6247 6244; qtcanberra.com.au

NB: All AT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.


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