A slew of city hotels are now offering sweetly stylish experiences in slick new surrounds, says Nikki Wallman. Here’s our appetite-whetting guide to the stays you can’t miss.
Soggy club sandwiches. Poorly chosen wine lists. The buffet. Our hotel industry has hardly been the place of culinary genius in recent decades – but a few game changers have begun turning that around of late. Result: a new gourmet scene that’s really starting to cook with gas.
“I think hotel guests really appreciate the convenience of having a great restaurant right in the hotel – we find that many of them visit us more than once during their stay,” says Brent Savage of Bentley Restaurant + Bar, which last year made the move from a seven-year winning streak in Sydney’s Surry Hills to the city’s Radisson Blu hotel.
Matthew Rubie, Frasers Hospitality general manager, says partnering with celeb chef Pete Evans to create healthy menus for thePerth hotel’s new Heirloom restaurant “makes us an ‘urban wellness hub’ offering guests options for nutritious and unpretentious food in the heart of the city.”
Meanwhile,Melbourne’s Langham Hotel now serves up to 4,000 high teas a month, with almost 12,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook. Their popularity lies with “those who always read the dessert menu first,” says the hotel’s managing director, Ben Sington.
We’ve found something for everyone – go on, tuck in!
The Shangri-La sweet life, Sydney
Sydney’s Shangri-La hotel already boasts arguably the best views in town, from its spectacular 36th-floor Blu Bar and themed degustation dinners at Altitude Restaurant. But the food here recently climbed to new heights with the recruitment of highly awarded (and brilliant) executive pastry chef Anna Polyviou, who wasted no time introducing a regular ‘Dessert Degustation’ event. The hotel also recently hosted their first ‘Sweet Street’, a heady sugar rush of a food festival, which drew over 500 guests to meet dessert idols like Adriano Zumbo and sample delights including fizzy spider cocktails, dessert ‘hot dogs’ and scrummy gelato. Future similar events are planned, as is the November unveiling of a plush refurbishment of the top five floors, so stay tuned.
Chef by the harbour, Pier One Sydney Harbour
Pier One Sydney Harbour is set to ramp up its embrace of the stunning Sydney Harbour locale it so elegantly occupies. Bang under the bridge, the hotel was preparing to unveil a big-name international chef and brand-new restaurant (opening in November) – and with that iconic water lapping beneath its foundations, you can bet seafood will be a specialty. We’re told a sustainable, farm (ocean?)-to-table ethos will prevail, with an avant-garde approach to classic dishes. Plans are also afoot to make the most of the stunning pier, including long outdoor lunches, a fab Melbourne Cup event and everything from sunrise Tai Chi to sunset cocktails.
Bentley + Bar, Radisson Blu Hotel,Sydney
For years, local foodies and savvy visitors flocked to Surry Hill’s Bentley Restaurant + Bar, for a slice of the elusive magic that happens when superb wine knowledge and elegantly creative food converge. Now, Bentley has packed up and checked into a slick new ground-floor space at Sydney’s Radisson Blu hotel. We say go for the ‘Bentley Package’: one night in a premier room, a seven-course (yep, seven) tasting menu in Bentley Restaurant + Bar, and breakfast for two the next day. The scallop and foie gras starter dish had us at hello: decadent and disarming, it’s the Bentley on a plate.
Poolside Luxe, Crown Metropol, Perth
Crown Perth’s dazzling array of five-star dining (Bistro Guillaume, Nobu, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Silks…) and up-the-ante additions like Jimmy Wong’s (a new pop-up bar, serving goodies like pulled pork steamed buns and Shanghai dumplings) create an almost overwhelming gourmet playground. And then, there’s the exclusive Enclave: a guests-only plunge pool boasting just six luxurious cabanas complete with huge sofas, sun loungers, plasma TV, karaoke systems, iPod connectivity, robes and slippers and a private butler. Book your patch of paradise, order a poolside spa treatment and, depending on the season, tuck into cocktails and some posh nosh from the Guillaume Brahimi-designed in-room menu: salad nicoise with rare yellow fin tuna; freshly shucked oysters with shallots and red wine vinegar… sigh…
Fattening the duck with Heston, Crown Hotel, Melbourne
Luxury behemoth Crown announced earlier that its Melbourne outpost had secured the dream: a six-month tenure (announced to start 3 February 2015) of one of the world’s most lauded restaurants, UK’s The Fat Duck – along with Heston no-surname-needed himself. The famous tasting menu, the same staff, even parts of the building will be transplanted right here, as well as a kitchen-side Chef’s Table for four lucky diners per service. Bookings will be allocated by ballot; registrations open 9am, Monday 8 October. When Fat Duck returns home, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal will take up a permanent residence – the first of his outside of Britain.
Old-school cool in brand new surrounds, Mayfair Hotel, Adelaide
Within the next few months, Adelaide’s city centre will become home to the brand new five-star Mayfair Hotel. The beds may be new, but the setting is a heritage-listed Colonial Mutual Life building; the food in Mayflower Restaurant and Bar will take cues from that past, pairing local produce with a nod to (the best bits of) the ’70s. Lunch will feature a vintage carving trolley with diehard favourites like quilted leg of ham, slow-cooked porchetta or standing rib of beef carved tableside, and there’ll also be a roving dessert trolley (the stuff of hotel dreams, surely?) laden with sentimental sweet treats from the pastry chef: think chocolate mousse, crème caramel, and trifle.
Sweet relief with a Langham high tea, The Langham, Melbourne
The Langham, Melbourne, has become a sweet superstar thanks to its decadent, elegant and imaginative high teas, hosting special themed events as well as its ‘regular’ (seems the wrong word, somehow) afternoon delights. This year’s wildly popular Burch & Purchese teas – a monthly collaboration with famed pastry chef (and Masterchef regular) Darren Purchese – are set to continue, featuring goodies such as lamington eclairs, salted caramel tarts with smoked vanilla salt, a banana split ‘tube’, and mini strawberry, mint and white chocolate cakes, alongside classic fluffy scones and sandwiches. A special new Wedgwood high tea is also planned for late 2014.
Sip at a champagne stay, TRYP Wyndham hotel, Brisbane
The youthful, urban ‘TRYP by Wyndham’ hotel brand opened its first Australian outpost in Brisbane this September, featuring artworks from acclaimed street artists and a rooftop bar, Up (licensed till 2am). Thanks to special collaborations with Moët Hennessy and Diageo, the bar will feature Veuve Clicquot as its first-pour champagne and trendy-as-they-come brand Cîroc as its vodka partner. The top-notch drinks will also feature at Chur, the hotel’s outpost of the Sydney gourmet burger joint from former Assiette chef Warren Turnbull. Sounds like quite the party to us – but if you’d prefer to stay in your room, the Veuve is available in half-bottles from the minibar, too.
DIY Barossa, The Intercontinental, Adelaide
You may as well take home some new cooking skills with those extra holiday kilos, right? The InterContinental Adelaide’s monthly masterclasses begin with a tour of the famous Central Market, where executive chef Tony Hart shares the secrets of picking the best seasonal produce before heading back to the hotel to prepare top-notch dishes along a specific theme. The best bit? Chilling out, relaxing and enjoying the results of your hard work – along with some award-winning wine (local, of course). Recent classes have included the art of mastering homemade pasta, seafood, sushi, and superfoods, with a ‘best of South Australian regions’ and a special Christmas masterclass still to come.
Eat, drink and seal a deal, QT, Canberra
QT Canberra’s pop-art politician portraits, spy kits in the minibar and emphasis on upmarket food and drink all help cement its must-stay status. But the (hush-hush) jewel in the crown may well be the members-only, 15th-floor QT Lounge, complete with secret meeting rooms; plush, high-backed furnishings to encourage discretion; well-stocked bar (to help seal the deal) and menu featuring embassy-inspired club sandwiches (we like the sound of the Turkey Club with lemon aioli, raclette cheese, tomatoes, free range egg and crispy pancetta). Perfect for politic heavyweights to kick back or kick on, safe from prying eyes.
Seafood so good you’ll stay all night, Gamboro Hotel, Brisbane
Brisbane’s Gambaro family built the luxurious new Gambaro Hotel right next to their award-winning seafood restaurant in the buzzing Paddington precinct, combining sleek, plush rooms of warm chocolate and caramel tones with the gourmet dining downstairs. Try the signature Queenslandbrown-belly mud crab or tableside flambéed prawns at Gambaro seafood restaurant; or head across the road to Gambaro’s Black Hide Steakhouse for the 1.2-kilogram grain-fed, 120 day wet-aged tomahawk steak. Of course, you could go all-out for the in-room butler service with balcony dining.
Guilt-free gourmet with a side of celebrity, Heirloom restaurant, Fraser Suites, Perth
TV superstar Pete Evans has lent his Midas touch to the newly revamped Heirloom restaurant at the five-star Fraser Suites Perth, designing a menu of seasonal, local and largely good-for-you dishes to leave you holiday-happy. Non-kale-fans, never fear: while there’s a ‘paleo’ influence (that’s low-carb, high-protein for those who don’t speak quinoa) and gluten-free options, the menu features hearty WA sirloin with roasted bone marrow and includes a tiramisu for dessert, alongside lighter offerings like steamed wild barra with sweet potato, lime and coconut sauce and chia; and delish raw cheesecake to finish.
Take a piece of providore, Hobart
Hobart’s two hottest properties (aside from its hotels) would have to be its gorgeous local produce scene and abundant art, and the luxury Henry Jones Art Hotel offers both. We’re particularly taken with the genius idea of the on-site providore at the Jam Packed Café, where 95 per cent of the produce is locally sourced. Take a seat in the atrium and order from the way-above-your-average hotel café menu: pork and fennel croquettes with poached eggs, HuonValleymushrooms, provolone and wild rocket; or IXL jam jaffles with Henry Jones berry jam, lemon sugar and vanilla cream. Then pick up some hazelnut cream (that would be their local version of Nutella) or confit whisky relish to take some delicious memories home.