Mark Jameson discovers that most rare of beasts: a hip and stylish hotel in Launceston.
It’s a discreet pleasure you won’t find in glossy tourist brochures. Unsuspecting beer aficionados strolling down William Street in Launceston may find themselves lifted, cartoon-like, onto their tippy toes and wafted eastwards by the tantalising, malty, sour mash aroma that means only one thing: J Boag & Son is brewing today.
Boag’s is one of Tasmania’s oldest and best-known companies but if you can resist the tangy blandishments of the brewery tour and make it to the opposite end of William Street, you’ll find one of the island state’s grooviest upmarket venues. Describing itself as a boutique hotel, the Sebel Launceston started life as the Cornwall in May 2005 and has been steadily attracting corporate suits, well-heeled holidaymakers and anyone looking for a place to rest their head in comfortable, contemporary surrounds.
In July 2006 the Cornwall became the Sebel Launceston. From the outside, the low-rise four storey building is all blue glass and subtle stonework – just the sort of thing to be expected if you had, as the owners reportedly did, plonked $15 million in front of some local architects and said “a hotel, and make it look snazzy.”
The upper floors contain private apartments while the first two storeys are given over to 49 suites, complete with those little extra touches punters look for at this end of the market. Perched on the edge of Launceston’s picnic blanket-sized CBD, the hotel is within easy walking distance of Cataract Gorge, City Park and its Macaque monkey troupe, as well as the National Automobile Museum and the Tasmanian Wood Design Centre.
After a painless registration it’s time to run through my traditional new room checklist. Fluffy bathrobe (tick), wide-screen TV with pay and free-to-air (tick), broadband internet and wireless hotspots (tick), full-sized bath (tick), separate toilet with full-length mirror behind the door (tick). I stop and look again – yes, there’s a large mirror hung in the toilet. Mental note to wear sunglasses first thing in the morning (tick).
Unexpected placement of reflective surfaces aside, the interior fit-out is smart and welcoming. While I’d normally knock down small children and the infirm to avoid using words such as “chic” or “hip”, this hotel does have style. My room is an easy mix of restrained black-grey, blue, brown and light mauve, or as the more colour literate might describe it; mica, café au lait, granite blue and pâté. Sliding doors divide the compact bedroom from the living room, allowing night owls to use the DVD or VCR without disturbing sleepy partners.
The usual supplies of snacks and booze are found in the small pantry and fridge but there’s no coffee plunger to accompany the vacuum-sealed pack of coffee. Nothing missing with the bed, however – king-size with an extra firm mattress swaddled in good quality linen and complimented by a selection of pillows of varying density. The final touches are an easy to operate system of blinds that effectively banishes all exterior light and a room so quiet even this chronic light sleeper’s happily whispered “thank you” to the hotel’s designers sounded loud by comparison.
Other carefully thought-out little flourishes are to be found downstairs and range from the complimentary old-style HB pencils at reception to the use of handsome Tasmanian timber and stone in the foyer. The provision of an ice machine for guests on each floor, though no doubt convenient, is a somewhat bizarre sight given the approaching Tasmanian winter.
Market Square, the hotel’s in-house restaurant, is everything I’d hoped for. Hobart may be the state’s political and administrative centre but Launceston is the culinary capital; Market Square’s menu is literally a roll call of fine Tasmanian produce and wine, with local suppliers and winemakers listed on the cover. Looking over the dishes it’s easy to believe the story about an interstate couple who, after spending the day grazing their way around Festivale (the annual Launceston food festival), still found room for entrees and desserts at Market Square.
Back in the room there’s enough space to spread out a little, check email, watch a movie and make plans for the next day. Just before drifting off I realise that despite multiple trips to “Lonnie” there’s one thing I still haven’t done. The next morning, after a restful night and an unhurried, midmorning check-out, I retrace my steps up William Street towards Boag’s for the first brewery tour of the day.
DETAILS // The Sebel Launceston
Where // Launceston CBD, 15min from the airport, Corner St John and William Streets.
Phone // (03) 6333 7555.
Email // firstname.lastname@example.org
Website // www.mirvachotels.com.au
Style // smart, contemporary and thoughtfully designed.
Size // 49 all suite rooms.
Service // Friendly, obliging.
Cuisine // Well-balanced Mod Oz with emphasis on fresh Tasmanian produce.
Outlook // All rooms have a private balcony.
Room Service // Orders available from the excellent Market Square restaurant, open breakfast, lunch and dinner. Small night-owl menu outside restaurant hours.
Children // Yes.
Disabled Facilities // Two equal-access suites and access to public areas.
Fee // $180 – $330 depending on booking method. Check online.
Best Thing // Love the choice of soft or firm pillows and smart design throughout.
Worst Thing // The views from some rooms are less than inspiring.