Does Ballarat’s newest boutique hotel measure up to the city’s buzzing arts and dining scene? We check in to find out.
“Have you stayed here before?” The receptionist asks sweetly when my partner and I check in. We tell her no, and she tells us we’re in for a treat.
The Provincial Hotel
121 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat, Vic
The Provincial Hotel has only been open for three months or so when we rock up on an autumn evening, and there’s a buzz in the air that reflects the buzz on the street in Ballarat right now; this new boutique accommodation feels like the perfect complement to the recent crop of culinary and arts offerings that is securing the old gold town’s reputation as the perfect spot for a weekend away.
It’s centrally located on Lydiard Street and opposite the railway station – the height of convenience should you be rolling in from Melbourne by train.
I’m a sucker for a heritage building and this one, built in 1909 and listed by the National Trust for its expressive Art Nouveau facade, had me at its domed turrets. But a new story has been written inside by owners Simon and Gorgi Coghlan and business partner Drew Harry. They’ve created a stylish and serene space that, in true Ballarat style, takes design cues from contemporary trends while staying sympathetic to the building’s old bones.
A blue-and-ivory colour palette is employed throughout its common spaces and most guest rooms, built up in layers of subtly contrasting patterns; each area we move through presents its own lovely vignette.
Reaching the first floor landing en route to our suite (one of 23 across the boutique hotel and its corporate wing), for example, I take in the colourful and geometric art of Buninyong artist Robyn Batrouney. It plays off against the illustrative Brunschwig & Fils wallpaper it’s mounted on and the sinuous stained-glass window in the stairwell opposite. Our Lola Deluxe is, pleasingly, more of the same: a riff on texture and colour.
The styling throughout the bedroom and separate living area echoes Cabarita Beach’s Halcyon House and London and New York’s Firmdale Hotels: a big, bold bedhead is plumped up with plush cushions; antique furniture is met with modern upholstery; vintage and modern prints in mismatched frames are juxtaposed against each other. And there’s Aesop in the bathroom, which is always a good sign.
We’re greeted with a welcome note and a bottle of local wine and even though I was anticipating this – part of the deal when you book directly through the website – it still feels like a nice surprise. A ‘Provincial Hotel Passport’ offers further welcome and a list of recommendations on where to eat, drink and play nearby as well as further afield.
After a long drive from Sydney we opt for a low-key pub meal down the road rather than dining at elegant in-house restaurant Lola (named after the exotic dancer and actress Lola Montez, who caused a sensation when she visited the Goldfields in the 1850s), but make a beeline for breakfast there in the morning.
Head chef Shaun Thomson has worked alongside the likes of Peter Gilmore, Neil Perry and Peter Kuruvita, and his menu celebrates Ballarat-region produce at any time of day.
We settle into a navy-leather banquette in the bright, sunny dining room, where the colour palette and style notes carry through. My Aussie classic of poached eggs and avo on toast with local Meredith feta is done just right; as is my St Ali coffee. Our stay here at the Provincial has indeed been a treat – as promised.
The AT verdict
It’s no surprise The Provincial Hotel recently won Best Boutique Style Accommodation at the Tourism Accommodation Australia (Victoria) awards: this is the ideal crash pad for a cultural weekender in Ballarat.
The attention to detail: from the passionate staff to the thoughtful notes and beautifully executed styling throughout. Seemingly five minutes from everything, its location too is ideal for exploring this very walkable city by foot.
We watched a film on the room’s Apple TV (another nice touch) but couldn’t quite get comfy on the couch!
All AT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.