Travel tips for business trips in Melbourne

Savvy business traveller Chris Pritchard has been covering the pitfalls of corporate and executive travel for more than 20 years. As our resident Business Travel Guru, he imparts his expertise so that your next journey is as easy as a stroll down Wall Street.

Australia’s No. 2 city with close to 3.8 million people, Melbourne successfully ended a drift of corporate offices toward Sydney and Brisbane. Instead, it’s now attracting business. A CBD that became a post-sunset wasteland now buzzes with good restaurants and vibrant nightlife. Melbourne has garnered global awards as the world’s most liveable metropolis and the city’s diary includes numerous major sports events (Melbourne Cup, Grand Prix, a slew of tennis, cricket and AFL fixtures) along with prestigious components of Australia’s arts-and-culture calendar.

Getting around

Qantas or Virgin Blue will see you safely there, with taxis to CBD hotels about $45 and a hotel bus service $15. A grid-pattern downtown makes walking a sensible option between appointments. Alternatively, hop on a tram (city and inner suburbs are Zone 1 at $3.20) or buy a multiple-trip Metcard from a newsagency or convenience store.
taxi: 13 10 08
airport bus: (03) 9935 2811, www.skybus.com.au
tram/bus/train: 13 16 38
melbourne airport: (03) 9297 1600, www.melair.com.au

Staying there

Locked into a corporate travel policy with a major chain? If so, all big hotel and serviced apartment groupings are present (except Sheraton, eased out by Langham); Hilton and Hyatt each have two properties. Otherwise, interesting alternatives abound. For instance, the centrally located Adelphi (rooms from $259) seems plucked from Architectural Digest and is famed for a rooftop pool jutting over Flinders Lane (watch traffic below through a glass floor). The Lindrum (from $225) occupies the reworked innards of a former newspaper office. The all-suite Lyall (from $400) is a celebrity favourite amid South Yarra’s stylish boutiques. Just around the corner, the Como (from $180) is another cool establishment perfect for getting your work done, then staying on in style for the weekend. Good-value alternatives? I’ve often stayed at the boutique-style Crossley ($150) in Chinatown (which slices through downtown, anchored by Little Bourke Street) but the cheaper Ibis ($109) offers central-city lodgings with small-but-spiffy bathrooms. Friends swear by downtown’s Causeway Inn ($175) where heart-of-town location compensates for small rooms, while the newly re-branded Vibe (the old Savoy, $188) opposite Spencer Street Station is a short walk from everything.
adelphi: (03) 9650 7555, www.adelphi.com.au
lindrum: (03) 9668 1111, www.hotellindrum.com.au
lyall: (03) 9868 8222, www.thelyall.com
como (03) 9825 2222, www.comomelbourne.com.au
crossley: (03) 9639 1639, www.accorhotels.com.au
ibis: (03) 9672 0000, www.accorhotels.com.au
causeway inn: (03) 9650 0688, www.causeway.bestwestern.com.au
vibe savoy: (03) 9622 8888, www.vibehotels.com.au

Entertain them

Score points with Melburnians with lunch or dinner at the legendary Flower Drum, an award-winning exponent of Cantonese cooking (whole whiting and Peking Duck are favourites of a much-in-evidence business crowd). Ezard, beneath the Adelphi but independently operated by chef Tegue Ezard, attracts business custom for Asian-accented Mod-Oz (start with a memorable row of oyster shooters). At Langton’s, with its gentleman’s club ambience, male diners outnumber women while a power-brokers’ favourite roasted rack of Hay Valley lamb is much-ordered and non-diners frequent a well-stocked wine bar. Long-established Lynch’s (on Domain Road; allow ten to 15min by cab) serves succulent eye of beef fillet to legions of corporate fans. Number 8, next to Crown Casino, is sublime long-lunch territory overlooking the Yarra. I recall an excellent duck salad, an above-average selection of Victorian whites and withering enthusiasm among fellow diners for the afternoon’s schedule.
flower drum: (03) 9662 3655
ezard: (03) 9639 6811, www.ezard.com.au
langton’s: (03) 9663 0222
lynch’s: (03) 9866 5627
number 8: (03) 9292 5777

Entertain you

This city of precincts seems custom-designed for strolling. Downtown lanes, newly fashionable with Flinders Lane typical, are crammed with bars, restaurants, cafes, boutique hotels, quirky emporia, bookshops and apartments in renovated former rag-trade warrens. Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street is a youthful strip of funky bars and multi-ethnic eateries (try Nyala African Restaurant, run by a former Ethiopian soccer star, for pan-African fare). South Yarra’s Chapel Street gives this formula a more upscale spin. St Kilda’s Acland Street has many restaurants and bars that stay open late. Formerly Italianate but now broadly multicultural, Carlton’s Lygon Street is another foodies’ destination and home to Jimmy Watson’s, where the garden out back is the best part of a well-known wine bar. Southbank, just across the Yarra River from Flinders Street Station, merits exploration with its Crown Entertainment Complex (unlike most big casino developments this one has plenty for non-gamblers, including some of the city’s best restaurants, numerous shops and a cinema multiplex) and the Victorian Arts Centre, the city’s main venue for music, drama and dance. Melbourne boasts many other theatres, including the exquisitely restored Princess Theatre, which has staged many blockbuster musicals. On Federation Square, the Ian Potter Centre is one of the National Gallery of Victoria’s two locations and houses a giant collection of Australian art. Melbourne Museum, one of the nation’s best, has interactive exhibits aplenty. Solo female visitors will feel most relaxed in Southbank and the Chapel Street area, though none of the precincts mentioned is threatening. Most innocuous of all is Southbank’s riverside Southgate complex: in effect, a shopping mall with clustered restaurants and bars.
nyala african restauant: (03) 9419 9128
jimmy watson’s: (03) 9347 3985
crown entertainment complex: (03) 9292 8888, www.crowncasino.com.au
victorian arts centre: (03) 9281 8000, www.theartscentre.net.au
princess theatre: 03 9299 9800, www.marrinertheatres.com.au
ian potter centre, national gallery of victoria: (03) 8662 1553, www.ngv.vic.gov.au
melbourne museum: 13 11 02, www.melbourne.museum.vic.gov.au
southgate: (03) 9699 4311, www.southgate-melbourne.com.au
more info: (03) 9658 9658, www.visitvictoria.com.au

After hours

From downtown hotels it’s an easy amble to 145-year-old Young and Jackson. This pub is famed for Chloe, a nude painting that scandalised Melbourne in its wowser era but has hung here since 1909. Head for the comfy upstairs bar where Chloe is the centrepiece. Diagonally across from the pub is Federation Square with restaurants and bars. Best of the square’s venues for pub food and drinks is the often crowded and very in-vogue Transport. Quieter and jazzier is Bourke Street’s Melbourne Supper Club while, almost across the street, is Spleen Central, where blues dominates an extensive CD collection. Wine and cheese aficionados rave about Punch Lane, a bar in a redbrick building that at different times housed Melbourne’s vice squad and ASIO. Also downtown is the Gin Palace, with its 18 gins and a restfully dim interior filled by mismatched chairs and capacious sofas. All of these venues are popular with female business visitors and none is potentially unsettling.
young & jackson: (03) 9650 3884, www.youngandjackson.com.au
federation square: (03) 9650 3663, www.federationsquare.com.au
transport: (03) 9654 8808, www.transporthotel.com.au
melbourne supper club: (03) 9654 6300
spleen central: (03) 9650 2400
punch lane: (03) 9639 4944, www.punchlane.com.au
gin palace: (03) 9654 0533

Insider tips

1. Hop on the free City Circle tram route looping around the CBD. Grab it most conveniently at marked stops on Flinders or Spring Streets.
2. At peak times – Melbourne Cup week or during the Grand Prix – last-minute hotel rooms can be difficult to locate (with few bargains). Where possible, plan ahead.
3. With an early start next morning, there’s no need to venture far from downtown hotels to unwind. Melburnians come into the city to patronise bars and restaurants down the CBD’s rejuvenated lanes. Or, walk across a bridge over the Yarra (behind Flinders Street Station) and you’re immediately in Southbank.

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