A new boutique hotel in an old Melbourne cinema is full of surprises, finds Leanne Clancey.
Forget cinematic excellence, the one thing I remember most about the old Greater Union cinema in Russell Street is the damn seats. With a low-slung design that finished midway up your back, they would have to go down as the most uncomfortable cinema seats I’ve ever had the misfortune of spending an hour and 25 in.
When the cinema closed in 2013, I was happy to see it go.
Today, the stark, modernist 1970s building that once housed these poorly designed pews is barely recognisable from its former self thanks to a super-glam overhaul by the QT hotel chain. And I’m happy to say, there’s not an uncomfortable piece of furniture to be found.
Since opening in September 2016, QT Melbourne has brought some much-needed personality to the city’s boutique hotel scene. Known for its quirkiness, QT Hotels seems befitting of a city like Sydney – where you’ll find the flagship – but I wasn’t convinced that its cheeky, OTT brashness would translate here in Melbourne.
But when it comes to first impressions, QT Melbourne has a particularly strong game.
For a start, you can’t miss those shiny copper-capped entrance doors, even from half a block away. Then there’s the immaculate, designer-clad bell staff (or ‘Directors of Chaos’, as they’re known here).
On arrival, we’re greeted outside by two perfectly coiffed young women. Their flawless make-up and megawatt smiles set the scene for what is to be a suitably theatrical hotel experience.
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Inside the lobby, the windows and ceilings soar and the staff look like extras from a Robert Palmer video. The moody-glam décor and sweeping, brass-lined staircase add to the mounting sense of drama. Check-in is seamless and the staff well drilled.
As we step into the low-lit lift en route to our room, we’re greeted by seductive coos from an anonymous woman speaking in French. Each lift plays a different voice-over in various languages.
QT quirky? You betcha.
While the building itself has been redesigned by Sydney-based architect Angelo Candalepas, the public spaces and 188 rooms have been conceived by interior designer Nic Graham and architect and designer Shelley Indyk respectively.
The rooms themselves are well proportioned, with good natural light and wonderful views of the city’s rooftops and skyline. They exude a calm sophistication.
I’m told the gel-topped beds here have a reputation that precedes them, and after a night spent luxuriating, I’m soon calculating the financial practicalities of getting one myself.
Kitted out with black steel, slate tiling and a retractable rippled glass privacy screen, the adjoining bathroom is functional and discreet. The aromatic (Malin+Goetz) amenities are a nice touch.
The mini-bar is no afterthought (think high-end snacks, wacky gifts and craft spirits) and I’m always a fan of a portable Bose Bluetooth speaker in hotel rooms (it’s time for hoteliers everywhere to ditch dated plug-in speakers).
After an afternoon nap on that bed, we venture down to check out the rest of the hotel.
On the ground floor there’s a gift shop, a cafe with an amazing patisserie, a Japanese-Korean laneway bar called Hot Sauce and, next door, a shop that sells handcrafted Japanese knives.
On the first floor, there’s fine dining restaurant Pascale Bar & Grill with chef Paul Easson at the helm.
Upstairs, the rooftop bar shows us exactly how rooftops should be done and I have to admit that, yes, QT does have a thing or two to teach Melbourne about its boutique hotel scene.
The details: QT Melbourne
Where: 133 Russell Street, Melbourne, Vic; qthotelsandresorts.com
Verdict: The arrival of QT adds a big dose of personality to Melbourne’s top-end hotel landscape. With excellent bars and dining, it’s as much a coup for locals as it is for visitors.
We rated: The unashamed glamour and extroversion of the place, the wow-factor of the rooftop and the supremely comfortable bed.
We’d change: The gym. With small proportions and no water or towels on offer, it felt like an afterthought.
Notes: We paid $280 for one night in a QT King.
All AT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.
See our Sydney QT review… Review: QT Bondi