It’s the kind of place you wouldn’t mind living in, but this beautiful old Subiaco residence is actually one of city’s best hotels. Elisabeth Knowles drops by It’s a Saturday morning in early March and I’ve just arrived in Perth for a relaxed weekend away from rain-soaked Sydney and its washed-out summer. It’s 9am, blue-skied and already hitting 30°C in the inner-city suburb of Subiaco. At last, I’ve found a place where the weather matches the season.

I wander up Rokeby Road on the way to my “hotel”, taking time stop for a coffee, and browse in a few small boutiques and home interiors stores. Much of my time is spent sifting through art supplies, indie magazines and handcrafted stationery in a fantastic gift-shop-cum-art-supplies-store-cum-night-time-tapas-bar called Gill and Hille Merchants (located at 341 Rokeby Road).

Shortly after I hit the end of the shopping strip, I’m walking up the driveway of Eight Nicholson, a white-painted heritage home complete with bullnose verandah and manicured hedge borders.

I ring the doorbell and am greeted so warmly by the person who answers that I assume we’ve met before. But no, boutique hotel manager Michael Comyns is just a really friendly guy, and this is a casual, welcoming place. It’s also one of the few nice places to stay in Perth.

Thanks to the WA mining boom, it’s often hard to find a place to stay in the city unless you book quite a way in advance. But it’s not just a matter of the beds being taken: there’s a dearth of beautiful hotels in the capital.

Yes, there’s old-fave The Richardson, which is close to the CBD, five-star and comfortable. Then there’s the ultra-fab Intercontinental at Burswood Entertainment Complex (about to be rebranded the Crown Metropol). But as far as cutting-edge, small, luxury hotels go – ones that are still affordable – you’re really at a loss unless you come to Eight Nicholson.

I can almost hear the screams of “Nooooo! Don’t tell!” from anyone who has stayed at this charming yet contemporary four-room B&B, often occupied by businesspeople midweek. Apologies to those people, but our readers deserve to know!

I’m shown around the house and told to make myself at home in the large and sunny combined kitchen/dining/conservatory-style casual lounge area, which has a table stocked with magazines, as well as the Wallpaper Guide to Perth and local Good Food Guide. At 6pm, I’m told, a bottle of red will be opened and left in the lounge room for guests to enjoy before they head out for a meal.

I was hoping to go back to Gill and Hille for dinner but it’s so packed full of happy folk that I can’t get a table. Instead, I take Michael’s suggestion and check out Meeka, a modern-Australian restaurant with Middle Eastern influences and lots of tagine-based mains (361 Rokeby Rd). Its Turkish-delight ice-cream topped with Persian fairy floss is phenomenal.

Fully satiated, I waddle back to Eight Nicholson and let myself into my room (don’t worry, while this is a B&B in the technical sense, you’re allowed total privacy and freedom to come and go as you please). The room is a lovely space with a king-size bed, high ceilings, bay windows with full-length curtains, an original ornate fireplace, open walk-in robe and ensuite bathroom. Thow rugs, South Pacific artefacts, framed photographs and a wall-mounted TV make it a very comfy place to kip. It’ll be the first place I try for a bed when I’m next in town.

The Details
Where Eight Nicholson is at 8 Nicholson Rd, Subiaco, WA.
Notes Elisabeth paid $299 for a Saturday-night stay, which is the standard room cost year-round. The tariff includes a decadent three-course home-cooked breakfast and an evening tipple, which is left out in the drawing room. Children under 14 aren’t allowed, so it’s quiet and relaxing.
Contact (08) 9382 1881; 8nicholson.com.au

THE AT Verdict

Elisabeth Knowles, who paid her own way and visited anonymously, says:
“When I head back to Perth, this will be the first place I try to find a room. It’s so comfortable and charming that it’s quite hard to drag yourself outside. It’s also one of those places that make you consider chucking in your job and running a B&B. Moving forward (to quote Julia Gillard), this is the way all B&Bs should be.”

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