W is for …
WOW. BRISBANE’S NEW 5-STAR HOTEL HITS THE SPOT
It’s barely knock-off time on a Friday afternoon and the level-four Wet Deck is burbling with life. The after-work crowd jostles for pole position on the terrace lounges with their river views, the setting sun transforming glasses of rose-scented cocktails into neon-pink lanterns. Cool sounds selected by an in-house Music Curator rise above the splashing from the pool, with its wow-factor Op Art ceiling. There’s a palpable sense of excitement: who would have thought this businesslike corner of Brisbane could be so glamorous?
W is an über-cool hotel brand that doesn’t do design by halves, but even by the standards set by its properties around the world, W Brisbane is extraordinary. The 312-room hotel, which opened last month on a once unfriendly thoroughfare near the old riverside casino, is the first five-star arrival in the CBD in more than 20 years, and it has its eye firmly on the future. That future is owned by Millennials: no wonder there’s a feast for the Insta-savvy eye at every turn.
Enter at street level, past the big W logo by the driveway (click!) and you’re in the concierge space they call Wheels. Up a curved flight of stairs is the spacious Welcome level, where a diamante-encrusted sculpture pays tribute to Queensland in the form of a giant flip-flop, banana and pineapple. Wrapped around the central lift-well are three gleaming check-in desks, a Becker Minty gift shop collab, and the stunning Living Room with its long marble bar, dramatically lit glass cabinets and nests of lounges, small tables, ottomans, lamps, bright accent cushions and wall installations (click, click, click!). It’s a riot of shape, colour and texture… and then you step into a purple neon lightbox featuring a giant beetle motif, which happens to be the lift.
Many so-called “design hotels” leave much of the design at the guest-room door, dialling it down into bedroom accents via wall art, maybe a funky textile and some knick-knacks. Here, the “River Dreaming” concept by Sydneybased designers Nic Graham & Associates flows right into the suites, where there’s a play of eddy-like patterns in the carpet and on the
walls, a watery translucence in the curved bathroom wall and suggestions of reeds in the wardrobe’s timber doors. All this, thankfully, is in neutral tones, because there’s a busy top-dressing of jewel-coloured cushions, a blue bar cabinet topped with a pink pineapple ice bucket and neon pink cocktail tray, a birdcage-like lampshade and numerous other troppo touches.
Perhaps it’s the kind of design concept you have to sleep on. In the morning, after a river-deep slumber on a cloud of a bed, I press the button that opens the fab automated double curtains … and in streams that Brisbane River light to somehow make sense of it all.
Our party meets over breakfast in the in-house restaurant Three Blue Ducks, a brand that has migrated north from outfits in Sydney and Byron Bay and is all about locally sourced, sometimes surprising, cosmopolitan Australian fare. We sample mango bircher bowls and clever juices, hot-smoked salmon and made-to-order eggs (a small sample of a stunning spread) before hauling ourselves into the sunshine. Three hours later we’re back, showing the hotel off to friends with a splendid lunch of Moreton Bay bugs, spiced lamb with eggplant puree, woodroasted haloumi and a sea salt meringue with lemon and macadamia.
W is a feast for the senses, even if your taste in luxury hotel décor tends towards beige. Underpinning it all are five-star service and facilities including a conference centre, gym and large spa with Edwards & Co hair salon. The guest rooms and suites, ranging from Wonderful (40sqm, partial river views) to the soon-to-open Extreme Wow (200sqm, panoramic views, separate bedroom) feature bathrooms with Bliss products, deep tubs and rain-showers, along with 55-inch TVs and Bluetooth speakers… and, note to Millennials, USB ports for charging those Insta-weary smartphones.
◖ Perfect for: Holidaymakers, suits (there are extensive conference and meeting facilities including a ballroom) and cultural tourists.
◖ Must do: Hit the Wet Deck for a drink and nibbles as the sun goes down; after dinner, join the cool crowd in the Living Room – check the website for live music dates. Hop across the footbridge to the cultural centre; the stunning Patricia Piccinini retrospective is at GOMA until Aug 5.
◖ Dining: Three Blue Ducks does room service but do visit the restaurant, not least for breakfast. The buffet might be the best hotel spread we’ve seen, with fare including brekkie bowls of Congee with Sesame; Broccoli & Cauliflower Rice with Miso Eggplant & Kimchi; or Mixed Grain Spiced Kedgeree.
◖ Getting there: The hotel is at 81 North Quay, a few minutes’ walk from Central station.
◖ Bottom line: Wonderful Room from $339 per night; Fantastic Suite from $579; Extreme Wow (presidential) suite to open later this month.
◖ wbrisbane.com ◗
Go with the flow: river views; Three Blue Ducks; Living Room