Laps of luxury, come rain or shine
THE Adelphi surely was ahead of its time when it opened in the early 1990s. It was Australia’s first true design hotel, created by the architectural partnership of Denton Corker Marshall from a slender warehouse in an era when the average Melbourne property had more in common with the venerable grande-dame Windsor than the cutting-edge style of the new breed of, say, New York and London accommodation.
When I first stayed there a decade ago, I managed several small industrial accidents, thanks to the sharp corners of stainless-steel coffee tables and benches, and never did work out how to use the space-agey metal appendages that passed as taps and handles. It all felt rather cold and clinical. Still with its boutique-scale inventory of 34 rooms, the Adelphi has not grown in size, but it has had an upgrade under a new management company, Gabriel Hotels, which has resulted in an overall softening. No longer is it a case of what I frankly consider was style over substance. Now there is comfort in abundance, from decadently squishy mattresses and a pillow menu to bespoke aromatherapy-based hair and bath products in cute square bottles from Melbourne’s Kevin Murphy.
Guests are given three-day weather forecast sheets for Melbourne, with daily updates of the ‘‘ mostly sunshine; clouds increasing’’ ilk (those four-seasons-in-oneday jokes still get an airing from cabbies); in some suites, time and temperature are beamed on to ceilings by night in eerie red lettering. (So eerie, I put a towel over the bedside clock that emits the rays via some kind of techno hocus-pocus.)
New, too, are 108cm flat-screen televisions, Bose iPod speakers and delicious in-room tea and coffee from local suppliers Tea Too and Quists (billed as ‘‘ Australia’s first coffee roasters’’, founded in 1938). Regular guests, mostly corporate, can leave clothing here in what general manager Andrew Adams-Smith calls a ‘‘ return wardrobe service’’.
Adelphi’s 25m rooftop lap pool, surely Australia’s most photographed, remains part-suspended over Flinders Lane, its water warmed to an agreeable 24C and, such is its unique status, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were poised for future heritage listing.
Best of the improvements is the recently unveiled Spa at Adelphi on the ninth floor, complete with a groovy blue-tiled Turkish steam room featuring a seven-head Vichy
shower and drinking fountain. Other treatments are based on Australian-made Li’tya products, including a divine foot therapy that features an exfoliation with bush salts and a pepperberry mask to perk up tired toes.
A new organic room-service menu mostly includes dishes that can be delivered in stay-warm containers, such as tagines. An in-room breakfast can come with comfy touches such as boiled eggs with Vegemite toast soldiers and freshly blended juices, such as carrot, apple and ginger. (As a nice example of multitasking, chef Lincoln Vaid, who’s of Indian heritage, also conducts yoga lessons for interested guests.)
But only the severely fatigued would dine in their room as tucked into the Adelphi’s basement is the brilliant Ezard (a two-hatter in TheAge Good Food Guide 2007-08), a long, classy restaurant where chef-patron Teage Ezard’s eight-course Asian-inspired tasting menu (with optional matched wines) is sublimely good. Stand-out dish: steamed suzuki sea bass topped with a dollop of thick and pungent XO sauce and placed in a minibroth of Japanese plum wine and finely sliced Asian mushrooms.
For dessert, perhaps honey-crunch ice cream with toasted gingerbread and sugar swirl. Decadent enough to spirit to one’s room upstairs, curl into bed and make crumbs in the sheets. Checklist Adelphi Hotel, 187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Phone (03) 8080 8888; www.adelphi.com.au. Tariff: From $560 for a deluxe room; better rates at last-minute sites such as www.wotif.com or www.needitnow.com. Getting there: Public car park next door (special rates for Adelphi guests). Checking in: Young corporate crowd. Wheelchair access: Steps up from Flinders Lane; elevators to all floors. Bedtime reading: Stiff by Shane Maloney, a satirical political thriller set in Melbourne and published in 1994, the year the Adelphi opened. Stepping out: Close to Melbourne’s central business district, Federation Square and Flinders Street Station. Pop down to Ezard for dinner; www.ezard.com.au. Brickbats: The zigzag leather seats in harlequin colours (in most guestrooms) may have been just the shot 15 years ago but now look naff (and are damnably uncomfortable). Slow service in the level two breakfast cafe. Bouquets: Central location; the spa is well worth a visit, even if not staying at the Adelphi, and is open until 10pm; a nonsmoking hotel.
Splash out: Adelphi’s 25m rooftop lap pool, part-suspended over Flinders Lane