Laps of lux­ury, come rain or shine

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - Susan Kuro­sawa

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

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