Adventures down the rabbit-hole
Cups. Everywhere, the cups. There’s a pink one hovering on the wall by my bed (The Bouquet), one with a haunting face in the hallway (The Alice Cup), a great spread in the lobby (At The Tea Party) and plenty in our guestroom’s kitchenette.
Last night, they danced in my head as I drifted off in what must be the world’s most comfortable bed.
And now, breakfast arrives at our Level 13 suite. I recognise the style of brioche from the hotel’s streetfront cafe/bakery Fleur Depot de Pain, where the macarons come in an artist’s palette of colours and there is, I marvel, a Pastries Happy Hour. But my room-service coffee is in a paper thimble so small I have to hold it between my fingertips. Has there been a mix-up on the phone? Is the coffee cup a normal size or have I changed into a “nine feet high” giantess overnight?
The Blackman can do this to you. A member of the boutique Art Series Group (in Melbourne there’s also The Olsen, Larwill Studio and The Cullen), the hotel showcases the work of Australian artist John Blackman, whose flirtation with surrealism came to the fore in his Alice series of 1956. Accordingly, the 209-room Blackman is about dreams. Lewis Carroll’s heroine greets you in giant reproductions, illuminated at night on the modern building’s façade. In the lobby, there’s an oversized black wingback chair, a wall of Blackman works, a bicycle cart sporting a cup and saucer, and assorted ceramic rabbits say “whimsy lives here”. And in the hallways, which are perhaps somewhat under-lit (for a rabbit-hole vibe?), knee-high bunnies cut from mirrored glass surprise in corners.
Happily, the hotel group’s Deague family owners and their designers know there’s a line to draw between atmospheric art-hotel experience and theme-park lunacy. And so the playfulness eases off as you reach your inner sanctum; ours is elegant, with neutral decor the better to showcase three Blackman prints. Balconies offer views to the city and MCG; the mini bar is full of goodies, including jubes and giant Freckles (the kids do some serious damage here, even after scoffing free ice creams from the lobby fridge); the bathroom is chic, with a great shower and e.v.o toiletries. There’s a stack of art books, and those beds … if, like me, you find them hard to forget, you can just go online and buy one.
What with the minibar, Wi-Fi and 24-hour room service menu, it’s difficult to extract the kids from our room, but Melbourne awaits. We’re a hop, skip and jump from the trams that trundle up St Kilda Road, so we enjoy easy trips to the NGV, Federation Square, the Aquarium, and short taxi rides to dinners in Richmond (dumplings) and Fitzroy (superior pub grub). Finding we are late-for-avery-important-date that’s off the tram grid, I wonder about hiring one of the hotel’s teeny smart cars, which look like white rabbits with arty doors and are a reasonable $50 per day (or $8 an hour). Even the teenager says he would not be too embarrassed to be seen in one, although he draws the line at heading out en famille on hotel bicycles.
There is a lot about The Blackman to delight the senses, including the personal service. We check in early, with not a blink of an eye from front desk staff; and a missing coffee plunger that has me doubting my sanity as I scour the cupboards is quickly and apologetically replaced. The Blackman has an “Ask Us” policy that could be a challenge for shy people or old-school types like me who like their information in print, and in room. A folder on our glass coffee table that boasts “I’m Full of Useful Things” isn’t, really, with just two brochures and no intelligence on operating the TV, hiring cars and bikes, buying posters, or on the lovely-looking restaurant Classico, which flanks the lobby.
The folder does give the whereabouts of services such as the gym; twice I look for it on Level 6, darting around like Alice in search of a secret door. Checking later at the front desk, it seems I should have asked; despite what the in-room folder says, the gym is on Level 1.
Phew. I thought I was going mad.
Cathy Osmond was a guest of HotelClub.com.
The Blackman, 452 St Kilda Road, Melbourne; (03) 9039 1444 or 1800 278 468; theblackman.com.au.
From $209 a night for a studio balcony suite; penthouse from $749 a night. The HotelClub.com global network offers extra discounts and rewards for members at 5000 participating hotels worldwide. Member reward points (up to 7 per cent of the tariff) are instantly applied and can be redeemed at the next booking. Depending on the membership tier, perks include upgrades, free breakfasts and exclusive deals with partners.
From Melbourne airport, take the SkyBus service to Southern Cross Station then a taxi.
Business travellers, families, art lovers.
Delve into those glossy art books by your bedside.
Hop on the tram for St Kilda or head to the city via the entertainments of Federation Square and the Arts Centre. The Royal Botanic Gardens and Albert Park are nearby.
Our guestroom could have benefited from a better stocktake between bookings.
Good service from friendly, engaged staff and a great vibe.
Foyer and entrance to The Blackman, top and top right; artfilled guestroom, above right; mirroredglass bunny, above