ROOM AT THE INN
At the newest Rydges hotel, opened recently in Brisbane’s downtown showgrounds precinct, the concept of paddock to plate has been expanded to include the bed. Sitting in the middle of every custom king billet at Rydges Fortitude Valley is a cushion featuring a fetching photographic image of a friendly duck, cow, sheep or horse, and it’s just one of the many design homages this smart new property makes to a part of town that has strong links with Queensland’s agricultural community. There’s a Paddock Bar — no cow pats, just jolly good martinis — and a Six Acres Restaurant specialising in steaks from Gympie and the Darling Downs.
I grew up in the bush and an annual family pilgrimage to the Royal Adelaide Show was the highlight of the year. Anyone who has fond memories of the wood chopping, grand arena parade and thrilling showbag hall at royal agricultural shows around the country will feel a little frisson of delight when checking in to the groovy lobby of the 208-room Rydges Fortitude Valley.
The hotel is directly opposite the old RNA Showgrounds with its handsome timber pavilions and oldfashioned bench seating. I remember sitting on rockhard planks just like these, usually in the rain, watching small country kids in white coats wrangling enormous bulls and women being shot from canons. Close your eyes and you can almost hear the thwack of an axe on wood and coiffed cows lowing in their stalls.
This part of Brisbane is undergoing a dramatic $2.9 billion transformation, so these days you’ll find the old showbag hall in the smart new Royal International Exhibition Centre with its vast, state-of-the-art convention and meeting facilities, hosting events and festivals yearround. Apartment blocks and cafes are sprouting like wheat after rain along King Street, helping to transform this into the city’s newest lifestyle precinct, thus making the four-star Rydges a good base for business or leisure, and a sure-fire winner for visitors from the country.
The Paddock Bar has a pretty outdoor terrace overlooking the old showground arena, while in the lightfilled Six Acres — the walls decorated with blue and white plates and the shed-like ceiling making it feel a little like an urban barn — executive chef Francesco Trucco brings his Ligurian heritage to bear on the Queensland produce.
The restaurant’s name commemorates the purchase of six acres of land from Mrs Petty in 1909, the year of the Jubilee exhibition, celebrating five decades since the separation of Queensland from NSW. “Petty’s Paddock” was developed to include pig, poultry and sheep pavilions. Now you can find them all on the menu.
The hotel guestrooms are seriously comfy and feature free Wi-Fi. The beds are dressed in down duvets and squishy pillows, the wall-mounted television is the size of a drive-in screen, and the large ensuites include an excellent shower with fixed and handheld water heads.
These thoroughly modern amenities are augmented by rural references such as images of old tractors and ferris wheels on the walls. The corridor carpets are patterned like barnyard timbers, and coffee is served with sugar in little milk pails. The hotel also has a pool, gym and meeting facilities.
Christine McCabe was a guest of Rydges Fortitude Valley. Rydges Fortitude Valley, 601 Gregory Terrace, Bowen Hills. Phone (07) 3188 3000; rydges.com.
From $169 a night.
Twenty minutes from the airport, a nine-minute walk to Fortitude Valley train station and a sevenminute drive from the CBD.
This hotel should prove popular with graziers in town for the show, and corporate travellers meeting in the Royal International Exhibition Centre.
The Sheep-Pig King-Smith.
You’re just a 10-minute walk from the bars, cafes and boutiques of Fortitude Valley.
More pay TV channels, please.
Those cushions are adorable and how management will prevent guests stuffing them in their suitcases, I have no idea. Be patient, plans are afoot to produce more for sale. Sure beats a showbag, and that’s saying something.
Clockwise from main: airy lobby at Rydges Fortitude Valley; colourfully appointed guestroom; Six Acres Restaurant; cocktail time at The Paddock Bar