Charming link to the past has no rival
THE Windsor in Melbourne is to fivestar hotels what a bottle of Grange Hermitage is to shiraz: the quality of the product is undeniable, but the symbolism is immeasurable.
Built in 1883 – in an era that also spawned The Ritz and Savoy hotels in London and The Plaza in New York – the Windsor is one of the landmarks of the city’s most gentrified district.
The magnificence of its Victorian architecture is complemented by stately neighbours such as the Victorian Parliament, the Old Treasury Building and Alcaston House.
The hotel’s name – changed in 1920 from the Grand Hotel to honour the British royal family – sets a tone of its own that is reflected in the four levels of suite it offers: Junior, Windsor, Victorian and the grandaddy of them all, the Royal suite, otherwise known as the Prince of Wales.
This is a hotel very much in touch with its grand history. Though past owners committed some architectural crimes that are hard to comprehend, those sins have been erased and its magnificence restored.
An air of quiet composure prevails, yet it’s without a hint of stuffiness – an easy trap for a hotel of such distinction. Staff are dignified but friendly and approachable, so a feeling of warmth emanates.
It’s like a stroll through the past to reach the Prince of Wales suite on the fourth floor. Along the wide corridor, painted in heritage colours, you’ll tread a wonderful mosaic tile section of flooring uncovered during renovations and pass an ancient and ornate lift-shaft ( now unused) and stunning curved staircase ( still in use if you have the stamina).
The entrance to the suite is understated – it’s beyond the formal double doors inside that its charms appear. The size of the accommodation can take you by surprise. With foyer, formal dining room, sitting room, huge bedroom, enormous walk-in robe and spacious, modern bathroom with huge bath, monsoon shower and gold fittings, the royal suite has more floor room than a small house. Small wonder that Windsor management says it tends to be booked for the most special events – wedding nights, anniversaries and milestone birthdays.
There’s just one bed in the suite, king-sized naturally, but there is ample room to entertain visitors or for a bride to prepare for her wedding with the aid of her bridesmaids.
Antique de cor, lavish drapes and a pair of ornate gas-fuelled fireplaces lend a certain sumptuousness and coziness while a fruit platter and chilled bottle of Louis Perdrier sparkling brut rose waiting on arrival add to the sense of occasion.
Other inner-city Melbourne hotels may offer greater luxury, facilities and swank, but none can rival the refinement and class you’ll find here. Like opening that bottle of Grange, it really does mean something to say I stayed at the Windsor.
Not so keen
The heritage colours upstairs may be in keeping with the hotel’s age, but there’s a slight feeling of dowdiness about it too. Still, it’s a minor quibble. As a major expansion and refurbishment begins in 2012, a total makeover is not out of the question.
A night in the Prince of Wales suite starts at $ 1350. The Victorian Suite is from $ 515 a night, the Windsor Suite $ 415 and the Junior Suite $ 315.
Hotel Windsor, 111 Spring St, Melbourne, ( 03) 9633 6000; www. thehotelwindsor. com. au
REFINEMENT AND CLASS: The Windsor Hotel’s Prince of Wales suite provides a certain sumptuousness.