Charm­ing link to the past has no ri­val

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - SUITE LIFE MELBOURNE - Graeme Ham­mond

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.

We­like

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.

The room

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.

The dam­age

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.

De­tails

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.

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