FROM A HOTEL WHERE THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE TO QUEENSLAND’S NO. 1 RESTAURANT, DO BRISBANE’S NEWEST ATTRACTIONS LIVE UP TO THE HYPE?
If you haven’t been to Brisbane for a while, you’re in for a big surprise. As it prepares for a crammed calendar of summer events, the Queensland capital has been busy sprouting new hotels.
I checked in to check out two of its most hyped additions — Ovolo The Valley and The Calile — and the restaurant and retail renewal on their doorsteps.
The 103-room Ovolo The Valley opened on November 28 leaving little trace of the old Emporium Hotel in its wake. The colourdrenched, art-splashed space is personality plus, with plentiful perks for guests.
Like free stuff? Breakfast, Wi-Fi on tap, a fully stocked mini bar, snacks and slippers are all gratis. I stayed in one of the The Valley suites, just a pink hallway hop to the rooftop pool and its floating flamingoes, the skyscraper-framed setting for happy hour drinks (free).
From bold wallpaper to espresso martini station, these suites don’t shy from a statement, flowing to a palatial bathroom with a view from the spa and enviable vanity space, and a sizeable balcony.
Wake up and smell the beans with an espresso machine and manage the midnight munchies with a loot bag loaded with Curly Wurlys, Tim Tams and Chupa Chups (free).
The tech in these rooms is first class: an inroom iPad, Google Chromecast, extra wall plugs, phone chargers and Amazon’s Alexa cloud-based voice service to help you with all those burning questions.
That’s not to say it eclipses the human touch with 24-hour room service from a brilliantly efficient team.
While a new restaurant and bar concept will launch at the hotel early in 2019, Ovolo is already blessed to bunk with the best.
Like its art deco dining room, neighbouring Italian institution Tartufo is a classic. Luxuriantly portioned booths, mirrors, mosaics and embossed ceilings are borrowed from a grander vintage and anchored by heartfelt hospitality.
Our waiter confides that the table alongside ours is paying the price of a new car for the privilege of dining with head chef and owner Tony Percuoco, a fundraising triumph for children’s charity the Starlight Foundation. While there may be a suspicious brightness in the chef’s eyes as he tends to his VIP guests, the warmth of his attention is indiscriminately dusted around the dining room. If you’re splashing out on the degustation, go for the full wine match as there are some particularly lovely pairings. In a fitting finale, the molten sweetness of a citrus dessert drop is married to a softcentred, espresso-infused chocolate fondant with mascarpone cream.
Happily, home for the night is but a stuffed stumble away.
Be it due to the food coma or smart design, it’s a surprisingly silent night’s sleep for a hotel within easy shout of the party precinct.
The next morning after flipping through the papers (free) over breakfast (free), I drive a couple of minutes down the road to The Calile, pulling up in a porte-cochere that knows how to make an entrance.
The hotel is just beautiful to look at. Seriously, you’ll want to plonk yourself down on something with an obscenely high thread count, and stare. No detail is overlooked in this pastel paradise of beguiling curves, gold tapware and pink marble. The introverted gaze of the balconies, directed at the cabanafringed pool, ensures it feels much more like a resort than its inner-city colleagues.
Of course, perching poolside and beckoning for blush bowls of parmesandusted zucchini chips can really take it out of you. Fortunately there’s a support squad of paramedical skin and laser specialists, cosmetic physician, wellness coach and holistic healer on hand at Kailo Wellness Medispa. A muscle-melting massage from one of Kailo’s remedial therapists is escapism at its best. While taking your time is
recommended, the tranquillity translates to Kailo’s Wellness Pods, designed for express treatments.
It’s around a 20 minute stroll into the CBD to window-shop the revitalised QueensPlaza, where luxury label Dior will be joined by the likes of Viktoria & Woods and Alice McCall, but ample retail reward awaits on James Street through The Calile’s whitebrick archways.
Sate a lust for labels at Mr Zimi, Auguste the Label, Bec & Bridge, Dion Lee, Camilla and Marc, Bassike and Carla Zampatti.
Tucked down one of the many intriguing side streets, is the welcoming gallery of contemporary art proponent Tove Langridge.
From a realistically priced piece that looks so silky it begs to be touched (and you can — Tove explains the texture is achieved with olive oil) to wall-dominating works in a kaleidoscope of brash colour, he provides a fascinating glimpse into a world that can be intimidating to the uninitiated, converting collectors with his passion for the artists on his roster.
But, as a foodie, I’ve saved the best for last: dinner at Hellenika at the Calile.
While it’s hard to imagine how a restaurant in its infancy could be named the best in the state — no. 1 in The Sunday Mail’s delicious. 100 — the proof is in the pudding/ orange-syrup drizzled galaktoboureko.
Like its new hotel home, Hellenika espouses the beauty of simplicity — a lick of lemon to enhance the finest chargrilled seafood, the juicy heirloom tomatoes that make the signature rough-cut Greek salad burst with sun-soaked flavour.
There are too many highlights to list, suffice to say I’m still dreaming about satisfying salty saganaki (grilled kefalograviera cheese and lemon), orzo pasta strewn with the subtle sweetness of Fraser Coast spanner crab, grilled SA octopus, and olive oil chocolate tart.
The service is impeccable; mannered and informed without the pretension.
It’s worth the trip alone.