OPEN SEA­SON

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?

Townsville Bulletin - Townsville Eye - - ESCAPE - WORDS: CHAN TAY LO­GAN

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.

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