The design hotel movement in Australia is pulsing ahead, embracing all that is eclectic, chic and unique, while eschewing the drab same-sameness of large chain properties. At the forefront of this creative swell, Canberra is leading the charge.
At the forefront of the Canberra design hotel movement, Hotel Hotel is a key anchor of the award-winning NewActon cultural precinct. Located in the NewActon Nishi building, a "radically" sustainable and responsible mixed-use area, the 68-room hotel is a leader in eco-architecture and green design.Designed by Australian architects Fender Katsalidis, with Japanese influences, accommodations are built from recycled timber and concrete; interior design is rich with reclaimed oak, natural fibres, restored mid-century furniture and an urban definition of luxe style.Monster kitchen and bar is many things to many people, serving breakfast from 6.30am (think house-made crumpets and honey), lunch and shared plates from noon-10pm (Moonlight Flat oysters; Jamon Serrano) and a late-night menu starring the famed yabby jaffle with horseradish and creme fraiche. The cocktail bar comes alive at the witching hour. A host of other restaurants, plus yoga, a cinema, gym, bike hire and hair salon are mere steps away. See hotel-hotel.com.au
QT CANBERRA HOTEL
The former Rydges Lakeside hotel site was given more than a makeover – call it a significant refurbishment and major attitude adjustment – to emerge two years ago, Cinderella-like, as the 205-room QT Canberra. The fifth QT property in Australia has been an instant hit in pollie-town, embraced for its irreverent attitude and eclectic luxury design (Nespresso and Malin+Goetz in every room). Creative food director Robert Marchetti has had fun with Capitol Bar & Grill, rolling out a menu worthy of the city's fat cats and expense accounts: there's old-school favourites like prawn cocktail, the "I only have a minute" steak, and "a little on the side ... dishes". In Lucky's Speakeasy, deejays shake off the budget blues, while the Barber Shop offers a close shave Don Draper would sign off on. See qtcanberra.com.au
LITTLE NATIONAL HOTEL
Love at first stay; prepare to fall for recently opened Little National Hotel. Proving small and streamlined can make a big impact, 120 compact rooms over two floors sit high atop Realm Precinct's modernist car park (from the outside, you'd never guess). Minimalist sensibilities create a soothing monochrome palette.Prime views of Parliament House show just how close the hotel is to the epicentre of power. The super king-size beds are sublimely comfortable, the free Wi-Fi is lightning-fast, the cable channels seem endless and the breakfast offering at Buvette is deliciously memorable (the French restaurant at adjacent sister property Hotel Realm is serving Little National guests while the hotel builds its own cafe). Service is warm and confidently relaxed, and the room rates are a steal. In short, everything you need and nothing you don't. With plans to expand the brand to other states, is this the future of small design hotels? Let's hope so. See littlenationalhotel.com.au
Little National Hotel's 5-star big sister is directly across the road on National Circuit. Part of the brilliant Realm Precinct created by Doma Group (the family-run construction company decided to build and operate some of Canberra's hottest new hotels and restaurants: sparks are flying), the property has quickly become one of the most popular hotels in Canberra.All Realm rooms, suites and penthouses are equipped with Malin+Goetz luxury bathroom amenities, Nespresso machines, Smart TV, FOXTEL and super-fast Wi-Fi; many rooms boast views of Parliament Circle icons. Executive chef Fabien Wagnon has brought a wealth of international experience to the hotel's restaurants, including French bistro Buvette, Japanese powerhouse Lilotang, wholefoods cafe Maple + Clove and the broad appeal of Ostani lounge, bar and restaurant. Other facilities include the state-of-the-art Evo Health Club and lap pool, wellbeing centre Mudd The Spa and Kundalini Hair. See hotelrealm.com.au
Originally designed by Commonwealth Architect John Smith Murdoch as a hostel to house Canberra's first public servants, Hotel Kurrajong is steeped in capital history. Prime Minister Ben Chifley lived in a modest room on the second floor throughout his term in office and if the hotel's walls could talk, they'd tell tales of deals done and political battles won and lost.Completely refurbished and relaunched in 2015 by NRMA and TFE Hotels (the Aussie-owned company behind Vibe Hotels and Medina Serviced Apartments), the art deco-inspired luxe interior designs by Andrew Parr ensure clever references to the building's history, without a slavish devotion to its heritage. On the exterior, little has changed in almost a century. See hotelkurrajong.com.au
VIBE HOTEL CANBERRA AIRPORT
With plans for Canberra Airport to begin welcoming international arrivals from September, a slick upgrade and expansion to terminals and facilities is under way. As part of the new-look hub, the 191-room Vibe Hotel Canberra Airport opened its doors in November, 50 metres from the terminal. The branding is similar to other Vibe hotels – including Rushcutters Bay, Gold Coast and Darwin – with some fun twists. Standard accommodations are referred to as Lower Deck Rooms, while deluxe rooms are First Class. Helix Bar & Dining, helmed by Michael Chatto (ex-Italian & Sons in Braddon, and Sydney's FishFace) is brimming with capital produce. And while guests can watch planes landing, they won't hear them, thanks to robust double-glazing. See tfehotels.com
Kristie Kellahan was a guest of Hotel Kurrajong.