The receptionist spots the taxi pull up outside, scuttles down the stairs, greets me by name and carries my case up. There’s an overriding sweet, caramel-ish smell in the lobby – for reasons that will soon become apparent – and the reception desk appears to be a cart pulled by a life size wireframe horse. The somewhat surreal air is added to by the big candy jars that new check-ins are welcome to tuck into as their keys are cut.
The Adelphi is in the heart of the most engaging quarter of Melbourne’s city centre. Many of the best casual laneway restaurants are with a few minutes’ walk, as are the best examples of the city’s street art. Also just around the corner is Federation Square, Melbourne’s thoroughly engaging hub of museums, cultural centres, eye-popping architecture and ever more eccentric mini-festivals.
Perkily playful décor – zig-zag carpets, twin basins with the look of a metal horse trough – is complimented by a trail of cute little touches. On the mirror, “Enjoy your stay Mr Whitley” is written in lipstick. Beneath is a fridge full of free soft drinks and a big glass jar of gratis popcorn, jelly beans, Ferrero Rocher and other assorted snacks. On the edge of the bathtub is a little box of tricks – salts, bath fizz and the like. The sense of fun shines through without ever descending into honking wackiness.
This was Melbourne’s first self-styled boutique hotel, but its owners ran out of money last year. New owners gave it an energetic revamp. There’s a young feel, and judging by fellow guests it seems to have great appeal for city-breakers who want to throw themselves into Melbourne’s cultural and foodie scenes.
There’s a dividing line between relaxed hip and try-hard cool chasing, and the Adelphi falls on the right side of that line.
As is the Australian way, interactions with staff are unobsequious – it’s human-to-human conversations rather than ingratiating servility. So when the receptionist asks what I’ve been up to, it’s out of genuine interest and in the hope of being able to make helpful recommendations. It’s somewhere to share a joke about taxis rather than be fawned over.
The downstairs restaurant – Ezard – veers towards Asian-influenced fine dining. But the twist at the new Adelphi is Om Nom, a dedicated dessert bar. That’s where the sweet smell wafting over reception comes from, and it’s an exercise in willpower-abandoning decadence. The chocolate soufflé with mandarin marmalade, lime sorbet and a milk foam palate-cleanser for 22 Australian dollars (Dh71) is thunderingly good.
One aspect kept from the original Adelphi is the 25-metre-long rooftop pool. It’s essentially one lane only, but the legendary gimmick is the far end, which overhangs onto Flinders Lane. Not a swim for the acrophobic.
Turndown service didn’t include the blinds being pulled down to block light out at night, which rather seems to defeat the purpose of having it in the first place.
Melbourne is brimming with fun and energy, but its hotels don’t tend to reflect this. The new-look Adelphi is a welcome exception to this perplexing rule. It opts to throw things in rather than going for needlessly penny-pinching (something sadly common with Australian hotels), and does so with hugely engaging panache.
The bottom line
King rooms start at 260 Australian dollars (Dh840) a night, including tax but excluding breakfast (187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, www.adelphi.com.au, 0061 3 8080 8888).
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