Size: 146 m2 / Price: From about A$1200 per night / Reviewed by Julia Baird
The Sofitel is an iconic institution in the fancier part of Melbourne’s CBD, known as the “Paris end” of Collins Street. It has undergone several incarnations, from the Wentworth and the Regent to being rebranded The Sofitel in 1996, as part of a shopping complex designed by legendary Chinese-American architect, I. M. Pei. Owned by AccorHotels, its heritage is French, and its style is understated prestige with a focus on arts, fine dining and unparalleled views. Since 2008, it has been known as the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins.
Were one to be a bachelor intent on seducing a love interest – or say, a spinster with the same objective (I like to call such ladies spachelors) – this 50th-floor corner suite, with its sweeping floor-to-ceiling views of a sparkling Melbourne skyline, would be perfect. It has mood lighting, a BOSE sound system, enormous plasma TV screens in both the living room and bedroom, marble bathrooms, Nespresso for morning sobriety and deluxe toiletries by Roger & Gallet Bois d’Orange. You can almost dim the lights, raise the sound, and order room service in a single motion. The dining room seats six, as do the plush couches and deep leather chairs in the living room, which is accented throughout with American oak and natural stone in cool and unobtrusive colours. The most relaxing place of all, though, is the beautifully comfortable cushioned bed from where you can peer out at the clouds.
You could not have a better location for a hotel in Melbourne’s CBD, especially if your tastes tend on the posh side. Collins Street is studded with luxury retailers and sellers of the inimitable Haigh’s Chocolate. It’s just a few minutes’ walk from some of the city’s best street art (look out for Rone and Vexta’s work splashed down side alleys and little lanes) and vintage browsing on Brunswick Street as well as fine restaurants on Flinders Lane and throughout the city grid. Fitzroy Gardens is a quick jaunt away, while Tullamarine Airport is a 40-minute cab ride. Parliament Station in Spring Street is a few blocks away and numerous tram stops sit right in front of the hotel’s discreet entrance. Not to mention there’s a cinema right under the hotel.
The Look and Feel
There is a reason this is celebrated Australian Dame Ita Buttrose’s favourite hotel: they are both elegant and ageless. Black clad bellboys beetle about the hotel and will arrange to have your shoes shone overnight for no charge. The hotel is busy, as is the reception area, so try to avoid the lobby at peak hours. Overall, it is sleek, historic comfort.
It would be entirely possible to spend a whole weekend feasting like royals without leaving the Sofitel. From the hotel lobby, where Sofi’s Lounge swings effortlessly from hot beverages to afternoon high tea, to the Atrium Bar on level 35, where cocktails and tasting plates are served, to the modest but opulent No. 35, a temple of glass, city lights, charming French-speaking waiters, modern food and fabulous desserts. You can even take selfies on a camera on the wall, which naturally become more and more glamorous with every martini consumed. (Breakfast is also available at No. 35 in the morning). Those staying in the Ambassador’s Suite will also have access to the peaceful Club Lounge with high ceilings, soft round couches and more stunning views.
The Special Touches
The fitness centre is clean and well-stocked with all variety of muscle-firming machines, although oddly there is no pool (and a further note – you must pay for WiFi). But the staff are discreetly prompt at responding to queries, and the airy rooms are a haven from the bustle and noise 50 floors below. To be simultaneously in the thick of a city, and feel entirely removed from it, is surely the sign of a luxury hotel’s success.