Sharing the history and diversity of Melbourne through design and cuisine, this new luxury hotel represents a contemporary expression of the well-established Ritz-Carlton brand, writes Katrina Holden
Approaching the entrance to one of Australia’s most exciting new luxury hotels, The Ritz-Carlton, Melbourne, two staff in bellboy-style felt hats with gold thread trim, each clings onto the oversized, custom-made brass door handles and, in perfect unison, open the dual doors for me.
Revealed at the opposite end of the room is a striking and colourful artwork of neon, geometric shapes by Aboriginal graffiti artist, Reko Rennie. Designed by Australian architects Cottee Parker and with Melbourne’s BAR Studio tasked with the interior design, there’s much to take in here on ground level alone, including a mesmerising artwork by Dr Christian Thompson AO; native florals by local company, Flowers Vasette; a set of tall, black and white painted ceremonial poles by Djirrirra Wununmurra; an art installation of liquid marble to tie in Port Phillip Bay by esteemed French designer, Mathieu Lehanneur; and a cascading chandelier by Czech bespoke lighting company, Lasvit.
And this is just the ground floor gallery — the hotel’s Sky Lobby Reception is located on level 80, accessed by super-fast elevators. Uninterrupted views are afforded thanks to the windows that encircle the whole level, with guests able to circumnavigate the entire periphery of level 80, taking in Melbourne’s Docklands, and further beyond to Port Phillip Bay and the Yarra Valley.
As I’m staying in one of the Club Level rooms, my check-in takes place at The Ritz-Carlton Club, where I’m presented with a welcome towel infused with lemon myrtle and eucalyptus, and an iced tea made from the same ingredients, specially blended for the hotel by Victorian company Love Tea. I head back here for complimentary pre-dinner drinks and canapés, available to all Club Level guests, as well as personalised concierge services.
Authenticity and design
The design concept for the 257-key hotel is to take visitors on a journey through Melbourne’s history, working their way up through the hotel, with different eras and stories being revealed on each level: Melbourne’s Indigenous roots on the ground floor (where an immersive cultural soundscape, ‘Defining Moments’ is streamed daily at 7:00 pm); and upper layers unveiling Victorian-era gold rush, European heritage, and the city’s laneway culture. Located in the former headquarters of The Age newspaper, on the corner of Spencer and Lonsdale streets, the meeting rooms and conference spaces are named in honour of well-known executives and editors from the broadsheet.
“For BAR Studio, it was really important for them to recreate how Melbourne does the whole laneway culture and that sort of art vibe — it was about acknowledging that, but also acknowledging that The Ritz-Carlton itself is steeped in traditional classic luxury with a changing guest,” Jasmine De Martin, Director of Marketing explains.
“So how do they design a space that would be timeless, and a bit of a love letter to Melbourne? And that’s what they’ve tried to achieve. The First Nations art piece on the ground floor is very important, to step into a space that’s authentic, genuine and supportive of our artists.
“For us, luxury is about anything that you feel is luxurious to you, that’s a Ritz-Carlton guest. It’s all about the service, but it’s also about your type of service, which is linked throughout all the various touchpoints as our guests are taken on a vertical journey.”
The culinary star of the hotel is restaurant Atria — named after the brightest star in the southern constellation. The service is exceptional, with each course carefully explained, including the origins of the produce, and the flavours to expect in each dish.
As Executive Chef Michael Greenlaw outlines on the menu, created in partnership with Culinary Advisor Mark Best, he and the restaurant team are: “… presenting an honest and imaginative expression of the region. Atria honours sustainable harvesters, growers, graziers and fishermen through a respectful connection to place and a considered understanding of the seasons.”
I sip on a signature cocktail titled French 80 (Delord Armagnac, Pommeau de Normandie, lemon, sparkling wine and lemon myrtle) and nibble on a starter of razorback prawn, finger lime, mentaiko, salmon roe on a wasabi leaf. After sampling several courses and sipping on Australian and international wines, including a Yabby Lake Cuvée from Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, I can’t resist the quintessential Australian dessert of pavlova, served with lime curd and lemon myrtle ice cream. I’m back here again for breakfast, this time sitting at the 18-metre-long counter made of Victorian ash.
“That counter you’re sitting at is from those mountains over there,” my waiter says, gesturing in a northeast direction to the Dandenong Ranges. Cameo, also on level 80, is an intimate-sized cocktail bar where luxurious rare and antique vintage spirits, some dating to the Prohibition era, are showcased. Casual lunches, dinners and high teas can be taken at The Ritz-Carlton Lobby Lounge.
In the room
My spacious Ritz-Carlton Club King room has multiple zones. I appreciate the separate toilet and bathroom, as well as a walk-in robe and beauty bench parlour. In the bathroom, there is a freestanding Kaldewei bathtub alongside the window, luxury Frette bathrobes and Diptyque amenities from Paris. I love the large black and white photographs with scenes from Melbourne that decorate the walls.
The mini bar is stocked with several Victorian brands including Koko Black nuts and chocolate; Penni Avenue Vodka, Chief’s Son Single Malt Whisky and Bass & Flinders Gin, all from Mornington Peninsula.
A waterwall artwork, inspired by Melbourne’s City Square, greets guests on level 64, as they alight from the lifts to visit The Ritz-Carlton Spa. I arrive for a massage session in one of the six treatment rooms, choosing my aromatherapy oil from luxury brand, Espa. I opt for the ‘positivity’ blend. After a soothing 60 minutes, I head to the hydrotherapy pool, sauna and steam room area, which I have all to myself. I rest on underwater hydrotherapy massage beds while overlooking the city, before transferring to the nearby swimming pool, open 24 hours daily and only accessible to hotel guests. The entire space is a serene oasis that seems a world away from the CBD beneath us.
Rates at The Ritz-Carlton, Melbourne start at AUD$650 per night.