Suite: Two-Bedroom Garden | Size: 86 square metres incl. terrace | Price: From $1050 per night | Reviewed by: Madelin Tomelty | unitedplaces.com.au
I had never heard of a ‘home hotel’ until I stayed at United Places Botanic Gardens in Melbourne’s affluent suburb of South Yarra. With just 12 suites across three floors and no true communal spaces, the property feels more like an exclusive, luxury apartment building than a hotel, and that’s precisely the point. An interesting reimagining of the boutique hotel experience, United Places’ small physical footprint means the hotel forgoes the fivestar amenities luxury travellers often expect – a spa, gym, restaurants – and instead relies on the design, comfort factor, service and location for its impact. It’s no surprise, then, that each of these elements are executed so well. United Places’ discrete entrance is the first departure from the usual hotel arrival rigmarole. Blink and you’ll miss the modernist, concrete facade and heavy black door with a doorbell just like… you got it, someone’s home. From the moment I stepped foot inside United Places I was transported one hour south of Melbourne to another hotel – Jackalope on the Mornington Peninsula. Design firm CARR is behind the architecture and interiors at both hotels, and the same moody, masculine and oh-so-Melbourne style can be found at both properties. There isn’t a lobby or reception desk at United Places, but rather a low-lit, bare corridor, where we were greeted by a ‘butler’. She briskly checked us in using nothing but an iPad, and then whisked us up to our second-floor suite.
Our suite features two bedrooms, each with its own ensuite, making it ideal for two friends, two couples or a mother-daughter trip (my situation). It’s spacious and looks north across Domain Road and to the verdant Royal Botanic Gardens. Inside, the space is a little dark, with the main source of light coming from the balcony, but this does add a certain warmth. The master is generous in size, with a large, black sunken bath at the road-side of the suite, looking out through floor-to-ceiling windows to the gardens. The beds are custom-made and feature organic cotton sheets, and there are overhead rain showers and luxurious Le Labo Santal 33 products in the ensuites. The suite contains a well-equipped kitchen (along with laundry and kitchen utilities) and a minibar stocked with local produce and 200ml bottles of the world’s best single malt whisky, Sullivans Cove, exclusive to United Places. Just don’t expect any complimentary snacks, though, even with a room rate of over $1000 a night.
While United Places doesn’t technically have its own restaurant, Matilda is located at street level through a separate entrance, and hotel guests get priority bookings. Melbourne chef Scott Pickett serves up dishes like Tartlet of Salmon Roe with Bonito Cream; Whole New Zealand Flounder with White Grape and Karkalla; and a 200-gram Retired Breeding Cow Porterhouse. An in-room dining menu is also available. Complimentary breakfast each morning is prepared at Matilda and delivered to your room by the butler.
The property is a celebration of South Yarra’s local life, and its position directly opposite Melbourne’s 36-hectare Royal Botanic Gardens is a big drawcard. The hotel is also ideally located to explore South Yarra’s swanky boutiques, art galleries, cocktail lounges and eclectic bistros on Toorak Road and Chapel Street, a 10-minute drive away.
In-house butlers are on-call around the clock, catering to guests’ every need, from valet laundry service to a private picnic set-up in the Botanic Gardens. Each evening we found a card left in our suite letting us know the weather conditions for the following day, and after dinner a pot of relaxing herbal tea would arrive, just like Mum would have made at home. It’s the little things.