Hotel Grand Mercure review, Wellington, New Zealand: It's black, gold and bold

Our rating

4 out of 5

THE PLACE

In the self-styled "Wellywood", home to Peter "Lord of the Rings" Jackson and his Weta studios, perhaps it's appropriate that Darth Vader should loom over the compact New Zealand capital. Well, the high-rise black and gold-daubed 114-room Grand Mercure Wellington, does kind of resemble the Star Wars character, perched as it is on a precipitous slope of this famously hilly city, which at times can feel like a pleasingly shrunken San Francisco of the south.

THE LOCATION

At first the Grand Mercure, wedged incongruously between rows of Wellington's classic double-storey weatherboard houses in inner-city Te Aro, seems a little too remote from the action. In fact, the hotel is a relatively short walk from Cuba Street, Wellington's bohemian dining and drinking strip that morphs into a mall in the middle of the city. And in a city steeped in steep streets, don't overlook the hotel's special hill-beating elevator, tucked away near the lower-ground car park and accessible from the reception and other floors.

THE SPACE

Not so long ago the hotel underwent a transformative $NZ12 million refurbishment that has seen it upgraded from a three to four-star Mercure to a superior five-star (or near enough) Grand Mercure. Certainly, the hotel's enhanced status is a welcome addition for the capital, albeit a small one, that has for years suffered from a shortage of high-end hotels. The makeover extends all the way to the rooms and back again in the form of an attractive and inviting lobby leading to an equally pleasant restaurant and bar. Elsewhere, one of the hotel's surprising features is a sizeable 12-metre heated indoor swimming pool within the main building, a legacy of the former Mercure property on the site.

THE ROOM

The black and gold colour scheme of the exterior, which does make it easier to locate the hotel when you're out and about, extends to the reviewer's comfortable and commodious room, kitted out with all of the requisite mod-cons. Best of all, it comes with expansive views of the city, harbour and the Cook Strait separating the North and South Islands. The small, though alluring, renovated gold-tiled bathroom, commendably, offers the all too-rare anti-freak-out choice of two lighting levels and it's stocked with bath and shower toiletries scented with New Zealand's famous manuka honey.

THE FOOD

The Grand Mercure Wellington boasts a decent in-house restaurant, Forage Kitchen + Bar,  which dishes up choice local seafood along with expansive city and harbour views. Yet with Wellington tussling with Auckland for the status of New Zealand's restaurant capital, it's hard to resist being tempted outside the hotel. On bohemian Cuba Street, which can be a bit on the grungy side, head to an old favourite in the form of Floridita's, a perfect and buzzy option for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and nearby is Logan Brown, the stalwart Wellington fine diner.

STEPPING OUT

Despite its undulations, Wellington is a walkable city. Much of its city centre, containing the majority of its attractions such as the outstanding waterfront Te Papa Museum of New Zealand, is flat but do take the short ride up the hill on the famous vintage red funicular. Easily accessed from the middle of the CBD, the cable car not only delivers passengers to a lookout with city, ocean and mountain panoramas, it also allows for a brisk stroll back down through the hillsides admiring those gorgeous Wellington timber homes along with public buildings, parks and gardens.

THE VERDICT

In a city with a relatively limited choice of luxury and semi-luxury hotels, the snazzily rejuvenated Grand Mercure Wellington is a pleasing and serene accommodation choice.

ESSENTIALS

Doubles start from about $NZ242. The Grand Mercure Wellington, 345 The Terrace, Te Aro, Wellington, New Zealand.  See grandmercurewellington.com accorhotels.com

HIGHLIGHT

The somewhat unusual location of the high-rise hotel in an inner-city street delivers some great views.

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LOWLIGHT

Some guests may find the hotel's quiet location a little remote, even though it's closer to the CBD than it appears.

THE VERDICT

In a city with a relatively limited choice of luxury and semi-luxury hotels, the snazzily rejuvenated Grand Mercure Wellington is a pleasing and serene accommodation choice.

Anthony Dennis stayed as a guest of the Grand Mercure Wellington Hotel and Accor Hotels.