Adelaide is on the up – so far up that I can see what the South Australian Governor is watching on TV. No, really, I can see a telly flickering away in a front room of the 1840 Government House on North Terrace. (I'm guessing he's watching MKR.)
The newly opened 2KW rooftop bar is atop an old bank building on the corner of King William Street and North Terrace. It's put the city in a whole new perspective. As well as exposing some gubernatorial goggle-boxing, I'm astonished how green the city looks – a rippling ocean of treetops – and how quickly the Adelaide Hills dip to the north.
But the reason I'm up here is so I can look along King William Street and properly size up another addition to the Adelaide CBD: the new Mayfair Hotel.
Once again I'm surprised. I'm looking at a stunning edifice of polished deco, 13 storeys of gleaming stonework set with bottle-green windows, rising to a muscular parapet fringed with deco gargoyles.
Until February 2015, this building just wasn't there. Actually, it was, only it was dark and derelict, simply "the old Colonial Mutual Life building". But $55 million later, it's jumping out of the street and those of us who live here are asking: how the hell did we overlook this thing?
I walk beneath the Mayfair's restored street awning, the pressed tin ceiling burnished with copper in a way that dares us to think of New York. The hotel lobby has no Waldorf grandeur, but it's intriguing and chic, with metallic finishes, a swooping staircase in black, and great splashes of art and blooms. Four lifts – previously shuttling grey-suited insurers between floors – mean guests never wait long to reach the 170 rooms.
The upmarket Mayfair has opened its doors with workaday room rates starting at $189, clearly seeking to get Adelaide to like the new kid on the block. The fresh young staff help greatly by throwing in room upgrades and complimentary breakfasts, and no question, guests are feeling loved up. Adelaide's five-star portfolio has been pretty unedifying for over a decade but locals seem to be thinking it's all…
Going up? Ascend to the sixth floor of the Mayfair and you start to enjoy views of the Hills and even glimpses of Glenelg and the Gulf St Vincent. Such is the low-rise nature of Adelaide's CBD and the generous spaces afforded by its wide skirt of parklands.
The suites aren't huge – at most 23 square meters – but they are inviting and stylish, and all a different shape, thanks to heritage limitations on how each floor could be partitioned. A generous amount of space has, however, been reserved for the bathrooms, most equipped with showers instead of baths. (This is a disappointment for me, but I'm soothed by a lovely platter of Appelles Apothecary, in particular the mandarin peel and cinnamon bark lotion which is good enough to eat.)
My Mayfair Deluxe King has a bespoke linen-topped bed facing a wall-mounted 55-inch TV equipped with iThis, iThat and iTother. Combined with half-bottles of Henschke Wines from the minibar and 24-hour room service, it could all make for a very civilised night in. The hotel also has a basement bar and restaurant called the Mayflower, the latter served by chef Bethany Finn who's known in Adelaide as the mother of the much-loved Urban Bistro. A best-of-the-best wine-list will tempt the palate as much as it will tax the wallet.
But you might also yield to one of the Mayfair's most attractive features – its location.
Depending on your mood, you can go feral on Hindley Street, or go fine on Leigh and Peel streets. I went with the latter, surrendering to the ministrations of never-fail wine bars like Udaberri and Clever Little Tailor, as well as a restaurant called Bread & Bone, which serves soft shell crab burgers to die for. As we've seen, you can also cross King William Street to drink in the night air atop 2KW and see what's playing on the Governor's TV – or hop into the still-evolving Riverbank Precinct to see what's playing on the new Adelaide Oval.
The Mayfair hasn't yet reached a ceiling on its ambitions. In June, the top three floors will be given over to guests staying in Executive Suites, who will have exclusive access to a rooftop bar and lounge called Hennessy. Named for the original 1930s architects, this tailored den is a little pyramid of comfort up among the gargoyles, complete with outdoor patio, marble-topped bar and bespoke furniture. The execs can have breakfast and lunch served up here, but clearly this is a space for some rare-air cocktail interaction between those at the top.
The views down over the deco battlements onto the King William rooftops are no match for the scenery afforded by 2KW, but they are interesting. In fact, it's amazing how much you can read from rooftops, corrugated pages of half-hidden histories. And anyway, in a city that has been relatively earth-bound compared with its eastern state neighbours, all views look fresh to the people of Adelaide.
Governor Hieu Van Le, whose love of Adelaide is no secret, will certainly be cheering as Adelaide reaches for the sky. Though he may like to draw the curtains.
Rooms start at $189 for a Superior Queen room per night, two sharing. Continental breakfast in the Mayflower costs from $29. Mayfair King Suites start at $289 and see the addition of bath, Nespresso coffee machines and better views. Pricing for Executive Suites – with exclusive Hennessy lounge access – will be announced mid-year. The hotel has an interesting glass "jewellery box" extension by the heritage building, though note, south-facing suites in this extension adjoin an alley and have no view.
The writer stayed at his own expense.