A new hotel is lending Western Australia classic credibility, writes Robert Upe.
There are three nude women in my room. The first has her back turned and is partly draped in a sheet, another is holding up Venetian face masks to hide her breasts, and the third - well, excuse me - she's fully reclined with her arm under her head with not even a pretence of covering up.
All this is going on in a charming heritage-listed building that was previously owned by the Anglican Church and used as a bishop's house before being rebirthed as the Terrace Hotel, a 15-suite boutique property in Perth.
The luxury hotel opened just seven months ago on St Georges Terrace at the west end of town, near Kings Park and the Barracks Arch.
It is only the second new hotel in the city in six years and, while it hardly relieves Perth's acute bed shortage, it will provide competition for its more established boutique rival, The Richardson.
The new kid on the block is already demanding attention.
The bar, the restaurant and the shady outdoor courtyard terrace on the street front are slowly gaining favour with Perth's city workers as they discover a humidified wine vault with 3000 bottles, a cute cocktail bar and a menu based on West Australian produce, from Cone Bay barramundi to Exmouth tiger prawns and Amelia Park lamb.
The menu is by executive chef Shannon Wilson, who once worked as Richard Branson's private chef on Necker Island.
Afternoon teas on Saturdays are also starting to create a buzz with finger sandwiches, scones and live jazz flowing to the tables.
London's Sunday Times has already named it as the hottest hotel in Australasia in 2013 and the hotel's opening event last November was hashtagged "partyoftheyear".
The presence of A-listers at the opening bash - home-grown actress Emma Booth, model Jessica Gomes and Premier Colin Barnett - ensured the hotel was on the front foot in social media and in print before a porter picked up a suitcase.
The hotel trades on old-world appeal. The red-brick facade is Federation, many of the features are art deco, and the furnishings are Victorian and Edwardian.
There are jarrah staircases, ornate fireplaces, intricate cornices, chandeliers and polished floorboards.
Hand-loomed carpets and Empire-themed wallpaper make the rooms feel homely.
Bespoke furnishings include mahogany and oak writing desks, Japanese wardrobes with hand-painted panels and chaise lounges.
As I wander around a spacious three-room Terrace Suite (one of the hotel's best accommodation choices), it's hard to visualise a bishop ever having been in residence here.
The black marble bathroom speaks of an indulged lifestyle and has a white claw-foot bath with gold fittings and open-plan rain shower.
The bedroom's centrepiece is a four-poster king-size bed with white Egyptian cotton sheets, pillowcases and doona that seem as fluffy as a cumulus cloud. The bedscape is by Ploh, a luxury bedding supplier in Singapore that already has its sheets draped over guests at the Mandarin Oriental hotels, Raffles and the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers.
The goose-down and feather pillows plump up nicely so you can watch the wall-mounted Bang and Olufsen television system with Apple TV and Foxtel IQ. There's also free wi-fi and free use of an iPad, with seamless access once you type in the password.
In the suite's sitting room, period-style furnishings are arranged around a fireplace and another television screen. There's a sound system and a minibar with premium spirits.
As for the nudes, they are prints from hot-blooded European artists Amedeo Modigliani and Gustav Klimt.
The Anglican Archbishop of Perth Roger Herft blessed the renovated building before its official opening last year but not long after the sprinkling of the holy water things went awry.
It wasn't exactly a disapproving thunderclap from the heavens, but one of Perth's worst storms in years ripped off part of the roof from the $20 million renovation. It would have made the Perth architect and stylist in charge of the renovation, Jean-Mic Perrine, drip tears on to his drafting table to have such a hole punched into his landmark work, which he designed to evoke the 1920s Great Gatsby era.
The storm forced the hotel to close for repairs but it reopened quickly.
"After the storm, everyone laughed at me about the blessing," says the hotel's marketing and events manager Meg Coffey.
"They were saying the blessing had not done hell of a lot of good, but no one was hurt or killed and there was no internal damage. I'm grateful for the blessing. And the good thing is that we were able to have another opening party [billed as "Raising the Roof"]."
The hotel, meanwhile, has been whacked with some bad reviews on Urbanspoon and Tripadvisor about its table service (on the contrary, the concierge service I experienced was a standout).
The hotel claims the table service problems have been overcome. "In the first months, of course we are going to have issues as people [staff] learn new systems and menus," Coffey says. "You can plan as much as you want, but until you are physically in the building and operating you can't get it all right." Rectifying these service niggles has helped the hotel, because it seems the kitchen has been on song since the first gas burner hissed into life. The comments about the food have been almost all praiseworthy.
Perth's restaurant scene is on the rise with the likes of Nobu, Rockpool, Venn, The Aviary and the soon-to-open Italian by Jamie Oliver.
The Terrace Hotel's restaurant adds to the stocks and has helped put some spirit into a part of the city that has traditionally been dead after-hours.
The heirloom tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad with tomato sorbet ($17), slow-cooked Linley Valley pork belly with chilli cider caramel ($38) and lemon tart ($16) are practically faultless on my stay.
There's a bottle of 1996 Krug Clos D'Ambonnay for $5308 on the vintage champagne list, but if that's taking the indulgence too far you can settle for a $9 beer while you ponder the nudes.
Robert Upe stayed courtesy of the Terrace Hotel.
Getting there Qantas has a fare from Melbourne for $228 for the 4hr 5min flight. From Sydney you will pay $236 for the non-stop 4hr 55min flight. Virgin Australia and Jetstar also have non-stop flights. Fares with Tiger Airways start at about $140 from Melbourne only. Fares are one way including tax.
Staying there The most basic deluxe rooms are $432 a night; Terrace Suites are from $612 a night. See terracehotelperth.com.au.