When it opened more than three years ago, this luxurious 170-room, 13-storey CBD digs filled a gaping gap in a somewhat anaemic Adelaide hotel scene desperate for the sort of five-star glamour rarely seen since Don Dunstan's parliamentary pink walk shorts. OK, so it's not quite the Waldorf Astoria (and Adelaide ain't the Big Apple, though where is?), but the Mayfair Hotel Adelaide has established itself as the preferred address for discerning out-of-towners visiting the gracious South Australian capital. The hotel is set inside the 1930s-era romanesque colonial Mutual Assurance Society Building, one of Adelaide's most gorgeous heritage piles, with the older building offset by a photogenic modern glass "jewel-box"-like addition.
Perfect. The hotel is positioned on busy (or as busy as it gets in Adelaide) King William Street, the city's main thoroughfare. Not only is it close to the South Australian capital's cultural and sporting attractions along the Torrens River and North Terrace, the surprisingly pleasant Rundle Street shopping mall is just across the street. The beginning of the mall at its King William Street end is marked by another historic landmark, a late 19th-century building known as the Beehive Corner. Inside is the flagship store of Haigh's Chocolates, one of Adelaide's most enduring family companies and also among its most appetising exports.
The Mayfair offers no less than 10 different styles of rooms fashioned around the old building's irregular walls and floors. My spacious, contemporary deluxe king room (one of 71, all told, in this category), is simply immaculate, and elegantly decorated. The attractive muted interior colour scheme makes for a relaxing retreat combined with the double-glazed windows that muffle the sound of trundling modern trams along King William Street. The hotel prides itself on its luxury beds, with the Australian-designed mattresses made by a local South Australian manufacturer, and which can be purchased by guests. All of the mandatory accoutrements expected of a five-star hotel, such as an espresso machine, luxury toiletries and quality bathrobes and slippers, are included. The room also features a complimentary mini-bar, with "a locally and internationally sourced" selection of contents as well as the always welcome gratis Wi-Fi.
If you choose to dine in-house, there's the hotel's subterranean Mayflower Restaurant, accessed by a staircase from the white marbled lobby, and for a drink and a bite, there's the must-visit rooftop bar, Hennessy. Named after the architectural firm responsible for the original heritage building, the cosy, eyrie-like space is enclosed by floor-to-ceiling slanted timber beams and also includes a glassed-in terrace with city views. For breakfast, you may care to skip the in-house spread and stroll down to the east end of Rundle Street to savour Adelaide's cafe scene. Don't miss out on a souvenir jar of the Mayfair's own honey produced from the hotel's own rooftop hives.
Despite its population being smaller than Brisbane and Perth, the next biggest Australian cities, Adelaide has re-established itself as arguably the nation's best city for dining after Sydney and Melbourne. One of Adelaide's dining hubs, the east end of Rundle Street beyond the mall, is home to acclaimed restaurants such as the Good Food Guide-lauded Africola, Orana and Bistro Blackwood, and behind the hotel is the city's more bohemian west end, replete with bar-filled laneways. The east end is easily walkable from the Mayfair as is the nearby, much-loved Central Markets complex, a more or less boutique version of Melbourne's Queen Victoria Markets.
Every Australian city, no matter the size or the place, needs a hotel with the understated panache of the Mayfair. It's well-run, well-maintained and well-positioned. Stylish yet not showy, luxurious yet not opulent, it signifies much of what appeals about the South Australia's appealing state capital.
Doubles from $209. Mayfair Hotel Adelaide, 45 King William Street, Adelaide. Ph 08 8210 8888. See mayfairhotel.com.au
It's a tie between the chic guest room and the sophisticated rooftop bar.
The hotel can feel ever-so-slightly bland at times: a few quirky touches would enhance the overall experience.
Anthony Dennis stayed as a guest of the Mayfair Hotel and the South Australian Tourism Commission.