Read our writer's views on this property below
Bon Scott is on the walls and sausage sarnies on the menu at this paean to blokedom in inner Melbourne, writes Belinda Jackson.
MICK JAGGER is stripped to the waist and sweating above my bed. The Kama Sutra (illustrated) is in a bedside drawer normally reserved for the Gideons Bible and the "Do not disturb" sign is pure panel van: "If this room's a rockin', don't come a knockin'."
The Middle Park Hotel's new accommodation is splashed with bad-boy style. Built in 1889, the renovated Melbourne pub has kept its traditional layout, with main bar and alcoves, the separate dining room that looks suspiciously like it's done time as a ladies' lounge and a sweeping staircase leading up to the rooms.
In the 11 months since its renovation, the hotel has become an icon among sports bars for its chic menus, great sporting memorabilia - including a glove signed by Muhammad Ali and a Bradman cricket bat - and more TV screens than you could shake a power bill at.
The 25 rooms and suites were recently launched at a bash attended by AFL greats, star chefs and lots of very tall, beautiful people who this celeb-blind journalist couldn't name, with the exception of Olympic swimmer Michael Klim, notable for his absence of hair in a sea of flowing manes.
We swanned into the guest reception past the 70-metre public bar, which, unlike most sports bars, was lined with people who look, well, sporty. No beer guts here in Beautiful People Land. All the faces who turned up to watch the AFL, racing or rugby were tanned and terrific, with a smattering of glamorous girls among the buff blokes. But then again, this is Middle Park, an upmarket inner-city suburb between the city, St Kilda and the grand prix track: think Red Bull girls in the corridors come next March? We can already see it.
With HP Sauce bottles lined up on the waiter's station, sausage sarnies on the menu, Bon Scott rocking out on the walls and a list of beers that runs into the dozens, Middle Park could easily be dismissed as your run-of-the-mill bloke's dream.
But the sausages are coils of rare-breed pork, the photos are by legendary Melbourne artist Rennie Ellis and the old iron gates of the Melbourne Cricket Club encircle the courtyard. Even the carpets are monogrammed in a design by owner Julian Gerner, whose stable includes the buzzing Royal Saxon and Albert Park hotels.
You can see a man's touch in the dark, minimalist rooms: there's luxury shaving cream among the lovely Kevin Murphy toiletries, a wardrobe just big enough for a couple of suits and the lighting is moody and sexy - great for slapping gel in your hair, not so great for slapping make-up on your face. There are no extraneous cushions and instead of an effete throw, there's a good, honest, fire truck-red woollen blanket designed to keep you warm. Because that's what blankets are for.
The hotel has been renovated by smokin' architects Six Degrees, who list their inspiration as secret puzzle boxes, love hotels and the Tardis. There's certainly a lot packed into a little space in the doubles and queens, including a 91-centimetre LCD screen, huge shower heads, iPod docks, chiropractic beds and a peek-a-boo window between the bed and the shower.
Bear in mind these are old-school pub rooms: big, they are not. Which means an uncomfortably small distance between the loo and your lover languishing between the Egyptian cotton sheets.
But there's everything you need, including the minibar of organic chocolates, local beers and lolly bags, and the adult goody bag of a satin eye mask, sex manual and, responsibly, condoms, which costs $70. There's also a Polaroid camera, already loaded with film. And the snaps are gratis, baby. Gratis.
In the kitchens, it's a boy's own wonderland where gentlemen's club meets new Brit food meets organic deliciousness. Led by chef Paul Wilson and Brit Dave Marshall, the hotel is making a name for its breakfasts, served from 7am-11am, where the Sportsman's Big Breakfast can be served with a pot of single-estate Earl Grey or an espresso martini; where the Berkshire pork saddleback bacon comes with eggs, HP Sauce and maybe a glass of fresh, pink grapefruit juice. And there are also mueslis, fruit compotes and even pastries for men who aren't afraid to order muffins for breakfast.
Yes, there are vegetarian options but why eat lettuce when you can order a "beast feast" for you and 10 mates? There's a wagyu burger for $22 or a weekend rare-breeds roast at $55 a head with chops, offal and three types of oysters. Degustation menus, a serious scotch list and 19 regional Victorian beers are also advertised.
Yes, it's a man's world at the Middle Park Hotel. And sometimes, that's not a bad thing.
The writer was a guest of Middle Park Hotel.
Middle Park Hotel, 102 Canterbury Road, Middle Park, (03) 9690 1958, middleparkhotel.com.au.
Special rates from $175/double, $195/queen, $380/king suite, $450/king apartment (room only, weekdays). Regular rates from $250/double to $800/king suite and $1000/king apartment.
The pro-Victorian stance, from room fittings to local produce.
The building's all-night floodlights, which shine into several rooms. Choose a room not facing Canterbury Road to minimise road noise.
The eggs royale on the breakfast menu — two poached eggs on smoky salmon with salmon roe and hollandaise sauce, $17.