There was a time when mention of the word "Novotel" might have elicited a simple "no" from certain prospective guests. Fortunately, those demurring days are gone for more of us. This famed brand, part of the ever-expanding French Accor hotel conglomerate, has been reimagined in its new-generation establishments, a move exemplified by the reasonably-priced, 238-room Novotel Brisbane South Bank. The four-star-plus, multi-storey property cost $70 million and opened a year ago this month.
Novotel Brisbane South Bank is only just in South Bank. The hotel is positioned away from the site that hosted World-Expo 1988. Crowded out by extensive post-Expo high-rise developments, it faces less of the revitalised Brisbane River and more of South Brisbane's Musgrave Park, where the the Queensland constabulary's paddy wagons can be observed on regular patrols. The attractions of South Bank, however, including an array of restaurants and bars in a riverside parkland setting, are an easy enough stroll away.
This determinedly contemporary hotel was designed by the NRA Collaborative (no, not that NRA), a Brisbane firm with a host of other Queensland hotels to its credit, including Accor's Pullman hotel at Brisbane Airport. The impact of the pleasing, modern and uncluttered design of Novotel Brisbane South Bank's restaurant and bar-dominated lobby is diminished, at least at the time of this reviewer's visit, by well-meaning but extraneous lolly tables as well as children's toys and furniture. Elsewhere in the hotel. which is in a famously outdoorsy city, there's a 20-metre outdoor pool, a gym and a yoga terrace.
The hotel's operators and designers have made a commendable effort to evoke a sense of place by decorating the walls with a quartet of famous South Bank images. Your reviewer's 131square metre junior suite, with separate lounge and bedroom, includes floor-to-ceiling windows and enough room for three people. Its walls feature imagery of the city's riverside ferris wheel with a stylish blue, silver and white palette throughout.
The all-white oversized bathroom, fitted with fancy Dyson hair-dryers, features an excessive amount of transparent glass – an unfortunate trait of modern-day hotel designers who appear to consider modesty an optional extra.
The room also has the always-welcome (despite the eco-unfriendly pods) Nespresso machine. Next to the king-sized bed is a nifty clock radio that doubles as a charging outlet for gadgets.
Food is central to Novotel's new brand ethos and in this respect the Novotel Brisbane South Bank impresses and even surprises. The open-plan Spice Central Kitchen & Bar has a Middle East meets south-east Asia menu of simple yet flavoursome dishes imbued with the now near-mandatory quality local ingredients. The food is good enough to keep you from straying, at least for one night, to the plethora of eateries scattered throughout South Bank.
Aside from the multifarious gastronomic and other attractions at South Bank, a cultural fix at the venerable Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art is recommended. Take a languid public ferry ride all the way down the Brisbane River, with its award-winning architect-designed public wharves and over-river walkways. Alight at the new and fashionable Howard Smith Wharves dining and drinking precinct, which is directly under the city's landmark Storey Bridge.
It's a firm "yes" to the Novotel Brisbane South Bank, a fine, fresh and up-to-date example of how much this brand has evolved and how appealing an accommodation option it now presents.
Doubles start from $189 per night for a standard room. Phone: (07) 3295 4100. See novotelbrisbanesouthbank.com.au
The quality of the food and decor at the in-house restaurant is a pleasant surprise and a bonus.
Although it bills itself as being in South Bank, the hotel is a tad south of it, albeit a short stroll away.
Anthony Dennis stayed as a guest of Accor Hotels and the Novotel Brisbane South Bank.