Spicers Balfour Hotel, New Farm review: Jacarandas and moody blues

Read our writer's views on this property below

Belinda Jackson books into a renovated Queenslander which proves as funky as the suburb it calls home.

"BALFOUR Street, New Farm?" asks the airport bus driver. "Are you sure? There used to be a real rough, scuzzy backpackers' down there."

"No, really. There's a new hotel and it's supposed to be quite swish," I assure him. The rest of the minibus has its ears open, so it's with a flourish the garrulous driver pulls up in front of the wide verandahs of an urbane-looking Queenslander and declares: "Well, that's a turn-up for the books. Not bad looking at all."

Spicers Balfour is the seventh in a series of luxurious Spicers hotels located mostly in hidden pockets of Queensland. The latest addition is on a suburban street in Brisbane's funky, inner-city suburb of New Farm.

The house was built in 1901 and, during nearly three years of renovation, was painted a deep, moody blue that sets it apart from the rest of the street.

"Spicers co-owner Beverley Trivett didn't want the typical colours used for Queenslanders - those creams and brights," says the happy young manager, Matt Simpson, who instantly starts filling me in on the best cafes in New Farm.

The official nature of the reception desk is played down by its doubling as a cafe counter, topped with a burbling espresso machine and hot, fresh biscuits straight from the hotel's kitchen. The space opens into a little library and french doors reveal a scene of sprawling, tin-roofed Queenslanders with massive backyards filled with jacaranda trees flush with sweet purple flowers, banana palms and frangipanis. To paraphrase George Negus, I'm a suburban perv.

There are just nine rooms in this boutique hotel, each with its own Nespresso machine, and the Bose sound system is playing quiet classical music. The toiletries are the gorgeous, milk-scented French Cote Bastide label. The king-size bed is smartly dressed in Italian Society linen. I've hit the jackpot and scored the Terrace Room at the front, so I take my laptop to the private verandah and use the Wi-Fi to catch up on email before going for lunch.

Later that evening, my cousin drops over and we climb the stairs to the rooftop deck, where pre-dinner drinks and canapes are being served at the little bar. The Story Bridge is lit up and the Brisbane skyline glitters from this prime viewing point, a great start for a night on the town. The next morning, the scent is of gardenias, jasmine and freshly baked bread and the spring temperature is perfect. The soundtrack is of magpies and the crunch of the occasional jogger.


The day before, I'd eaten lunch at Little Larder, a cafe in nearby Moray Street, famed for its savoury mince and pesto eggs, only to find I'd left my wallet behind. "No worries," said the sparky girl serving me. "Just pop in tomorrow." So I do and at 8am the cafe, on a quiet suburban street, is abuzz with Wednesday-morning diners. Who breakfasts out on a Wednesday morning? Brisbanites, it would appear.

On the way back, I swing past Barker Street's Chouquette, which has been turning out the butteriest, Frenchest pastries since before opening at 6.30am. Just $1.50 buys me a paper bag of chouquettes, sweet little balls of cream puff rolled in pearl sugar, for a pre-brekkie crunch in the mouth.

I amble back to the hotel to breakfast on slivers of mango and eggs Benedict and discover, at the end, the recipe for world peace is choux pastry, mangoes and a night in a moody-blue Queenslander.

The writer was a guest of Spicers Balfour and Tourism Queensland.

Trip notes

Where Spicers Balfour Hotel, 37 Balfour Street, New Farm, 1300 597 540, spicersgroup.com.au/balfour.

How much

$359 a night. Opening specials from $269.

Top marks

The express "socks and jocks" laundry service.

Black mark

Bathroom lighting is so moody as to impede completing a well-made-up face.

Don't miss

New Farm's great dining scene, including Anise, Chouquette and Little Larder.