St Jerome's – The Hotel review: Rooftop glamping in Melbourne's CBD

Our rating

3.5 out of 5

Tim Richards goes camping on a rooftop in the centre of Melbourne. 

THE LOCATION

The last place you'd expect to find a campground is in the middle of the Melbourne CBD, but here it is – stretching over a concrete roof off Level 3 of the vast Melbourne Central shopping mall. Local entrepreneur Jerome Borazio, best known for innovative bars, has ventured into accommodation by co-opting this unused space for an experiment in luxury camping – or as it's sometimes inelegantly known, 'glamping'.

THE SPACE

Once through the glass doors leading from the mall interior, St Jerome's spreads out into two sections – the 'West Wing' and 'East Wing' – divided by a raised skylight. The whole area has been astroturfed, with rows of tents alongside walkways dotted with benches and potted plants. Each of the larger Luxe Plus tents has its own patio, set with Acapulco chairs and a small table, along with random animal statues. At the far end is a row of mobile bathrooms, next to a small art gallery. In one corner of the property is the General Store, a hut-like structure which serves as a café-bar. The view is impressive, taking in the extravagant facade of the former Myer building (now Emporium Melbourne), as well as towering modern buildings all around.

THE KIT

There's a wonderful sense of 'high-end African explorer' about the interior of my tent, with a wicker trunk at the end of a cushion-strewn bed, hardback books on a side table, and robes and towels stacked on a low ottoman. There are thongs and gumboots provided, along with a Samsung tablet and free wifi. An esky sits on a table, containing complimentary beer from the local Temple Brewing Company and boutique soft drinks. Also complimentary are two packs of beer snacks from Wondersnack – one labelled "hangover", the other "kamikaze" (which is indeed very spicy). The mobile bathrooms, each containing a shower, sink and toilet, are stocked with Swisse body wash and hand cream, and Toni & Guy shampoo. 

COMFORT FACTOR

A heater keeps the tent warm on this cold winter night, especially when the entrance is zipped up. On the bed are two duvets and an electric blanket, which are more than adequate; in the middle of the night I turn off the heater and remove one of the duvets to cool things down. The queen-size bed is set with quality sheets and pillows. Storage is limited, and it'd be nice to have somewhere more comfortable to sit inside the tent than the folding metal chairs provided. The communal table within the General Store is a somewhat chilly area because the structure is open to the air; what seems lacking is a larger, warmer common area with comfy couches. For an extra fee, spa treatments are available within Melbourne Central.

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FOOD

Included with the room rate is an afternoon tea of cupcakes and macarons, with tea and coffee served at the bar. In the evening guests are provided with a complimentary delivery of burger sliders and chips from Grill'd, though disappointingly there's no vegetarian option. This oversight is reversed in the morning, when the included breakfast has a vegan option within its two choices. The non-vegan "Happy Camper" set includes a salmon mini-bagel; a tasty bowl of granola, yogurt and fruit compote; and chocolate chip banana bread. From 5pm to 11pm the bar serves a range of alcoholic beverages.

WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR

Shopping is the obvious attraction, with the numerous boutiques of Melbourne Central and the adjoining Emporium Melbourne at your feet. There's a cinema and restaurants on the same level as St Jerome's, though the cuisine is a fairly uninspiring selection of pizza, pasta and pub dishes. The room rate includes a round of bowling at the adjacent Strike outlet, though I miss out on this as there's a private function on that night. If you want to head further afield, St Jerome's hires out bikes for $15 per half day, the proceeds aiding volunteering organisation YGAP.

THE VERDICT

St Jerome's – The Hotel is an atmospheric space which provides a memorable stay under canvas in the middle of the city. As luxury accommodation it needs some tweaks and more attention to detail, to hit the mark implied by the room rate. As an unconventional experience with bragging rights, however, it's up there with the best of them.

HOW TO GET THERE

From Melbourne Airport, a taxi to Melbourne Central is a $55, 30-minute journey in normal traffic. Alternatively, catch the Skybus ($18, 20 minutes) to Southern Cross Station and take a taxi, tram or train to Melbourne Central from there. To really save cash, catch the 901 bus from the airport to Broadmeadows Station, then a train direct to Melbourne Central.

ESSENTIALS

Tent accommodation at St Jerome's – The Hotel from $330 per night. Level 3, Melbourne Central, 271 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne. Phone 0412 951815, see stjeromesthehotel.com.au.

The writer was a guest of St Jerome's – The Hotel.