Canberra has delivered the world many innovations. The seemingly inescapable roundabout from which, once you eventually escape, delivers you straight into another seemingly inescapable roundabout; suburban homes where front fences are banned so as not to disturb the planned capital's design purity (even though the occupants of that big house on the hill got to erect one all the way round); sittings of both houses of parliament that magically cease when the seasonal thermometer sharply rises or falls.
The capital's other great achievement is the low-on-service, high revenue, apartment hotel. While Canberra surely has more of them per capita than anywhere else, there has been a recent evolution. Bland, glorified flats - perfect for visiting public servants - have made way for bold designer digs in the form of A by Adina. This is the cool spinoff of the longstanding, but not quite as cool, parent Adina brand, which opened another flash branch in Sydney's CBD last month.
A by Adina, with its choice of 130 studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, opened in January, and forms part of the new $300 million Constitution Place development, Canberra's latest distinct precinct. The complex overlooks the forested City Hill parklands and is perched on the edge of Civic (Canberra's CBD), with the aging Canberra Theatre complex next door. The shops, restaurants, bars and cafes of Civic are deceptively close and you can walk there and to the inviting shores of Lake Burley Griffin from the hotel. The public attractions in around the Parliamentary Triangle are also just a brisk stroll or easy drive away across the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.
A by Adina was designed by Bates-Smart, the leading local architectural firm that has built a large portfolio of minimalist design hotels. It forms part of one of Constitution Place's two Darth Vader-like 12-storey towers. These are separated by a narrow Melbourne-style (aren't they all?) restaurant-filled laneway. When your reviewer visited early last month, the eateries were yet to open but since then a branch of The Meat & Wine Co "paddock to plate" restaurant brand has done so.
Sunlight pours into the reviewer's narrow one-bedroom stylish apartment in the afternoon to such an extent curtains running the length of the curved, floor-to-ceiling windows are drawn (all that natural light may prove a bonus in winter). The bedroom and living-cum-dining room (each with a Smart-TV) can be separated by sliding timber doors and there's a fully equipped kitchenette. In a design flaw, the sliding frosted glass doors to the luxurious bathroom, are reached, a little oddly, via walk-through wardrobes. Attractive as they are, the doors are a little too close to the bedroom and don't provide adequate soundproofing.
A by Adina has no in-house restaurant, but ARC, a cafe perfect for breakfast or brunch and part of the Canberra-based Redrick group, operates on the ground level of Constitution Place. There is no direct internal access to the cafe from the hotel lobby which means guests must head out onto the street to access ARC (fine the warmer months, perhaps less so on the crisp winter days). Or, buzzy Bunda Avenue, Civic's extensive eat street, is an easy stroll away. It's here you'll find top-notch restaurants including Raku, an elegant modern Japanese eatery set in part of the wonderfully retro David Jones building dating to 1963.
If you ever needed a reason to visit Canberra, the National Gallery of Australia's latest blockbuster exhibition, "Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery of London" has to be it. It runs until June 14. The show consists of more than 60 astounding works, many of them hundreds of years old and painted by masters (aside from the exhibition's namesakes) such as Titian, Rembrandt, Goya, Turner, Van Dyck and Renoir. For a deeper interpretation of the magnificent works, which demand a second viewing, the NGA offers small group tours guided by its knowledgeable volunteers. These can be booked for an additional fee on its website.
A by Adina Canberra, with the infusion of quality architecture and design, takes the low-service apartment hotel concept to a new high. Despite a few flaws, we give A for Adina Canberra an A-plus.
A haven for lovers of architecture, design, food and wine, the new Constitution Place development is set to be Canberra's next preferred urban precinct.
The uniformed in-house "curators" (front-desk staff) need tutoring in what's hot and where's what in Canberra, particularly with more leisure travellers rather than corporate ones likely to visit in these pandemic days.
Anthony Dennis stayed as a guest of the A by Adina Canberra.