Dreamtime at Melbourne's coolest boutique hotel

Mal Chenu indulges in indigenous-style treatments at Melbourne's coolest boutique hotel.

As I sat in my fluffy robe, spa panties climbing like a sherpa, I wondered if the treatments on offer could realign the chakras I'd jolted out of place after too many beers and a dodgy hot dog at the footy the previous night. I was about to take on the Mali Mayi treatment - a full-body exfoliation and mud wrap - at the new Spa@Adelphi at the Adelphi Hotel in Melbourne, one of the bleak city's oldest, yet coolest, boutique pubs.

(Photos: Inside Melbourne's coolest boutique hotel)

Erin was my therapist for the treatment and a more serene young lady would be hard to find. She gave me a foot-bath amid calming candles infused with Aussie native botanicals, while a soundtrack featuring stories by indigenous elders set to calming new-age melodies played quietly in the background.

The Spa@Adelphi is a fusion of pampering techniques from ancient cultures to combat the evils of the modern world. The products are from Li'tya, which bills itself as providing care inspired by the Dreamtime and boasts Melbourne's only Turkish Rasul steam room.

Erin lit a kooliman stick - an incense wand about 40 centimetres long - and waved it around my face. The stick, which traditionally should be rotated anti-clockwise, contains a mixture of wild moss and lemon myrtle, designed to rebalance energies. The smoke is supposed to adhere to heavy particles of negative energy and float them away. I can't say I felt any lighter but the burning myrtle provided a heady rush.

For the massage, Erin and I selected more lemon myrtle (by now I was hooked on the stuff), desert salt to detox and clear out lymph nodes, pepperberry and peat mud for relaxing muscles and the jiga jina macadamia nut rejuvenating oil. I wasn't too keen on the lymph node claim but it was good-looking goop.

We entered the Rasul, a bathroom-sized cubicle with a single massage table and a range of coloured pin lights on the ceiling. From behind a heavy mist of steam, Erin coated me with a blend of the ingredients we had selected.

A cooling mist burst from water jets set in the ceiling, reducing the temperature in the room as Erin worked the goop into my muscles. The steam and spray soon had her soaked, too.

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Erin left me to marinate, then returned after about 20 minutes or so to rinse off the medicinal gumbo with a vichy-shower arm suspended from above the table. The arm has seven heads - one for each chakra point on the spine - and Erin moved along the seven, focusing the water's direction and flow.

After a shower, a moisturising massage and a herbal tea, the treatment was sadly at an end, just under two hours after it had begun. Life-force focus points realigned, toxins expunged and stresses banished, I was ready to tackle another evening of beers and hot dogs.

The Spa@Adelphi also offers a speed spa - for 45 minutes to an hour -for those who need a quick alignment before getting on the road.

The hotel has long had a reputation as one of the funkier boutique stays in central Melbourne .The Adephi's 25-metre heated pool features a glass bottom that hangs out over Flinders Lane for a few metres. It was Australia's first boutique designer hotel and a recent facelift has renewed its charm. The rooms have fresh, soft furnishings and renovated bathrooms. The new-look bar Art@Adelphi opened in September. Centrally located behind St Paul's Cathedral and a five-minute walk from the hip and happening Federation Square, the Adelphi has a well-worn cool - think Tony Bennett-meets-the Foo-Fighters.

Full of art-deco furniture, modern paintings, and with two plasma televisions, the executive suite is long and thin, a welcome change from the boxy rooms in most hotels. The sitting room features a groovy, stainless-steel triangular bar ideal for intimate entertaining. The bedroom is down the hallway just past a large bathroom with stainless-steel fittings, a deep bath and full length (and width) mirrors.

The king-sized bed was perfect to flop into after a big night on the town and the thoughtfully provided sachet of sleep balm on the pillow would have been lovely had it not been too difficult to open.

This hotel is an intimate boutique experience, with a small professional staff. When I checked out, there was Erin again, working the front desk and looking much drier. The slightly awkward she-has-seen-me-in-spa-panties moment was banished by her friendly smile and fond farewell.

The writer was a guest of the Adelphi Hotel and Tourism Victoria.

TRIP NOTES

Address: Adelphi Hotel, 187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.

Bookings: Phone (03) 8080 8888, see adelphi.com.au

Rates: From $245 a night for standard rooms to $650 for the executive suite. Spa treatments: Mali Mayi, $245; Speed Spa $120-$165. See the site for a full menu.

VERDICT

A classy, professionally run boutique hotel. Top dollar buys you top service and amenities. Look out for lurking lemon myrtle dealers - just say no!

Why you'd go: You want an upmarket, informal, relaxed stay and some serious pampering.

Why you wouldn't: You have an intolerance to lemon myrtle.

FIND TIME TO

· Have a cocktail at Section 8, a bar built in a shipping container, in Tattersall's Lane.

· Take in cabaret at Tony Starr's Kitten Club, Level 2, 267 Little Collins Street; watch the Test at the MCG, see cricketvictoria.com.au; for arts and crafts, head to Southbank on Sundays where the Arts Centre Market is held along the footways at the eastern end of the riverbank.

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