One of the pleasures of a visit to Brisbane (yes, there actually are pleasures these days) is its signature weatherboard Queenslander houses. No other Australian city is defined by a single, pervasive style of residential architecture than the Queensland capital. And it's finally seeing the potential in converting its Queenslanders, famously stilted to promote air circulation in the state's sultry climate, into elegant accommodation with the newly-opened three-bedroom Heal House a more-than-worthy example. Located in an unprepossessing suburban street in up-and-coming, inner-city New Farm, an easy 10 minutes or so from the CBD, Heal House has emulated the nearby Spicers Balfour (owned by Flight Centre founder, Graham "Skroo" Turner and wife Jude – with a stunning, tasteful transformation of a once neglected Queenslander.
Is it a small boutique hotel? A designer bed and breakfast? Or a glamour guesthouse? Whatever you want to call Heal House, it's a most pleasant of Brisbane bases for a few days or more. A characteristically expansive frontage leads to a wide black-and-white tiled verandah where you can take breakfast or just relax. Inside, there's a chic communal living room and a sunny breakfast area along with a trio of guestrooms of differing sizes, style and character as well as a plenty of communal living space.
My room is the master suite (cooled by ducted airconditioning), which features daring chocolate-painted tongue and groove walls and a king-sized bed. Featuring all of the amenities of a five-star hotel room, it's teamed with a large en suite complete with his and her (or his and his or her and her, depending on your proclivity) vanity basins, a bathtub and a walk-in wardrobe area. In a cute, if cheeky touch, there's a copy of Matt Condon's Three Crooked Kings, the tale of Brisbane's dark corrupt past.
This is not some stuffy bed and breakfast with owners Bryce Williams and Lindsay Bennett, both erstwhile Sydneysiders, welcoming, congenial hosts. The master suite faces the street and is the near the living room but noise is minimal (except during those heavy Brisbane summer storms on the tin roof). The bed linen (and, for that matter, the bathrobes), are by Sheridan with the towels commendably fluffy.
Aside from a breakfast (continental, inclusive in the room rate or cooked, extra charge) you're on your own for lunch and dinner. However, there's no shortage of dining options within walking distance of your accommodation. Up the road is Brunswick Street, New Farm with a full range of restaurants, cafes and bars but your best bet is to head down the hill to James Street, one of Australia's smartest pieces of urban development. There you'll find some of Brisbane's best restaurants including Gerard's Bistro which does a renowned breakfast on Saturdays.
Your best bet is to head down the hill to James Street, one of Australia's smartest pieces of urban development.Anthony Dennis
Brisbane has never really been fully on the radar as a weekend away destination for Sydneysiders and Melburnians. But with an increasingly lively cultural and dining sense, combined with a ever-evolving range of interesting accommodation, Brisbane is worthy of a weekend away or short break. Don't miss the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) at Southbank. One of Australia's most vibrant cultural institutions, there always something worth seeing there.
HOW TO GET THERE
Heal House is a 20-minute taxi ride from Brisbane Airport and an easy walk along the river boardwalk to Brisbane's CBD.
Heal House is a fine alternative choice for the discerning Brisbane visitor who seeks accommodation with boutique hotel touches but without requiring the full amenities and services of a conventional hotel.
72 Heal Street, New Farm, Brisbane. Rooms start from $244 a room a night. Phone 07 3358 3350 or see healhouse.com.au
The writer was a guest of Heal House.