People have been walking past the Inchcolm Hotel for years, wondering what happens beyond its heritage-listed facade – probably not thinking they could walk right in and see for themselves. It's an unassuming old building, yet in its day was home to a noted physician before becoming one of the city's elite lodges for weary, albeit wealthy, travellers. Its Wickham Street windows overlook some of the nicer parts of the city, featuring churches and parks. Three blocks to the left are Fortitude Valley nightspots, three blocks ahead Eagle Street Pier eateries, and three blocks to the right Queen Street Mall.
The hotel had until recently become old and outdated. If staying in a museum was your thing, this was probably your place. But that's changed. Accor group has invested heavily in the old lady's future, and what was once old has, with a touch of interior design magic, become elegant and charming. The pool has gone and two floors of new rooms have been built. These rooms are not visible from the front of the building and passers-by probably don't care to look, which makes them a pleasant secret for the guests who stay in them. A highlight for most is the heritage-listed lift. It's easy to walk through the sliding cage door and visualise a suited bellhop from yesteryear moving the lift lever back and forth to transport guests from floor to floor. What was once a luxury has become a novelty experience. The lift operator might not be there but there's something that feels remarkably good and respectful about seeing a piece of history so intricately restored.
Modern architecture meets regal design in the loft room. Windows and curtains stretch two storeys high. Large 55-inch televisions in living room and loft bedroom, comfortable leather couches, a modern lattice feature on the wide staircase, king-size bed in all new rooms and large rainshower make this a room with all the luxuries of a boutique resort. A Vogue magazine sits on the coffee table, but there's also an app on the room's iPad mini which allows magazine downloads from the world over. Couple that with a maxi-bar – an oversized minibar – and available room service and it's a level of quality rarely found in Brisbane city hotel rooms.
The hotel reopened its doors after refurbishment late last year. Along with new-look hotel rooms, the Inchcolm got a new restaurant, Thomson's Reserve, named after the doctor who more than 100 years ago built the Inchcolm and called it home. Now, the chef serves up New England lamb with eggplant custard and other goodies. Pressed organic duck leg with flowers and tea is equally royal, and fitting of the premises. Cocktails are also developing a reputation from the bar. Signature mix "The Socialite" is made with spiced rum, pear liqueur, ginger liqueur with fresh pear and crystalised ginger. With delicacies like that, it almost seems pointless to venture out, but if you must, Eagle Street Pier is nearby, as is Chinatown.
When paying top dollar for a quality room, there's a standard of expectation. This room not only meets those expectations with quality furnishings, decor, and personalised service – it serves up little things which make a guest feel special. Upon returning from dinner, "Good night! Sweet dreams!" is written in crayon on the mirror, along with the traditional small chocolate. The iPad, electronic curtains, bedside controls and central location make this a hidden gem.
HOW TO GET THERE
The hotel is about three blocks from the heart of the city, on Wickham Terrace. It can be a little tricky to navigate legally into the parking bay at the front door. Best to drive into the Valley end of Astor Terrace, and do the block – left, and left again into Wickham Terrace. The hotel has valet parking for $40 per day.
The New Inchcolm Hotel and Suites, 73 Wickham Terrace, Brisbane. Rack rates start at $299 for a queen room and $699 for the executive suite with loft. Deal sites have specials which could bring those rates down to between $229 and $589. Phone 07 3226 8888, see inchcolm.com.au.
The writer was a guest of the New Inchcolm Hotel and Suites.