There was a time when finding a hotel room in Brisbane city, particularly of a weekend, was a walk-up start. But there's something in the air. Theatre shows are selling out and people are visiting the cultural precinct, just because it's good. Food and entertainment in key areas has become an attraction. Big concerts attract crowds of up to 50,000 people with increasing regularity. Then there's the Lions, the Roar, the Broncos and the Reds. Mantra on Edward is two blocks from the city - away from the city centre's big Saturday crowds, yet 150 metres from the mall, 300 metres from Roma Street Transit Centre, and within walking distance of South Bank's eateries, Fortitude Valley's music scene, the cultural hub and Suncorp Stadium.
Before being bought out by Mantra, this place was tenanted. All 104 apartments have now undergone a renovation which means they are now some of the most spacious hotel rooms in the city. There's something liberating about being able to escape to the balcony for city views, to read a book, or sip back a glass of bubbly - not one of those pokey pretend balconies some hotels use as a selling point, a proper balcony with space for a banana lounge and full dining suite.
Initially set up as an apartment building, it's got all the facilities - small gym, pool and shared cinema. Those who don't like pokey hotel rooms will be enthused by the idea of one, two or three bedrooms. No studio-size apartments here. Kitchens are decked out, there's a lounge and normal cable television access. Bathrooms are average size, and the decor was freshly updated in line with the multi-million refurbishment, done soon after the Mantra takeover.
There was a time when Brisbane didn't have al fresco dining and the city was dead on weekends, but that's all changed now. The Queensland capital is embracing culture like never before: global artists are displaying well-known art at the galleries, the Bolshoi and American Ballet are examples of the talent at the performing arts centre, and full houses are not uncommon at the 50,000-capacity Suncorp Stadium. There's a cafe downstairs. Stroll 500 metres to Eagle St for the best choice of dining.
It might come as a surprise to locals that Mantra on Edward is now ranked on TripAdvisor as the No. 1 hotel in Brisbane's city centre. But it won't come as a surprise to anyone who's stayed here in the past three months. Apartment-style living in newly-refurbished rooms is a rare luxury. Go on. Swing that cat, space lovers. It's entirely possible 20 floors up in this central property.
HOW TO GET THERE
On the corner of Edward St and Wickham Terrace, the hotel is easy to find. There is underground parking, and for those taking public transport, Central Station is just 50 metres away.
Mantra on Edward, 166 Wickham Terrace, Brisbane. Given that rooms are more spacious than your average city hotel, stays are well-priced from $189, although they can jack up by $30-$40 on Friday and Saturday nights, depending what events are in town.
Phone 07 5665 4133, see 5544 8070, see mantra.com.au
The writer was a guest of Mantra on Edward.