Jasper Hotel, Melbourne
The four-star, contemporarily-designed Jasper Hotel is one of the best marketed hotels in Melbourne. By that we don't mean it's necessarily any more adept at selling itself than any other establishment. It is just that, in a turn-up for the books , it's relatively removed from the usual cluster of hotels in the Victorian capital, being slap-bang in its bustling market district on unglamorous Elizabeth Street. The historic and sprawling Queen Victoria Markets – a must-visit – are a short stroll away on the north-west fringe of the city centre while other attractions, such as shopping hotspots like Melbourne Central, Bourke Street Mall and the newer Emporium Melbourne complex, are within an easy walk. Conveniently, there is a tram stop right outside the hotel.
Despite its rather small size, I'm fairly pleased with my spruced-up room with its fresh carpets, furnishing, mod fittings and a decent white-tiled bathroom.
This 90-room hotel, the former home of the local YWCA when the Jasper Hotel was known as Hotel Y, was the beneficiary of a $7 million part-refurbishment last year encompassing some of the main public areas and a few of the room floors (just to prove how little a lot of money buys you these days). Each of the floors of the hotel are colour-coded and inspired, it turns out, by the Jasper gemstone, after which the property is named. A relaxed new ground-level open-plan public area faces the street, with windows open to it on warmer days and nights. It features a café-cum-restaurant, adjacent to the small lobby, with chairs and benches running along the front of the hotel allowing guests to take in what is one of the busiest and most vibrant corners of Melbourne's ever appealing CBD.
My premium courtyard view room is one of 35 newly-refurbished rooms. Despite its rather small size, I'm fairly pleased with my spruced-up room with its fresh carpets, furnishing, mod fittings and a decent white-tiled bathroom. Although the hotel's website refers to a "sunlight-filled courtyard" the room is quite dark, though this, after all, is a city where black is always the new black. There's a screen-like timber feature on the window, probably an architectural measure designed to provide privacy from across the courtyard to the other rooms, but it serves mainly to limit natural light.
This being Melbourne, you have to be really unlucky to score a bad meal, even in the slightly less salubrious corners of town, full of cheap ethnic eats with Chinatown itself, along Little Bourke Street, nearby. This rule also applies to Jasper Kitchen, the hotel's casual in-house eatery and bar, open around the clock for breakfast with an all-day menu thereafter featuring affordably-priced gourmet pizzas and Spanish tapas and serving coffee good enough for you not to have to leave the premises in search of a cafe. That said, for a glimpse of Melbourne's caffeine-and-be-seen scene, do duck around to the minimalist Market Lane Coffee in Therry Street, just behind the markets. Everything is so cool at this cafe that it's a wonder all of the caffe lattes don't come iced.
Sydney shifted its main fruit and vegetable markets to the western suburbs years ago but Melbourne was savvy enough to leave its considerably grander equivalent in its original spot. It's provided the latter with not just an enormously valuable and popular public facility in the heart of the city but a formidable tourist attraction. If you're up for it, rise early to visit Queen Victoria Markets at their peak (check on the varying opening times and days) or go later for a look at the speciality shops, including the splendid and ornate Deli Hall, where you'll discover a startling variety of poultry, game meats, dips, pates, terrines, cured and preserved meats as well as pastries and chocolates. Even if you're not buying it's well worth a wander.
Despite a few qualms, Jasper Hotel Melbourne, greatly improved following its refurbishment, is a good, affordable accommodation choice for leisure and business travellers – particularly if you book one of the nearly three dozen refurbished rooms – in an easily-overlooked part of the city.
Doubles start from $125 per night for a deluxe queen room with the featured premium courtyard view rooms starting from $175 per night. Jasper Hotel, 489 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. Phone (03) 8327 2777, see jasperhotel.com.au
The writer stayed as a guest of Tourism Victoria
The location near to the Queen Victoria Markets offers a different perspective on Melbourne.
The hotel's small though smartly-designed premium courtyard view room is lacking in natural light.