Glamour's a commodity not normally in abundance along the somewhat notorious Naples end of Lygon Street, Melbourne's iconic Little Italy, a haunt for cheap pizzerias, pesky menu spruikers and, yes, the occasional gangster gathering.
So what a relief then, that a new hotel has introduced some overdue decorum in the guise of the 97-room boutique-style Zagame's House, the eponymous product of leading Melbourne pub owners Victor and Robert Zagame.
Opened this year, Zagame's House is the result of an $18-million transformation by the brothers of the former Downtowner on Lygon motel, for decades a less than lovely Carlton landmark.
Instead of seeking inspiration in this end of Lygon Street's more nefarious past, or even the retro heritage of the erstwhile motor inn, Zagame's designers have gone all psychedelic, with the hotel's public areas a canvas for adventurous contemporary artwork.
Although part of the building's facade also features a racy geometric artwork, the pub's luxuriously appointed, ultra-modern guestrooms are a tad more sober. A Feng Shui master was even consulted to harmonise the building for quality sleep and relaxation.
One historical aspect that Zagame's House does reference, however, is Lord Lygon, a controversial 19th-century British cabinet minister and Governor of NSW, after whom the hotel's invitingly chic in-house wine bar and shop is named.
Aside from an impressive wine list with a suitable bias towards Victorian drops, Lord Lygon's eclectic menu consists of small and large plate offerings such as duck san choy bau, chorizo and wagyu meatballs and chermoula John Dory cooked in a bag (sorry, no ham and pineapple pizzas).
Doubles start from $240. Zagame's House, 66 Lygon Street, Carlton, Melbourne. Ph: 03 9084 7777. See zagameshouse.com.au
Anthony Dennis was a guest of the hotel.