Peppers Gallery Hotel, Canberra
The 80-room Peppers Gallery Hotel, formerly The Diamant Hotel, is part of Canberra's justifiably acclaimed New Acton on the banks of Lake Burley Griffin. New Acton is dominated by another, more high-profile establishment, the avant-garde Hotel Hotel, which has almost single-handedly redefined tourism in the national capital. Yet a property like Hotel Hotel is not to every visitor's tastes with the more conservative Peppers Gallery Hotel providing sufficient distinctive character to make for an interesting stay.
This place is quite the rabbit warren and it can be tricky to find your way around. But don't let that deter you as it's all part of the immense character of the building in which the hotel sits. It's a shame that not more is made by the hotel's operators of the building's early 20th-century heritage. It was built as the Acton Hotel to accommodate the guests arriving in Canberra for the opening of the original Parliament House in 1927 when the city was more bush than capital. Designed by John Smith Murdoch, the then Commonwealth architect (he was also responsible for Hotel Canberra, now the Park Hyatt) the utilitarian Acton Hotel didn't last long as guest accommodation. The onset of the Depression saw the building turned into the census and patents office and later as billets for police during World War II. In 2000 the New Acton was created, with the building belatedly returning to its original purpose.
The contemporary-styled rooms feature Bang and Olufsen plasma TVs, iPod docking stations, Nespresso machines (with plenty of caffeine fix opportunities on and off site), free broadband access, original art works and luxurious bathrooms with rain shower and marble vanity tops.
The hotel is a pleasant place for a night or two, or even longer. We can imagine lolling about in our large, irregularly shaped suite with a separate bedroom and lounge and dining room. But, frankly, there's so much to do in Canberra these days that you won't want to hang about the hotel for too long.
There's a charming in-house Italian restaurant, Bicicletta, which serves good pasta and pizza (as well as breakfast between 7am and 11am) in one of good old Murdoch's delightful 1920s rooms. Hotel Hotel's Monster Kitchen and Bar, just a quick stroll away, is a top spot for breakfast, lunch and especially dinner, as is the hotel itself for a drink. Then there's the edgy cafe, Mocan & Green Grout, a cafe cum bakery, A.Baker, and posh drinking hole serving tapas, the Parlour Wine Room.
There's the full range of monuments, memorials and museums within easy driving distance (as is nearly everything in Canberra) but you could spend a few days and nights within the New Acton precinct. Along with its hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars, there's also an art-house movie complex with a small al fresco cinema during the warmer months. If that's not enough, Civic, the capital's compact CDB, has lots more eating, drinking and shopping venues.
Murdoch would probably be pleased to see his rambling 1927 building flourishing as a hotel again. And in a city not long ago dominated by dull apartment hotels, it's a pleasure to stay in a Canberra hotel with history and style. New Acton is one of the most successful examples of urban design in the country. If you've been underwhelmed by the idea of a visit in Canberra in the past, now's the time to consider a weekend away or a short break. There's an exciting range, disproportionate to its size, of decent, interesting accommodation, including the excellent value Peppers Gallery Hotel, as well as a first-rate dining scene.
Doubles start from $148 for a deluxe room. Peppers Gallery Hotel, Canberra, 15 Edinburgh Avenue, Canberra. Phone 02 6175 2222. See peppers.com; newacton.com.au
The writer was a guest of the hotel.
Our rating Four out of five
TripAdvisor rating four out of five