Read our writer's views on this property below
Anthony Dennis meets elegance, tradition and comfort in a Brisbane Queenslander.
When it comes to the evolution of Australian cities, what you see in Sydney and Melbourne is, more or less, what you're always going to get. But Brisbane, Australia's third biggest urban centre, is another matter, noticeably changing, for the better, with each semi-regular visit. Spicers Balfour Hotel, one of Brisbane's best and most elegant examples of positive change, is in a suburban street in New Farm, one of the city's many fashionable inner-city suburbs, with an eat street a short stroll away and the CBD nearby.
Spicers Balfour, owned by travel tycoon Graham "Skroo" Turner, the founder of Flight Centre and a figure not normally associated with style, is billed as "European style in the heart of the city". However, it couldn't be more new Queensland. The interior colour scheme moves from "shaded mauves" to "washed blue-greys", with the tones becoming noticeably deeper the further you move away from the verandah.
The design award-winning building is a radically repurposed Queenslander that shows the sure hand of Scroo's wife, Jude. It features just nine suites, a restaurant, The Balfour Kitchen, spilling out to a verandah and leafy courtyard garden, a bar with stunning, glamorous night-time views of the Story Bridge and the Brisbane skyline and a spa open to in-house guests and day visitors. My smartly decorated though compact courtyard room is a little lacking in natural light because of the densely vegetated garden outside but no doubt that is a godsend in Brissy's sub-tropical summer.
The attention to detail and quality - areas where Australian accommodation can falter - is impressive. My room features an espresso machine, a comfortable workstation (desk), an iPod docking station, cold filtered water and hot boiling water on tap, a mini-bar and nine stations of pay-TV. Continental and full cooked breakfasts are included, along with canapes between 6pm and 7pm, unlimited internet access and free off-street parking (not that you necessarily need a car in this location).
My room, which comes with a feather-top doona and a pillow menu, may not be overly large, but with a library, rooftop bar and restaurant, there's plenty of room to stretch out and hang about. There are plans to extend the hotel to the two adjoining Queenslanders.
Do reserve at least one of your nights (and mornings) to dine in at The Balfour Kitchen, the hotel's excellent in-house restaurant. Ask for a table on the verandah or in the fairy-light lit garden.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
On my admittedly short visit and in a tribute to Spicers Balfour, I hardly felt the urge to explore the nearby area at all, content to just relax around the hotel in between appointments. But inner-city Brisbane is literally on your doorstep, with the designer boutiques and upmarket restaurants of hip James Street nearby, as well as the more casual cafes and cheap eats of funky New Farm. The Queensland capital is home to the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), one of Australia's finest and most accessible art museums.
The sophisticated Spicers Balfour Hotel takes the "Vegas" out of "Brisvegas", as the state capital rediscovers both the appeal and potential of its distinctive Queenslander houses.
HOW TO GET THERE
Brisbane Airport is about 13 kilometres or 20 minutes away. Take the inner-city bypass via Hamilton, then take the Breakfast Creek Road exit to Ann Street, Newstead. Turn left into Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, then right into Balfour Street, New Farm. Spicers Balfour is at the top of the street.
Spicers Balfour Hotel, 37 Balfour Street, New Farm, Brisbane has rooms from $299 a room a night, including full continental and/or a la carte breakfast, complimentary parking and pre-dinner canapes each evening served on the rooftop bar. Phone 1300 597 540, see spicersgroup.com.au.
The writer was a guest of Spicers Balfour Hotel.