The Larwill Studio review, Parkville, Melbourne: Weekend Away

Our rating

4 out of 5

Sally Paterson finds that art is good for your health at a new Melbourne hotel.

THE SETTING

At first glance, Parkville seems a curious location for the sixth hotel in the uber-trendy Art Series Group. The small pocket just north of Melbourne's CBD is dominated by somewhat sombre hospital and university buildings and commercial precincts. But linger a while, and this unassuming site reveals some impressive local appeal. The silver city skyline looms large, and is easily reached via a brief tram ride beginning virtually at the front door. Melbourne Zoo is almost walking distance, Flemington Racecourse is a short tram trip away and the iconic Queen Victoria Markets are just down the road. And as the name implies, there's no lack of green space either. 

THE SPACE

Once you've passed the hospital-chic exterior, The Larwill Studio is the antithesis of clinical. Brand spanking new, the hotel has employed its namesake's art to bring a vibrant energy to every available space. The late David Larwill's works are a playful and colourful mix, combining with the pared-back interiors for a quirky but modern vibe. 

Referencing Larwill's own Studio, the rooms are dubbed "Workspaces", with lighting encased in industrial wire caging, and a peg board posing as a bedhead. The ubiquitous writing material and guest information is clipped to another peg board on the wall, and the softly-spoken staff are decked out in worn-looking aprons. 

COMFORT

The Larwill takes its health-services location and literally runs with it. The hotel's general manager Brett will happily take guests on a jogging tour of the local area, navigating through the Royal Park Gardens, past the Zoo and pointing out interesting titbits along the way, as part of the "Wellness" theme that's applied to the guest experience. Yoga mats are tucked away in the wardrobe, and a  complementary yoga channel is available on iPads that can be whisked from reception to the privacy of your room. There is a small gym on the lobby level, T2 "Sleep Tight" Tea and soul-soothing art books are in the room, while free meditation guides are available as an iPhone or iPad apps. 

THE KIT

The corner rooms are where it's at, with an enormous window overlooking an expanse of parkland in one direction, the dry climate leaving it rural and sage in appearance, while in the other direction, sparkling skyscrapers sculpt the landscape. A quote from Larwill, "Put your heart in it", is scrawled across my pillowcase, and a grey and fluoro yellow throw is artfully tossed across the bed, which is cloud-like comfortable and, it seems, for sale; guests can order an Art Series Signature bed for themselves.  

The room is clean, the  television is large (47") and there's a microwave, coffee machine and small dining table and chairs.  WiFi is free, and there's some head-scratching commentary on the EVO toiletries packaging to keep guests entertained in the spotless bathroom.

The Art Series Group provides Smart Cars at $8 per hour or $50 per day, and bikes at $5 per hour. Both are handy solutions to the hotel's lack of dedicated parking. 

FOOD

The hotel's restaurant promises to be an attraction in it's own right when it opens in February, and the large bar and 160-seat eatery will continue the wellness story, serving health-inspired food. In the meantime, a pop-up cafe serves up basic fare and fresh espresso in the lobby area, and the hotel staff are happy to point you in the direction of one of the area's impressive dining choices. Breakfast at The Auction Rooms in nearby North Melbourne is served with edgy urban decor, sensational coffee and a decidedly swine-inspired theme, including Mexi-style Chilaquiles with shredded pork shoulder.

WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR

Carlton and Fitzroy are the cool neighbours, teeming with the sort of dining and strip shopping that Melbourne is famous for. The Town Mouse has an award-winning Maitre d' and serves up unexpected flavours for sharing, such as skate-wing, smoked pork jowl or heirloom kale specialties. The lime posset, dill, apple and white chocolate dessert is an explosion of sweetness and a crowd-silencer. 

Advertisement

A Melbourne visit is not complete without shopping, and the CBD is a treasure trove of retail delights within easy reach of the hotel. Emporium and Melbourne Central are giant centres abuzz with the ringing of registers, while exploring the famous laneways leads to unexpected discoveries, "where-did-you-get-that" one-off purchases and countless cobblestreet cafes.  

THE VERDICT

The Larwill Studio is refreshing and unpredicted. I didn't expect to see so many families using it as their weekend base, and it's a breath of fresh air for corporate travellers. The wellness concept is delivered with just the right amount of encouragement, and Larwill's works make for a sunny start to the day.

HOW TO GET THERE

Parkville is easily reached from Melbourne Airport (about 20 minutes) by taxi or by Tram 55 from Melbourne CBD. 

ESSENTIALS

Rooms start at $155 per night. Call 1800 278 468, see artserieshotels.com.au/larwill. CBD laneway tours are run by hiddensecretstours.com. 

The writer was a guest of The Art Series Hotel Group and Tourism Victoria.