The automatic glass door slid open, and if my eyes were closed, I could hardly be faulted for thinking I had stepped into Willy Wonka’s factory — or at least, a bakery of some sort. For a sweet, chocolatey aroma wafted up my nose, immediately conjuring images of stacks of caramel-laden bonbons or moist brownies. But no, I was not in a candy nor cupcake making facility. Instead, I was checking into the Adelphi Hotel, a modestly-sized boutique establishment smack in the heart of the Central Business District in Melbourne, and a member of Design Hotels.
As I sat my bag down on one of the colourfully striped stools in the reception area (I later realised that they were meant to look like liquorice), my eyes came to rest upon a galloping life-sized horse sculpture made out of mesh wire. Just then, the receptionist invited me to check in, and noticing my gaze, laughed and explained that the horse was actually connected to the reception desk which was made to look like a carriage. “In the past, desserts used to get delivered by horse and carriage, so this is kind of a nod to that part of history,” she explained with a smile.
Indeed, desserts, and just about anything pertaining to them, are the inspiration behind this hotel’s decor scheme — in fact, the reception counter was loaded with jars of lollies and bowls of candy bars. Touted as the world’s first dessert-themed hotel, numerous elements in the hotel allude to or straight-out mimic the look of just about any sweet you can think of. From the aforementioned stool, to the quilted dark brown leather bound interiors of the elevator that are meant to look like delicious chocolate bars, and to the Chevron-patterned carpets in the hallways and rooms that resemble cake, the dessert-theme quite literally runs through the hotel decor. Guests can easily entertain themselves guessing what each decor item might be influenced by.
But the hotel didn’t alway look — or smell — like this. Formerly a garment warehouse, the building was originally constructed in 1938 and is located in an area that was once at the heart of Melbourne’s thriving garment trade. In 1993, it was reincarnated as a small but edgy boutique hotel boasting a dramatic 25 metre rooftop pool with a 2 metre cantilevered end that jutted out over Flinders Lane, which helped the hotel gain its fame. It eventually encountered a period of financial woes, however, before a new management took over and reinvented and relaunched the hotel in its current form in 2013. The 34-guest room inventory now includes a 90 square metre Palatial Suite with separate sitting room, while each guest room features a king bed, 40-inch LED television and Appelles bathroom amenities. And yes, it kept its famous pool.
The dessert theme has lent itself to a decor that is quirky and eclectic yet not over the top and entirely functional. A perfect example of this would be the welcome note written with lipstick on the mirror that greets every guest — it’s cute and memorable. The plush and stylish rooms are spacious and bright and possess a New York apartment-style feel to the place, and the assortment of quirky coffee table books certainly contribute to that. I particularly loved the automated lighting that dimmed slowly when you flicked the switch; it was surprisingly comforting as it felt like you were winding down in a cocoon and preparing to hibernate. And, with unlimited movies available on the flat-screen TVs, you might just be in danger of staying in the entire duration of your stay.
Should the decor inspire your sweet tooth, as it quite likely is meant to, you can help yourself to the minibar filled with a store-worthy selection of sweets that are not only free, but replenished daily. The turn-down service also means the delivery of even more chocolates every evening to further sweeten your stay. (I would certainly recommend you not forget to bring your toothpaste).
Anchoring the dessert focus even further is Om Nom, a dessert-centric restaurant (there are savoury items too, but who needs that?) and bar headed by French-trained and Indonesia-born patisserie chef Christy Tania, whose impressive CV includes stints with Alain Ducasse and Michel Roth. Tania’s original desserts are plated with such painstaking perfection and so Instagram-worthy, that you’ll be loathe to actually eat them.
Of course, Melbourne is known for its F&B and if you fancy exploring the culinary landscape, the hotel’s location couldn’t be any better for that. This, I quickly found out after being invited by a friend to Chin Chin which is just a few steps away and hands down the trendiest Thai restaurant in town (don’t expect to wait less than an hour for a table), after attending the opening of a fancy new bar called The Mill House that is located on the same street.
Food aside, there are also scores of designer clothing stores, fancy furniture shops and hip cafes scattered in the vicinity. While I didn’t have the time, those wanting to indulge in some touristic activities will be pleased to know that the hotel only a block from Flinders Street Station, the city’s main transport hub, and the shopping and bustle of Swanston Street. A stone’s throw away is the National Gallery of Victoria and Regent Theatre, while the hipster enclave of Fitzroy is only a 20 minute stroll away. Given all the sweet stuff I partook in, I was more than happy to walk it all off. You might want to consider that, too.
The Adelphi Hotel is at 187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, T: +61 3 8080 8888; www.designhotels.com