Affordable Luxury

Anyone who travels to Melbourne on a regular basis will have been caught out by fluctuating hotel prices.  A big AFL match, a major concert or the Spring Racing Carnival can easily send prices spiralling. Travel Editor Winsor Dobbin checks out three accommodation options that offer affordable rooms to visitors all year round.

Gourmet precinct
Melbourne has new twin hotels sharing many of the same facilities in one of the best locations in town. Located in the heart of the Melbourne CBD, next to the busy Hardware Lane dining precinct, Novotel Melbourne Central and Ibis Melbourne Central are just a few metres to Melbourne’s shopping precinct with easy access to Docklands and Southbank via a free tram ride.

For lovers of Asian food there are dozens of choices on the doorstep – as well as a spectacular Asian supermarket.

I’ve stayed twice recently in the very comfortable Novotel part of the building in rooms that featured a giant flat-screen TV and free wifi. There’s a well-stocked mini bar, a plethora of pillows and quality bathroom amenities. The lifts, too, are fast, not always the case in busy city properties. Well- situated for business travellers – within close proximity to major office towers – the complex features a casual eatery, restaurant, bar and conference facilities.

Located on Little Lonsdale Street, the hotels feature 483 guestrooms in total and the 35-floor tower is AccorHotels Australia’s first vertical new-build multi hotel development.  Ibis Melbourne Central comprises the lower tiers of the tower and make up 270 premium-economy guest rooms, whilst Novotel operates above level 20 with 213 4.5-star guest rooms and suites.

The budget-priced Ibis offers some of Melbourne’s best accommodation value.

Pretty Boy Italian Steak House serves impressive buffet breakfasts to set you up for the day, although the vibe is a little soulless. Floyd’s is a casual bar and eatery with cheese and charcuterie selections, while Goldie Asian Canteen + Brews is open from dawn to dark.

Look out for some very tasty online deals.

Novotel Melbourne Central/Ibis Melbourne Central: 399 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000. (03) 9068

Laneway Chic

Metro Apartments on Bank Place offers inner-city apartment-style accommodation down a cobbled laneway that is a short stroll away from Melbourne’s sought-after attractions including Bourke Street Mall, Federation Square, Southgate Centre and Crown Casino. The property has a choice of compact rooms, studios, and one-bedroom suites.

Deals here start from $140 per night for a one-bedroom apartment and guests also receive a bottle of sparkling wine on arrival, late check out (noon) and a 25% discount voucher for meals at the Mitre Tavern (just 50m away). With complimentary wifi and check-in from 1pm, subject to availability, this is a centrally situated option for those on a budget.

Metro Apartments on Bank Place, 8 Bank Place, Melbourne. (03) 9604 4321. 


Room to breathe

When a hotel is named among the top 20 in Melbourne on TripAdvisor, you know it has a lot going for it.

For anyone who wants to be a walk from the city centre but still be able to stroll in parks and breathe fresh air, award-winning The Blackman (pictured above), part of the Art Series group, is a very good choice.

Despite having 209 rooms, The Blackman has the vibe of a boutique establishment – with smiling helpful staff. Many of the rooms (there are several different configurations of rooms and suites) have views over Albert Park.

The interiors, dotted with prints of the late artist Charles Blackman, are modern and bright – and built within and above the historic Airlie Mansion, less than 100 metres from Albert Park. Each suite has a 42-inch LCD TV, an iPod docking station, refrigerator and microwave. There is also smart car rental service and bicycle hire.

You’ll find a tram stop directly outside and Melbourne city centre is only 2km away. It is a 10-minute walk to the Royal Botanic Gardens. With rooms starting from under $200 a night for direct bookings, there is good value to be found here for anyone looking for a weekend away.

The beds are super comfortable, the rooms are spacious and the hotel is home to two restaurants: there is a chilled cafe offering a French-style menu while Classico Restaurant serves traditional Italian cuisine in a stylish atmosphere. The pizza I ordered from Classico through room service was outstanding.

There is also a “state-of-art gymnasium” that I somehow forgot to check out. Downside: the wifi (on level 10 anyway) could do with an upgrade.

Art Series The Blackman, 452 St Kilda Rd, (entry via Arthur Street), Melbourne. 

1800 278 468. 

Burger Heaven

On my last visit to Victoria, I also discovered what may well be Australia’s best gourmet burgers in the small town of Woodend en route to Daylesford. Using ethically produced meats and a couple of special ingredients from the US, Super Lekker should be on the radar of every serious burgerphile.

It is around an hour north of Melbourne and sits in the shadows of Mount Macedon. Owners Janet Leung and David Morant boast that they only use “natural pasture-fed happy cows and free-range chicken”.

In German, Dutch and Afrikaans, Super Lekker means “Super Delicious” – and the burgers we tried more than lived up to their billing. I’ve eaten burgers around the world, from fast food chains to creations by big-name chefs and this place has deliciousness spot-on.

We sampled a Super Lekker ($15) with a beef patty, Istra bacon, cheese, red onion, egg, tomato, lettuce, pickles, gold mustard and ketchup, and a Burt Reynolds (also $15) with beef patty, bacon, cheese, smoky barbecue sauce, caramelised onion, pickles and American mustard.

The Lillie’s sauces, McClure’s pickles and cheese are the secret weapons imported from the US, where they know a thing or two about burgers. If you like burgers you’ll love this place.

The menu also features side dishes, ice creams and drinks. You can eat in, or take away.

Super Lekker, 2/99 High Street, Woodend. (03) 5417 6125.