Melbourne has plenty of surprises worth discovering. Travel editor Winsor Dobbin recommends a hotel and an off-the-wall sandwich shop for your next visit.
It is hard to know where to stay nowadays when looking for a hotel room. There are so many false claims and dubious reviews. I recently enjoyed a Melbourne hotel that I had, literally, not stayed in for decades. And it was excellent.
The Pullman Melbourne on the Park – once known as the Hilton – is a hotel that is clearly comfortable in its skin. With French management and polyglot staff, it delivers old-school service with a smile.
Four examples from my recent stay:
- I arrived extremely early in the morning and asked to leave my bags before returning to check in. “No problem at all. We have your room ready for you now.” Welcome news as I had begun my travels at 4am.
- I sampled the excellent savoury/sweet high tea offering. Perfect for two people, a lot for one. No problem to have the rest of the morsels delivered to my room for later enjoyment.
- The pump-action body wash in my room ran empty during my stay. I went to reception to ask for some soap but was gifted a new luxe body wash container and was told I was welcome to take it home.
- I was clearly baffled by the high-tech coffee machine at breakfast, but a kind waitress took the time to come and make me a short black – without being asked.
It is the little things like this that make a hotel a warm and welcoming place. And I’m sure, like me, you’ve stayed in hotels where everything is a hassle for the overworked staff. One thing that had not changed since my last visit was the superb location: right at the edge of Melbourne’s city centre but away from the hustle and bustle.
Opposite the city’s sporting hub, overlooking the iconic MCG and Rod Laver Arena – my well-equipped room had views of both – the property is adjacent to the tree-lined paths of the Fitzroy Gardens.
The hotel is a large one with 419 rooms, including several suites and the luxe William Clarke Sky Villa. The rooms are restful and quiet, but you are just a 15-minute walk from Flinders St Station and 10 minutes from Chinatown and the many eateries of Flinders Lane.
There is also a tram that stops directly outside the hotel, linking you to most parts of Melbourne with ease. There are the elements you’d expect of a five-star hotel: a swimming pool and fitness centre, the Cliveden Bar and Dining, air con, soundproofing, a spectacular buffet breakfast, good fast wifi, and room service.
One suggestion: make sure to try the cross-cultural high tea: it is spectacular. Think the usual delights but with native ingredients and a touch of Asia, accompanied by a glass of Chandon Blanc de Blanc, of course. And do try to book a room that offers access to the executive lounge on the 18th floor. It is great have somewhere to pop into to read the newspaper and grab a cup of tea, or enjoy some canapes and free-flowing pre-dinner drinks. Refreshments and light nibbles are served all day should you be peckish at any time.
For more details see https://www.pullmanonthepark.com.au/
Sometimes simple ideas are the best ideas.
Like pairing the humble sandwich with some tasty Indonesian flavours. And creating a cool, café vibe that just about anyone can afford to enjoy.
That’s what happened when owners Barry Susanto (a fine dining chef) and Erwin Chandra (a barista) created Warkop during Covid. The initial outlet in Richmond dates to 2021 while 13 Little Collins Street in the CBD opened its doors in May.
Now there are more Warkop outlets likely to follow – as Melburnians growing to love eccentric dishes like smoked duck sandwich and sambal bawang (fried shallots).
Along with house-made sweet and savoury dishes and fresh salads, the CBD sandwich menu offers Susanto’s roast pork with sambal burrata, salted lettuce and black garlic on Shokupan bread; and tempeh, tofu, sprouts, lettuce with gado gado sauce on a toasted focaccia.
Or more recent sweet additions like a cruller with kaya (Indonesian coconut jam), or a pandan lamington.
Warkop, which translates to coffee shack in Bahasa Indonesia, recently unveiled a new menu with lighter breakfast dishes and refreshing summer drinks like Matcha Lemonade and a Calamansi Fizz.
For breakfast think sausage and egg muffins with Barry’s zingy bazzinga (spicy mayonnaise) sauce, or a smoked beef dabu dabu (chilli condiment) sandwich.
Chef Barry is very much hands-on. He was manning the kitchen, and the front counter, when I stopped by on a recent Sunday. He told me everything is house-made and the menu constantly adjusted to match Australian palates with Indonesian heat. Think possibilities like beef brisket rendang with house-made pickles and cheese in light rye, or Warkop fried chicken with kohlrabi, pickles, bazzinga sauce and cheese on a potato roll (super tasty).
To finish, perhaps a sambal matah cheese cruller, or maybe a coconut and jackfruit friand. There is also, obviously, a selection of coffees.
Such a fun spot – and nothing costs over $17. See https://www.warkop.com.au/
There is nothing worse than a long layover – or delay – at an airport. And such inconveniences are becoming increasingly frequent.
Should you find yourself needing a place to relax for a few hours while in transit, PARKROYAL Melbourne Airport offers a convenient day pass.
Guests who buy the day pass can check into a comfortable, refurbished room for a nap, pop on a robe or catch a movie while enjoying the in-room dining service, burn some energy in the gym, cool off in the indoor pool, or chill out in the spa, sauna, or steam room.
Day passes will be available to book online or by calling the hotel directly from January. A 3-hour pass is $109, a 5-hour pass is $119, and an 8-hour pass is $149.
Part of Pan Pacific Hotel Group (PPHG), the hotel is the only one connected to Melbourne Airport’s domestic and international terminals via an undercover pedestrian skybridge.
It has 276 guest rooms. See https://www.panpacific.com/en/hotels-and-resorts/pr-melbourne-airport.html
See more of Winsor’s travel stories at www.gourmetontheroad.com