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Accommodation, Australia & Oceania, Words & pics

Let’s Travel magazine — Brisbane hotels

This city has backpacker to 5-star bases covered. If, however, the ‘time spent in room–expenditure’ ratio is irrelevant because you prefer a certain kind of experience, then here are a few properties marrying their own charms with readily accessible local attractions.

Emporium Hotel
1000 Ann St, Fortitude Valley — Ph: +61 7 3253 6999

It’s all red, razzle dazzle and design chic here. If you like your hotels beige and ‘off the peg’, keep driving. ‘Boutique’ is often overused in the hospitality industry but the Emporium has credentials as 2009, 2010 and 2011 winner of ‘Best Boutique Hotel’ at awards for top Australian, New Zealand and South Pacific hotels.

Thrown into the salubrious mix of Fortitude Valley, the Emporium lures bright young things and business professionals alike. There’s a host of well-patronised drinking and dining options almost literally on the doorstep too.

If you find the visual flare on the ground level too much, don’t worry, the 102 rooms and suites are far more understated. My king suite had a well-equipped kitchenette (and washing machine in the cupboard) in addition to Molton Brown toiletries, a pillow menu and a spotless shower, little things to remind me I really am away from home.

A pool and gym are squeezed on to the rooftop and what the area lacks in size is compensated for somewhat by the food and beverage service, comfortable sun lounges and Wi-fi. Underpinning all these features is faultless service. That’s a phrase I rarely dare to type.

Spicers Balfour Hotel
37 Balfour St, New Farm — Ph: +61 7 3358 8888

Tucked away on a short street a few kilometres from the city, Spicers Balfour is an inviting 9-room hotel that packs a lot into its three plush levels. This renovated former ‘Queenslander’ successfully creates an atmosphere of seclusion despite its suburban location. From cosy rooftop bar, with partial views of the Story Bridge, cityscape and tops of heritage-listed cottages, to the front courtyard garden, it’s easy to feel unhurried here.

Moody grey walls play backdrop to strikingly colourful canvases (for sale) throughout common areas and the rooms are well appointed. The onsite restaurant, with sumptuous menu, is open for breakfast, brunch and high tea. Dinner is easy – popular eateries (including local favourite The Himalayan Café) are within 100 to 200 metres. Spa treatments are available onsite too.

Spicers Balfour, which opened in 2010, won two state tourism awards in 2011, one for best new development and the other to the manager who received a young achiever award. It seems the Spicers approach to personalised hospitality is serving the Balfour, and its repeat visitors, very well.

Sofitel Brisbane Central
249 Turbot St, Brisbane City — Ph: +61 7 3835 3535

On the 30th floor the sky pours in through tall windows and the city, river and mountains are thrown in to a new relief. Adding a decadent high tea on white linen to this scene renders me on a sugar high. For the traveller seeking character in their luxury lodgings, it can be tempting to be dismissive of ‘chain’ hotels, but the Sofitel Brisbane Central delivers on several fronts.

It is central, above Brisbane’s Central train station, its 402 rooms are well-presented and the service (bonjour/bonsoir) is appropriate to its class. The bar and restaurants on lobby level conjure their own characters in a space that could have felt cavernous in the hands of a less experienced designer. À la carte and buffet options don’t disappoint either.

Guests can seclude themselves in Stephanie’s Day Spa, tucked next to the open-air third-level pool, for all manner of sumptuous treatments. Once you’ve luxuriated and appetites are sated, Brisbane is right outside.

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