In the past 18 months the Brisbane hotel scene has undergone a remarkable transformation. What was once a pretty lacklustre market has been completely flipped on its head with the opening of The Westin, W Brisbane, The Calile, Ovolo Inchcolm, Ovolo The Valley and Emporium South Bank. The new properties joined other recent additions The Johnson and FV by Peppers (along with longstanding boutique hotels such as Spicers Balfour in New Farm).
These aren’t the four-star big brand digs of old, designed for conference guests and stranded interlopers, but service-focused four-and-a-half and five-star hotels and resorts catering for high-value travellers – and they reflect Brisbane’s newfound status as a tourist destination.
The Fantauzzo is the latest, opening at Howard Smith Wharves in late March. The $100 million hotel is Brisbane’s second Art Series property after The Johnson in Spring Hill. It’s also the first since Mantra acquired the brand from Deague Group and Accor Hotels in turn acquired Mantra in May last year. Much like The Johnson and the other Art Series hotels throughout Australia, The Fantauzzo is designed to showcase the work of an Australian artist – in this case painter Vincent Fantauzzo, best known for his celebrity portraits of Heath Ledger, Baz Luhrmann and Asher Keddie (who is Fantauzzo’s wife).
“I think what’s important [among] each of these hotels – the Calile, the W, et cetera – is that we’re all slightly different,” says general manager of operations for Art Series Andrew Maynard. “Art Series is very much about the art.”
And the Fantauzzo perhaps more than most of the other hotels in the group’s portfolio: “In most of the Art Series hotels we use between 30 and 50 pieces of art and we replicate those throughout the hotel,” Maynard says. The Fantauzzo has more than 500. “Everywhere you turn there’s art – it’s almost not a hotel but a gallery with rooms dedicated to Vincent Fantauzzo.”
Guests are encouraged to take art tours of the venue run by the on-site art advocates who share titbits passed on from Fantauzzo himself. “When we did the induction for The Fantauzzo, Vince took all the staff on a four-hour tour through the hotel explaining where he painted each piece, how he painted each piece, and why he painted them – the little story that goes with them,” Maynard says.
The 166-room hotel sits beneath the Story Bridge and hugs the cliff face behind Howard Smith Wharves. The jutting, angular architecture from SJB is designed to make the surroundings seem like an extension of the design. Interiors are modern and earthy with granite, concrete and timber flooring and headboards. Fixtures are brass or black metal, and soft furnishings are an emerald or navy velvet.
On the ground floor sits Polpetta, an approachable Italian-style restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner to guests and passers-by. Serving house-made pastas and sauces, its menu slots neatly between the casual Felons Brewing Co and the gussied-up Greek of Greca. At the other end of the hotel is a recently opened Betty’s Burgers.
As for the rooms, the level three highlight is what Maynard refers to as a “super suite” – four rooms with interconnecting doors that can each be opened to form one large function space. The rooms’ balconies boast the hotel’s best views of the river and city skyline. “[I see it as] an amazing space for events, conferencing, dinner parties, that sort of thing,” he says.
Level three is also home to the hotel’s bar – Fiume – a slick, open-air space with impressive city views that’s open to the public (via an external elevator) and hosts DJ sets on Fridays and Saturdays.
5 Boundary Street, Brisbane
1300 114 031