When Hotel Hotel opened in Canberra in 2013, it challenged decades of Australian hotel convention in design and architecture. More than 60 architects, designers, makers and artists collaborated on the striking Nishi building and the surrounding dining, cultural and entertainment precinct. Designed as a response to Australia’s dry bush capital, Hotel Hotel became a destination in and of itself.
In March last year, Hong Kong company Ovolo Hotels bought Hotel Hotel, renaming it Ovolo Nishi. Now it’s had a clever $5 million upgrade: 17 new rooms have been added to a wing previously occupied by internal offices.
Seated on a green suede lounge in the hotel’s extravagant foyer, which is full of restored 20th-century furniture and open concrete fireplaces, I chat with acting general manager Amy Moylan.
“Each of our venues has a significant and distinct personality,” she says. “In Canberra everything is very architecturally-led.”
Of the 17 new rooms, 14 are Snug Sun rooms, designed for the overnight corporate traveller, and cheaper than the hotel’s larger rooms (they start at $220 per night compared with $266 for the next room up). Neat and compact, each room balances exposed concrete and recycled timber touches for a light, airy atmosphere. Some windows overlook Lake Burley Griffin and every room is decked out with original Australian artworks.
Designed by architecture and interiors firm Luchetti Krelle, the new rooms carry over the rest of the hotel’s cosy, meandering aesthetic. Lie back in your queen bed – generously stacked with pillows – and appreciate the height of the stripped-back ceiling and clever use of the limited space. A custom-built wooden bedhead has a USB port and adapter, and an iPad, Apple TV and Echo are all fitted neatly in the room.
“We have these touchpoints throughout every room,” says Moylan. “You don’t have to ask for it because we’ve already thought of it.”
A woven Indian day bed doubles as a luggage rack, and there’s a fold-out writing desk with a mini bar tucked inside. This is a 15-square-metre room that incorporates everything you need for a short stay.
A ribbed glass sliding door opens to a beautiful white-and-teal-tiled bathroom with accents of brass. “There are some clear synergies with the other rooms, but the bathroom is where we really stepped up,” says Rachel Luchetti, director at Luchetti Krelle.
There’s an overhead rain shower, skincare from Sydney label Biology and super soft bathrobes. Two king-size Original Sun rooms have also been added to the new wing, while the existing Creative Sun rooms, with their king-sized beds and separate sitting areas, now have sunlit balconies and bathtubs.
But back to that mini bar. So, you’ve had a long day travelling or working, and all you want is a beer and some peanuts, without footing a $20 bill? Go right ahead. Everything in the mini bar is free, and its contents – Capital Brewing Co beer, drops from Bunkers Wines in Margaret River, juice, soft drinks, sparkling water, coffee and T2 tea – are promptly refilled by staff on request. A takeaway “loot bag” filled with mixed nuts, Caramello Koalas and other treats is included too – for snacking at your leisure. Put those feet up.
A relaxed, personalised touch emanates throughout the hotel from the moment you walk up the grand timber staircase to the lobby, to when you’re sipping your arrival gin and tonic, listening to the ’80s pop soundtrack filtering through the air.
A short walk from the hotel you’ll find eco-friendly cafe Mocan and Green Grout, Spanish-inspired Parlour Wine Bar, and cultural institutions such as the National Film and Sound Archive and the National Museum of Australia. You can also ride one of the hotel’s complimentary bikes around the lake and explore the capital’s historic monuments.
But if you don’t want to leave the hotel, you really don’t have to. Dine downstairs at Monster Kitchen and Bar, where the group’s creative culinary partner Ian Curley (co-owner and chef at French Saloon and Kirk’s Wine Bar in Melbourne) and executive chef Daniel Flatt are plating up imaginative French-Japanese dishes at night, and buffet breakfasts with fresh fruit, yoghurt, pastries, boiled eggs, charcuterie and cheese in the morning.
You can also see a film at Palace Electric cinemas at the base of the building, unwind with complimentary flow yoga classes, or sweat it out in the 24-hour gym overlooking the lake.