As you walk through the entrance of Zagame’s House, the only whisper that remains of its former life as a budget motel is the car park, with every other remnant of the Quality Hotel Downtowner stripped away. A hospitality company otherwise best known for pubs and sports bars, this is the Zagame Corporation’s first foray into the upmarket hotel scene.
“The old motel was gutted and rebuilt, essentially,” says general manager Adam Taloni. With interior architecture firm Lukas Partners at the helm, the $18-million overhaul meant replacing everything (except the car park) to create a modern hotel with a few quirky touches, such as the gigantic gold dog statue that greets you as you enter the purple- and tan-coloured foyer.
Downstairs, it’s dark and moody, but that doesn’t transfer to the rooms above. The advantage of the old hotel’s structure is that an incredible amount of natural light floods into each of the rooms, which all have a lighter scheme – neutral tones with occasional black accents – and fun flair brought in through leopard-print cushions, purple armchairs and “selfie mirrors” (they have three different flattering light settings).
The Neon Suite (named for its abstract neon sign) features an impressive backlit bar complete with Plumm glassware and a strapping spirit selection that includes Patient Wolf gin and Sullivan’s Cove brandy, which was just named the best drink in the country at the in augural Drink Easy awards. There are also pre-made cocktails from The Everleigh Bottling Co if you’re not bold enough to mix your own.
There’s also a pillow menu, waffle-knit robes, a comfy queen bed and a rainwater shower in each room, and you can pamper yourself with all-natural skincare and haircare products from London-based spa The Cowshed. Expect zesty citrus and calming lavender scents. Plus, there's a 24-hour gym.
The team at Zagame’s is keeping sustainability front of mind, too. “In every decision we make, we consider what is good for the Earth,” says Taloni.
Turndown chocolates come wrapped in recycled paper rather than plastic, and the team is able to use less harsh chemicals when cleaning thanks to a high-tech water sanitation system. Power to the rooms shuts down when there’s nobody in them and 90 per cent of the 300-strong wine list is selected from vineyards that use sustainable practices, such as Quealy in the Mornington Peninsula and Tasmanian grower-producer Delamere.
The hotel is walking distance from the Italian eateries Carlton is known for, but if you don’t feel like heading out, Lord Lygon is Zagame’s ground-level wine bar, with executive chef Chris Bonello (Vue De Monde, Bistro Vue) and head chef Michael Tse (Rockpool) in the kitchen.
The long bar is topped with Rosso Levanto Italian marble, lined with high-backed stools. Dark wooden tables and benches are from Castlemaine woodworker Hugh Makin, lined up along a tan leather couch that stretches across one entire wall of the room. Bar snacks and a few more substantial dishes, such as steak frites, arrive on crockery by family-owned ceramics company Robert Gordon.
Zagame’s House is also dog-friendly, so you won’t have to leave your best mate at home. A range of services includes walking, grooming, training and a doggy in-room dining menu.
Zagame’s House is located at 66 Lygon Street, Carlton. Rooms start at $215 per night for the standard House Room.