Luxury Hotels

Tasmania’s world-leading luxury Saffire Freycinet resort

Looking over Reception’s indoor waters

Well, the gal was in for a treat at Saffire Freycinet, undoubtedly one of Australia’s top luxury resorts and said by some to be world-beating.  As the image above shows, the main block is shaped like a giant stingray, with 20 detached villas beyond its head. These villas all face across Oyster Bay to a promontory with a skyline of the five Hazard mountains, the tallest of which, in the middle, is the 485 metre-high Mount Dove. How did this resort, which opened 2010, come about? The Farrell family’s Federal Group wanted to extend their Tasmania gaming monopoly, and to achieve this they had to build a resort. Fortunately they had a caravan park in Freycinet National Park that they were prepared to sacrifice.

Exteriors of adjacent villas

The original idea was for a 120-room lower-level operation but eventually the Farrells chose architect Robert Morris Nunn’s plan. His villas, all 20 of them, are more or less similar, each like a giant 80 sq m, or slightly larger, sculpture.  I was in #08, named Devonian, which had simple concrete or wood walls and one all-glass wall, all the better for that view across the Bay. I just wish I had had more time to spend in it. Like everyone, I was met at Hobart airport and, after coffee and a tidy-up in the resort’s dedicated arrivals lounge, after picking up baggage, I was driven the 2.5-hour scenic route to the resort by one of its four, Hobart-based, drivers.

GM Ross Boobyer

Saffire Freycinet is all-inclusive, in the Regent Seven Seas cruise sense, like ALL inclusive, and ALL the best. The food is fabulous – I loved the big bowls of Neil Perry-type healthy salads on the lunch buffet (my water came in a Riedel tumbler, but if I joined others in a midday wine-tasting it would have been in Plumm stemware). At dinner my Pacific oysters were paired with 2017 Wineglass Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Tasmania’s east coast. At breakfast I could have had Saffire muesli or porridge, and the highly popular breakfast bowl (haloumi, sweet potato hummus, beetroot relish, avocado, poached egg, sesame dukkha and linseed sourdough).  As the GM, Ross Boobyer, says, food is one of the many reasons people return again and again.

Oyster table

Another addictive draw are the 14 complimentary activities, top of the list being the oyster experience. Ten of us were loaned hotel weatherproof jackets and torso-covering rubber waders. And wade we did, through the shallows to see and learn about baby oysters, pea sized, growing in wire mesh dormitories held permanently in and above the water. And then we waded some more, to a firmly-planted table that Bianca, one of our minders, had set with white linen, and Plumm glasses. She scooped dozens of mature oysters from an older-mollusc dormitory, shucked them and we ate, and drank a local white until the quorum had had, well almost, enough. And then it was back to our luxury resort to watch the sunset. See why this place is so extraordinary? SHARE EXPERIENCES, BELOW, OF VILLA 8 (DEVONIAN), NICOLE’S OYSTER INTRODUCTION, AND CYCLING ALONG THE BEACH

Read more
Luxury Hotels

Location and service are essential to any luxury hotel

Ten minutes away, Hopetoun Tea Rooms

Sometimes a luxury hotel can be so well located it is a magnet for business and for leisure, which includes sightseeing and retail. Add sport, both business and off-duty, and a property becomes indispensible. The Langham, Melbourne, ticks all those boxes.  On the south bank of the Yarra River, it is in the city’s Southgate area, seven minutes by the pedestrian Sandridge bridge across to Flinders Street station and thus to CBD (Central Business District) and a further seven minutes north up Queen Street to the pedestrianised Bourke Street shopping centre. You can also divert to some of the city’s fascinating side streets and arcades – the photo here shows Block Arcade’s Hopetoun Tea Rooms, owned by Kon and Kelly Koutoumanos.T

Andrew Jessop

Talking of tea, The Langham Melbourne has just had, with official permission, a Barbie-themed afternoon tea – over 3,000 guests, mainly little girls and their mothers, came rushing over a period of three weeks (the next themed tea, for the Jurassic Coast, may attract more little boys).  The hotel knows its local market.  It opened in 1992 and operated as Sheraton Towers until 2005, when it was bought by the Langham brand’s owner, Great Eagle.  Today, it has 387 rooms – favourites overlook the river, see the video below of end suite 2004.  It has 480 employees, who include those working in the bakery and laundry. In a city with unemployment at under five percent, how does the hotel manage to find people.

Fabulous in-room fish and chips

The hotel’s MD, Andrew Jessop, explains that he believes in involving existing team members in the hiring process. At job fairs, interested candidates meet panels from the hotel that always include at least one line-staff representative. This has all kinds of advantages, including the fact that a new hire, even on day one, already knows at least one person from the hotel. With Australia’s naturally laid-back and friendly outlook on life generally, this helps with quick building of the team spirit.  Andrew Jessop explained this to me over an early cocktail in the busy Aria lounge bar before he rushed off to an event and I rushed back up to my suite to have a room service dinner before much-needed sleep (what did I have? Fish and chips is a staple here, and I liked the way that my four big nuggets came with really old-style English chips and, a modern innovation to the dish, a side salad).

Sun up, or coming

The morning sun came up far too early, but fortunately the Technogym, which has 150 outside members, is 24/7, and I could get to the 24th floor Club lounge, which has an eggs-to-order chef, in time to breakfast before going down at 7 a.m. to call an Uber. There, already, was the hotel boss.  Had he come in specially to see me off?  No, he explained, he is always in at that hour, sometimes to spend 20 minutes squeezing juice, in front of guests breakfasting in Melba restaurant. On other days he will work as a bellman, or on front desk.  That surely must help team morale, and also help explain the fact that this luxury hotel’s customer satisfaction has gone up 11% over the last year.  AND HERE THERE ARE VIDEOS, FIRST OF ROOM 2004 AND THEN A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO WALKING MELBOURNE’S FASCINATING LANES AND ARCADES

Read more
Luxury Hotels

Grand Hyatt Melbourne is a luxury statement hotel

Pavlova and other goodies in a local shop

Grand Hyatt Melbourne is doyen of the city’s Hyatt properties – it opened in 1986 as Hyatt on Collins, with Christian Le Prince as GM and front desk women wearing the most stunning Barbara Battaglia designer skirt suits in a colour almost as vivid as an Yves Klein blue. Today there is still a plethora of colour in this luxury hotel.  The gal arrived to find a make-your-own pavlova kit waiting in her room (see the image above). It was easy to follow instructions to make what Melburnians, as well as New Zealanders, claim as their own, a concoction of meringue, cream, fruit and passion fruit syrup. You can see pavlova in many of this food-loving city’s patisseries, some in the lanes and arcades that are only a few minutes’ walk from this part of Collins Street.

View from suite 3110

Collins Street runs east from Docklands, past Southern Cross station and uphill to the chic Parisian part of town, finishing at Spring Street. This is all within Melbourne’s CBD, so trams here are free.  Yes, within CBD the public transport is free.  This is a city that knows how to sell itself (and for tourists who might need some assistance there are, at weekends, pairs of volunteers, in easy-to-see scarlet clothing, on street corners, ready to help). And visitors do come here for so many reasons. I could look down from my room, south to the Yarra River, with boat-houses side by side on the southern bank. Mornings, as the sun comes up, crews are always out there practising.

Ilan Weill, centre, and Robert Dawson

This is a city that could be renamed Activille, and it would fit. Robert Dawson, the GM of Park Hyatt Melbourne who also, in his role as Hyatt’s Man for Australia and New Zealand, oversees this hotel, asked Ilan Weill, GM of Grand Hyatt Melbourne, and me to lunch, and we heard how the sartorial Mr Dawson often cycles to work, 45 minutes each way, and then uses his hotel’s gym to recover. Live in Melbourne and you know how to take care of yourself, with fabulous food (and wine) and great outdoor activities, and indoor fitness centres. The gym at Grand Hyatt Melbourne, by the way, is enormous, one of those serious 24/7 LifeFitness places that must be a boon for the participants in the Australian Open, tennis’ first Grand Slam of every calendar year.

Breakfast view, Grand Club

This luxury hotel is official host during that time and Ilan Weill and his team have to be nimble as ballet dancers turning on their points. They know they will be 100% every night during the tournament but with whom?  Those players who are knocked out in morning games have to be out of their rooms by a set time early afternoon so the rooms can be turned round for other players to check in – all this requires precision timing by housekeeping and other staff.  Away from the madness that is any major sporting event, I was able quietly to sit in the 547-room hotel’s 31st floor Grand Club, to spend more time looking down, from my left to right, from Melbourne Cricket Ground in Yarra Park, via the Rod Laver Arena, in Melbourne Park, and on round to the boat-houses, the National Gallery of Victoria (where the Virtuoso Symposium had its opening cocktail) and on to Southgate and the Crown complex. NOW SEE MORE OF SUITE 3110

 

Read more