This ex-theatre and pub site now returns the Marriot hotels group Le Méridien brand to Melbourne with a well thought out 235 room hotel over 14 stories. Its interior design draws on the Deco, mid-century and even Memphis design movement, plus its varied history as an entertainment and theatre venue.
Stay: 14 to 16 April, 2023
Room: Superior Guest Room, King, City View
Size: 30 sqm (323 sqf)
Per Night Average: ~AU$408
Address: 20 Bourke Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000 Australia
Phone: +61 3 9123 3900
We were heading to Melbourne for a weekend to soak up an exhibition, eat at some new restaurants and stay at the newly opened Le Méridien owned by the Marriot / Bonvoy.
I last visited this spot in Melbourne in the late 1980s when it was the Metro nightclub, and I danced my little gay socks off. Before that, the site had a myriad of incarnations, most notably as a series of hotels and, from 1912, the Palace Theatre.
The Le Méridien hotel brand has not been seen in Melbourne for over 20 years when it had an incarnation at The Rialto on Collins Street, now the Intercontinental. Le Méridien is an international hotel brand founded by Air France in 1972. Then it moved to the United Kingdom, and now the chain is owned by Marriott International. It currently has around 110 hotels with ~30,000 rooms and is developing just under 40 new hotels comprising 10,000 rooms.
Booking & Price
Hotel prices in the wake of the pandemic have gone through the roof. Once, a centre of the city five-star hotel in Melbourne could be had for AU$300 – 350. Not any more. Most of the time, the starting price is around AU$ 450. Well, at least that was the cost of a step up from an entry-level room at the Westin, one of my preferred hotels in Melbourne.
The number of new hotels I haven’t stayed in yet in Melbourne is beginning to mount up: Ritz Carlton, W, AC by Marriot, Veriu Victoria Market, and now Le Meridien.
For me, the Ritz Carlton and W are at the wrong end of town. I prefer to be near the ‘Paris end’ of Collins Street. Le Meridien isn’t on Collins Street, but just one back on Bourke, just a good punt away from Parliament House.
Location & Arrival
There are effectively two points of arrival. The first, and the one we used, is a little laneway off Bourke Street. It’s not as spectacular as the Bourke Street entrance, but it is where you might get your vehicle door opened and your luggage carried. And it’s undercover – important in rainy Melbourne.
Our taxi driver was going to drop us about 500 metres away from the hotel because his ‘GPS said it was here’. When you actually looked, the theatre-style lights at the hotel entrance would have given the destination away. Strike one against Melbourne taxi drivers.
Young and enthusiastic staff members quickly and efficiently did this. It went slightly awry at one point, with the reception staff having to call her manager to assist and override something in the computer system. But it was gracefully done, caused little delay, and that sort of glitch is to be expected in a new hotel with recently trained staff.
We were allocated Room 1106, which, as you have guessed, was on the 11th floor. This hotel and the corridor had, I think, what counts as a ‘new hotel smell’. Everything is crisp and clean, and unmarked or scuffed or repaired. It certainly adds to the chimaerical feeling that no one has slept here before.
The designers fitted a lot in this room. It has a King Size bed, plus a desk and dining area, luggage storage, a minibar and a coffee/drinks service area. The room had been well thought out, although I might have made some different design decisions, especially concerning the desk area. But more on that later.
Overall, the decor works pretty well. The overall impression is a neutral blue-grey with dark blue accents and a warm tending to reddish wood tone. The textures included a complexly quilted bedspread, dark blue synthetic velvet-covered bucket chairs and a faux marble table top. The Melbourne skyline-themed cushions in a duo print of black and blue, with blue piping, were cute and effective.
There are some quirky elements here, but fortunately, most add to the room rather than detract from it.
I am not a fan of windows in bathrooms, but in this case, it’s mostly a way of getting some natural light into the bathroom, which I support. Note the non-matching things around the bed. The bedside tables don’t match, and neither do the bedside lamps. This lack of symmetry is a theme throughout the room, and it works.
The desk area was integrated into the minibar and entertainment unit. I loved the framed images in the top shelf, and the publications underneath. These would have been cleared if we were still at the height of the pandemic.
The desk was set high, which made the stool provided, work. However, I wouldn’t have liked to have used this desk arrangement for a prolonged period, say if I was on a busies trip, and working for hours in the hotel room. It’s the only thing I think they got substantially wrong in the basic room design. There was another little issue with night lights – for details see the takeout at the end.
Safe & Luggage
These were incorporated into the desk/minibar configuration. The Luggage storage area was adequate, although a little unsightly when populated with baggage, being located directly under the TV, and viewable when in bed.
The safe and additional storage was located under the luggage rack.
The standard minibar was part of the desk setup, and not adjacent to the bathroom or wardrobe. In open shelves with a faux marble top, it housed a coffee machine, kettle, glasses, wine, a small bottle of gin, cups, and saucers.
Below were draws housing coffee selection and other comestibles available for a charge.
Below this was a drawer fridge – which I love! – with a selection of soft drinks, juices, wine and beer, also available at a cost.
The double wardrobe was located in the entrance hallway, in the feature wood used throughout the room. It contained the usual features, including an Iron, an Ironing board, safe, bathrobes, three kinds of coat hangers, a clothes brush and a shoehorn.
It even had a set of three drawers.
The coat hangers were great. Dark wood to match the other timber in the room, and brushed steel, square-ish hooks that were stylish and contemporary. No theft-proof coathangers here, and you know they are one of my bête noire
The bathroom was a surprise. I’m usually a – give me two sinks and a few drawers kind of guy. This bathroom didn’t have those, but it did have a separated framed shower area and bench. It also had a frosted window into the bedroom, which flooded the shower with natural light.
I liked this bathroom a lot. Towels were new, fluffy, and decently sized, and robes were cotton and large.
My only criticism is I do like a drawer or a cupboard in a bathroom to store my wet pack and other bathroom necessities. It makes the space look a lot less cluttered.
Overall, this was a very well-designed bathroom that pretended to be larger than it was. A great illusion.
The one weird thing was that none of the lighting switches were inside the bathroom. This meant you needed to turn on the hallway light, work out the bathroom light switches, and turn them on. Given that there is a frosted window into the bedroom, that did disturb my husband’s sleep. I suppose light leakage from the bathroom into the bedroom is the downside of having a window to admit natural light into the bathroom during the day.
Amenities were Malin and Goetz, one of my favoured citrusy brands. These were delivered in refillable containers mounted on the wall in the shower and by individual containers on the bathroom bench. Amenities included a bar of soap, which I very much appreciated. I am not a fan of petroleum-based shower and hand gels.
Le Meridien runs two food and beverage outlets, plus a pool bar and an ice cream stand. The foyer is the home of Intermission Café and Bar, and the ice cream stand, Le Scoop.
Dolly, located on the floor below the entrance level, is open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday, and where you will have breakfast every day.
The Restaurant Dolly is where you will have breakfast either from an impressive spread or the a la carte menu. It’s billed as ‘A moody 1930’s destination that evokes the glamour and mystique of the backstage‘ If that was what they were going for, then they have failed. If, on the other hand, they were working on a pleasant and comfortable space with various table and booth options, then they have succeeded tremendously.
It’s a very pleasant space, which belies its underground location. Maybe I’m being harsh, and they go for a more moody lighting preset for dinner. I only visited for breakfast.
The food spread was fairly standard for a 5-star hotel and included an egg station, with cooks on duty.
Have a look at the images below to get an idea of the range of breakfast options available.
Gym and Pool
Level 5 is the home of the outdoor pool and Le Splash Bar. It rained throughout our stay, so there was not much occasion to use this facility. It did look very inviting, and on a sunnier day, would have attracted our patronage.
You will find the Gym on the same level. It’s well equipped, laid out, and the design is rather nice. Particularly this wallpaper shows an exercise routine from another era:
The gym is divided into well-defined zones for treadmills and bikes, weight machines, free weights and floor work.
It was an impressive stay overall. The shiny newness of the hotel was an attraction. The downside was that staff were also on the whole new, or newly trained, with most not having English as their first language. That led to some miscommunication, especially among wait staff and patrons. What they lacked in training and language skills, they sure made up for with willingness and enthusiasm.
There are few reservations about this hotel, but a few negative things to note. There seemed to be some sound leakage in our room. It may have been from outside, but I think more likely transmission from inside. Not a deal breaker, but annoying.
Can we talk about night lights in bathrooms? I think these are vital in good hotels because most guests are unfamiliar with the bathroom layout. The night light in this room, under the bedside table, in combination with the nightlight in the bathroom and the window into the bedroom, was way too bright for my husband’s ideal light levels for sleep.
The design and finishes in the room were of high quality and should stay the test of time. The public areas have that fresh-from-the-drawing-board feel and may need some tweaking once the hotel settles into a routine.
We had to wait a while for our Uber, and there is a nice space behind the reception where you can sit and wait, and as I did, do some minimal repacking of my luggage, all out of sight of the public. That’s the kind of design thinking that sets a quality hotel above the pack.
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