A flurry of new hotels, quirky venues and eateries, and a transformative urban renewal project, has elevated Canberra to a whole new level of cool.
Still flying high from its recent centenary celebrations, Canberra is abuzz with activity – forget Wills and Kate’s royal jaunt – we’re talking about hot new venues and revamped cultural icons that are attracting the attention of meeting-planners across the country.
Let’s start with the latest addition to Canberra’s ever-expanding repertoire of hotels – QT Canberra. Formerly Rydges Lakeside, the 205-room property pays homage to the political history of the national capital with quirky design elements that give the hotel a fresh, mischievous vibe. New features include live Twitter feeds in the lobby, wallpaper featuring historic quotes and caricatures, and a host of hidden, back-door rooms – ideal for private meetings.
There’s also a new restaurant, Capitol Grill, which serves generous share plates on long communal tables (great for large groups) and a New-York style speakeasy, Lucky’s, which has a hidden entry through an operational barber shop on the ground floor. And let’s not forget the member’s-only QT Lounge, it’s on the hotel’s 15th floor and offers everything from breakfast to evening cocktails. The lounge’s discreet alcoves and stealthy wait staff make it the perfect place for a private pow-wow – and the views are pretty good too.
But the shining star on Canberra’s hotel scene is Hotel Hotel. Recently voted best boutique hotel in Australian Gourmet Traveller’s inaugural Australian Hotel Guide, this is place you send clients (or incentive delegates) who you really want to impress. Here every dish, detail, and fixture – from the textual, art-covered walls to the loose-leaf tea and Aesop bathroom products – has been carefully thought-out with precision and grace.
Hotel Hotel’s mosaic room, a private, light-filled space tucked between a secret garden and fireplace, accommodates 80 guests for a cocktail function, while a 190 pax function space and several boardrooms are due to open later this year.
Housed in the architecturally innovative Nishi building, the hotel is one of Australia’s most sustainable buildings, but with only 68 guestrooms (all featuring unique art pieces, iPads, and free Wi-Fi) it does not cater for large groups.
Nevertheless, accommodation can be shared with neighbouring properties in the hip New Acton precinct – QT Canberra is only a short amble away and Peppers Gallery Hotel (formally the Diamant Hotel) is even closer.
The 80-room Peppers Gallery Hotel was officially rebranded in July, after hotel operator 8Hotels sold the Diamant, and the onsite Bicicletta restaurant, to Mantra Group in an off-market transaction. The hotel is housed in an historic, heritage-listed building and is surrounded by some of Canberra’s hottest eating and drinking establishments. The Nishi Gallery and Palace Electric Cinemas (which hosts team-building activities that involve movies, popcorn and a glass of bubbles from the cinema’s very own Prosecco Bar) are also within easy walking distance.
Over in Realm Precinct, the five-star 158-room Hotel Realm is a great option for larger groups and offers impressive spaces that include the 800 pax National Ballroom, and the twin architecturally-designed function rooms, High Courtyard North and South.
Hotel Realm also shares its facilities with the nearby Burbury Hotel, which features 106 slick rooms and apartments and the ambient Burbury Terrace (another great cocktail venue) on the top floor.
For extended stays, East Hotel is a contemporary and stylish option, with 60 suites and 80 one-bedroom apartments. Along with seven conference and function spaces, the hotel is sprinkled with thoughtful extras like retro-style bicycles
that are fee to borrow, a well-stocked “newsagency” of papers and magazines in the lobby, and lolly jars and water fountains where guests can help themselves.