I feel like I’ve just stepped out of a pumpkin as my Adidas shoe plants itself on the polished floor of the Royce Hotel on St Kilda Road. If only I had my boa or a flapper dress and some dashing T-strap heels. Even the air is delicately perfumed in this lobby which oozes 1920s style with its gold painted ceiling, red velvet wall panels and winding ballroom staircase.
Yet even in my runners I’m greeted warmly by the concierge and shown through a round mirrored room to the lift and up to the Royce Suite. I open the door to see sheer grey curtains flirting with the view, revealing just a hint of Melbourne Grammar School playing fields, rooftops and the foliage of the Botanic Gardens in the distance. An extra-large chocolate freckle with a Royce Hotel sticker beckons me to the modern four-poster bed. It lounges on the bed almost saying, ‘Take me.’ I’m easily led so rip goes the plastic and into my mouth goes crunchy hundreds and thousands and a creamy chocolate. I smile bits of chocolate between my teeth, jubilant that there are no ugly stepsisters to take this pleasure from me.
Calories consumed, it’s time to waltz around the room, first plonking my buttocks on to one end of the sturdy banquette and then lifting my feet up on to the firm surface. The bed with its plump pillows and virginal white sheets has lured me over and I lay back creasing the previously perfectly ironed sheets comforting as a mug of butterbeer by a fire at the Leaky Cauldron. I’m in Melbourne to see the Cursed Child so everything seems to have developed a dash of fairy tale magic.
The next morning, I open the curtains and gaze out to some boys in black shorts and sleeveless black shirts fighting for an oval-shaped ball. Autumn leaves blustered over the game. I leave the window and shower under a cascade from the rainwater shower head, then dry myself with a fluffy towel. My clothes are wrinkled so I check for an iron. There’s one in the cupboard with an ironing board. I love this. No waiting around for a bellboy to bring it up when he’d rather be getting tips from elsewhere.
Then it’s time to get to know the surroundings. I could eat at the hotel restaurant ‘Dish’. The reviews are good including raves about the coffee but I’m a tea gal so I’ll take their word for it and decide to seek out a local cafe.
The Royce faces onto two streets – St Kilda Road and Bromby Street. Bromby Street is a must. From art deco hotel through to terrace houses, a gorgeous white church with a glossy blue door, a modern box with more glass than wall, a block of 1970s flats, a Federation, it’s a feast for architectural lovers. I walk along crunching down on the dry maple leaves and turn left past Melbourne Grammar and up a hill and then into the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. The sun is shining. A cliché if you’re in Sydney but here in Melbourne it’s a pleasant surprise. I could spend a day walking around the gardens but I only have an hour and a half before I need to dash into the city to see part one of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
After an almond chai latte from one of the Garden’s cafes, I hurry back and note the services next to the hotel. There are a Vietnamese restaurant, a mini McDonalds and Subway, and a convenience store. At the front of the hotel is a tram stop but I decide to try my hand at Uber after dressing in my Melbourne Blacks I’m ready to take on the dementors at the Princess Theatre.
This review is not about Harry Potter. It’s about the magic of stepping back in time into a world of lavishness where foyers held grand pianos, Chesterfields and coffee carts! Well, maybe that one’s not from the 1920s. It’s about old fashioned service delivered in a chic modern way. It’s about absinthe cocktails or martinis at least in a bar with a shimmering beaded curtain – a bar where you feel comfortable even without a bob and a cloche and a string of pearls. The Royce is a hidden rhinestone set on the fringes of the CBD within walking distance of the National Gallery and close to the glamorous precincts of Toorak Road, Domain Road and Chapel Street, Melbourne CBD, Shrine of Remembrance and Albert Park Lake. The razzle-dazzle of the showroom which once housed Rolls Royces has now transformed into a place of magic and you don’t need a fairy Godmother to gain an invitation.
Nicole Lenoir-Jourdan stayed as a guest of the Royce Hotel.
379 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne VIC 3004
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