Comfy rooms, fantastic location, excellent service; this brand new Hilton in Melbourne may just change your mind about the brand.
Hilton properties are incredibly ubiquitous; you will find it in virtually every city in the world. However, the brand was conspicuously missing from Australia’s most fashionable city: Melbourne, or at least until earlier this year.
Hilton existed in Melbourne for more than four decades since the 1970s, until it decided to pull out of the city in 2014, leaving the city only with a DoubleTree property. That unfortunately has the effect of a mistaken identity, where DoubleTree Melbourne on Flinders St is being dubbed as the “Hilton”, leaving many locals confused when a new, bone fide Hilton popped up earlier this year in the heart of the city.
The 244-room property opened its doors in March 2021, after a bit of a delay no thanks to Covid-19.
The hotel stands at the former Equity Trustees building (which, by the way, still exists today but in a different location). Designed by tenant architects Oakley and Parkes and built by 1931, Equity Chambers is a late addition to the exotic commercial styles prevalent in the late 1920’s and said at the time to be Romanesque but displaying Byzantine characterisation.
While the frontage retains its façade from its former glory, the back has been extended with a six-level wing as well as a new 16-story tower, designed by architecture and design studio Bates Smart.
Hilton Melbourne comprises 239 guest rooms and only five suites across nine room types:
- King/Twin Guest Room (27 sqm)
- King Superior Room (27 sqm)
- King Deluxe Room with City View (27 sqm)
- King Premier Room with City View (27 sqm)
- King Premier Corner Room (33 sqm)
- King Junior Suite (43 sqm)
- King Premium Suite (55 sqm)
- King Master Suite (55 sqm)
As you can see above, if you need a twin room, you only have a single option. For those who are staying alone or don’t mind sharing a bed with your travel companion, you have more options to choose from, with upgrades sometimes available for Hilton Honors elite members.
The first four room types are essentially the same room, difference being the view and the type of windows in your room. Unfortunately, the twin rooms, along with the entry-level King Guest Room, are located on the poorer side of the hotel, with practically no view.
Those facing Bourke Street Mall will be in for a treat, with full-length windows overlooking the city. The larger rooms come with a separate seating/lounging area, which may be ideal for couples with a child or two in tow.
At the top end there’s the King Master Suite. While it’s the same size as the Premium Suite, the premium is in the finishing: think oak-cladded walls, high ceilings, rustic feels. The room boasts of restored heritage features, preserving the charm of the original architecture, while mixing in modern comfort. The suites come with a separate living area with enough sofa space for a party.
Note that bathtubs are only available for the King Premier Corner Room and above; all lower category rooms come only with a standing shower.
Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street is located in the heart of Melbourne CBD, just a 5-minute downhill walk away from the Bourke Street Mall.
If you are walking from the hotel to the Mall, you will also pass by Hardware Lane, a quaint little street lined with restaurants and pubs famous for alfresco dining.
Everywhere within Melbourne CBD is walkable from the hotel, but if you are feeling lazy there’s always the tram, which you can take for free within the CBD.
If you are arriving at the hotel by Uber or driving yourself, be sure to turn into Little Queen Street to access the hotel lobby on the inclined slope. Once at the entrance, A colourful large-scale mural by local graffiti artist Kitt Bennett, part of the Juddy Roller collective, along with an array of angled bronze panels will greet you at the hobby’s entrance.
You could also pull your luggage through the entrance along Bourke Street, but that means that you will have to traverse through the restaurant and take the lift up to the Mezzanine level where the lobby is, which is probably not the best idea.
There are two parking options available: valet-parking with your vehicle stored on-site at AUD 65 per day, or self-parking at a car park along Hardware Lane for AUD 25 a day.
If you wish to park at the off-site car park, the entrance is via Bourke St. The carpark entrance is indeed by Hardware Lane, so it may seem like you are driving onto the pavement, but keep cool and follow the signs to turn into the car park.
For those who choose the self-parking option, be sure to validate your parking ticket at the front desk before collecting the car. There is no limit to the number of times you can enter and exit the car park each day, but you will need to validate your coupon each time you want to drive out, otherwise you are subject to the prevailing parking rates which are sky-high even by Australian standards.
The lobby is perched on the slope of Little Queen Street, which will greet you once you enter the understated door.
The lobby is located on a mezzanine level, halfway between the restaurant floor and the first floor where the meeting rooms are located. On the same floor you will find the concierge desk, as well as some sofa seating in case you have to wait around for a bit.
Australian hotels tend to have a later check-in time and earlier check-out time than hotels in Asia, so you might want to factor that as part of your planning. As a norm, most Australian hotels require either an 11am or 12pm check-out, with check-in time at 3pm or later.
We checked in at about 12pm, and the hotel had no issues giving us access to the room earlier than the stipulated check-in time.
While elite members should get a (non-guaranteed) late check-out, this is largely dependent on the hotel’s discretion. On the last day, we requested for a 12pm check-out, which was promptly granted for us. If you need the room till much later in the day, you are unlikely to get a much extended late check out, but instead will be encourage to dump your bags at the concierge so you can head out to town.
For this stay, we booked ourselves into a Deluxe Twin Room. Note that this is the only room type with twin beds available, so if you are looking for a larger room, you are out of luck. What this also means is that Hilton elite members will certainly not be upgraded, given that there are no higher room categories that has two beds.
The room is what I call functional chic: the décor is rather simple with elegant modern touches that make it work. The twin beds, each larger than a standard single-sized bed, is backed by a fabric headboard that brackets them nicely, complete with a small table in between.
Each bed has a reading lamp above it, and both beds share a set of power sockets located just above the bedside table.
What I love is also the alarm clock: it comes with both a wireless charging pod and built-in cables for charging, which is a nice thought if you forgot your cables, or are simply lazy to unpack it.
Near the window is an armchair which we ended up using as a storage area.
On the other side of the room, there was a little ledge that runs from the window to underneath the television, providing extra holding space when you need to unpack your suitcase while not taking up precious floor space. The television is wall-mounted and flushed into the wall, which saves considerable space given that modern hotel rooms are compact.
In the corner of the room, there’s also a day bed of sorts flanking the window, with a round small dining table next to it. There is also a small armchair, so the entire setup is sufficient for in-room dining for two also.
Near the door was the wardrobe, where you will be able to find in-room amenities including bathrobes, iron, ironing board and laundry bags. There is also an open rack next to the wardrobe where you can hang more clothes (or anything for that matter). Underneath it is where you will find a drawer containing the in-room safe.
For in-room refreshments, the hotel has emptied out the minibar, but there’s a menu that you can order from.
The room also comes with a kettle and some teabags and filtered coffee bags that you can enjoy. The one-cup drip coffee bags are from Dukes Coffee, which also supplies the hotel restaurant’s coffee.
The bathroom is fairly spacious. The vanity counter top is a simple marble-like surface affixed on a black metal frame, with a large rounded rectangular mirror that runs the entire length of the vanity.
Bathtub lovers should note that most rooms come only with a standing shower, with bathtubs being found only in the higher room categories.
Hilton Melbourne uses Hunter Labs amenities, in the form of pump bottles affixed to the walls. Hunter Labs is a fairly new Australian home-grown skincare brand founded initially for men but later on garnered enough appeal to become unisex. The scent is decidedly a little more botanical with a hint of citrus, which has a generally wide appeal.
Notwithstanding Covid-19 which saw hotels returning to using one-off disposable amenities, pump bottles are increasingly common as hotels move towards sustainability options, including common-use pump bottles in the bathrooms, so as to reduce single-use plastic bottles.
Australian hotels typically charge for Wifi even though mobile data is pretty ubiquitous today; Hilton Melbourne is no different. Wifi access costs A$19.95 per day, but this is complimentary for Hilton Honors Gold & Diamond members.
Despite being a Hilton property, Hilton Melbourne does not have a club lounge, and also does not offer club-level rooms for booking.
What this means for Diamond members – where lounge access is complimentary – is an in-room evening cocktail experience.
The hotel serves up two bottles of wines (a red and a white), as well as two bottles of beers, along with some canepes to the room each evening between 5pm and 7pm, prepared by the hotel restaurant Luci. While no non-alcoholic options were provided at the time of service, there’s no harm in checking with the front desk if you prefer to have non-alcoholic drinks.
While this is a daily allotment, note that the provision of your beverages is on a replenishment basis – if you have an unopened bottle in the room, they will not provide a new bottle the next day unless you specifically ask for it.
The canepes do rotate daily, but they are nary a meal in itself, so don’t expect it to be a dinner replacement.
Breakfast – Luci
Breakfast is served at the hotel’s sole restaurant Luci, located on the ground floor of the hotel. Available between 6.30am and 10am on weekdays and 7am to 10am on weekends, breakfast is served as a buffet.
As a Hilton Honors Gold or Diamond member, breakfast is included in your room rate.
During our stay, the hotel offered an a la carte continental breakfast menu, right up to the last morning when they changed it to a buffet breakfast instead.
For our breakfast, we were allowed to order up to three items and two sides. The menu was fairly simple, but the servings were reasonable and ample. Strangely enough, coffee was not included as part of breakfast (what nonsense, isn’t it?), while tea and juices are.
Unfortunately, the a la carte breakfast service is a temporary fixture. A check with the hotel also confirmed that it has permanently switched to a buffet breakfast service, which we didn’t try on the last morning as we were headed elsewhere for breakfast instead. Based on the little visual survey we took on the last day, it seems like the spread includes items already on the menu: toast, pastries, cereal, yoghurt, fruit, a made-to-order egg station, as well as some other hot entrees such as chipolata sausages and bacon.
If you didn’t have breakfast as part of your room rate, Luci offers an a la carte menu for breakfast as well, which I presume will be similar to what I was given during my stay. Regular breakfast fare such as eggs, toast, yoghurt, bircher muesli are all available, with prices ranging between AUD6 for a slice of toast with condiments to AUD24 for eggs benedict. While the quality is good, you might find better value elsewhere outside of the hotel.
Outside of breakfast service, Luci also opens for dinner on Wednesdays to Saturdays, serving up contemporary Italian-inspired fare for dinners.
Despite its size, Hilton Melbourne does not boast of a wide array of facilities. Apart from the food and beverage offerings by Luci and Douglas Club, the hotel pales in comparison in terms of recreational facilities, with only a fitness centre nested on the first floor and no spa nor swimming pool.
The fitness centre is located on the first floor of the hotel, and is accessible 24/7 with your room key.
Taking up about the size slightly larger than a guestroom, the gym is compact yet sufficient for a quick workout without leaving the hotel. There’s a good rack of dumbbells available with two adjustable benches, as well as a cable machine tucked at the corner.
For your cardio options, there are three treadmills available for use, as well as an elliptical, a rowing machine and a stationary bike as alternatives.
For a serious workout, there are plenty of commercial gyms and workout studios within CBD that you can check out as well, particularly if you have access to Classpass.
The stay was a surprisingly comfortable one, even though the size of the hotel doesn’t exactly scream “Hilton”. For those familiar with the brand, Hilton is not particularly an exciting property to be staying in. In many cities, Hilton evokes the image of a large, business travel-centric decades-old hotel, with dated rooms complete with fittings that are long due to be replaced. Business travellers continue to stick with the brand mainly because of familiarity and location, and many of these mature properties are also full service ones, with plenty of restaurants, bars, large gyms and even spas available for guests to use without having to step out of the hotel.
This quaint brand-new property in Melbourne changed all of that image, and proved that Hilton has not lost its touch; it is still capable of modernising itself in terms of how it presents its rooms, joining the league of chic hotels.
The hotel has also possibly cut away some frills such as a spa and swimming pool, thereby allowing itself with work with smaller footprints and focusing on core offerings without compromising on standards. In markets such as Australia, on-site swimming pools are sometimes quite useless as they would usually be tiny and have to be closed half the year due to weather.
What needs to be polished is in the area of service.
During my stay, never once did we see the Concierge desk being manned, leaving me to wonder if the hotel even offers a concierge service which is rather precious for time-strapped business travellers.
The servicing of the rooms were also a little inconsistent, such as having housekeeping leaving a bottle of cleaning agent (by accident I hope) in our bathroom one day. Our request for additional items at night also took an incredibly long time to come, leaving us to wonder if the hotel had overnight staff.
Having said that, the front office manager, Resh, was incredible. There had been some hiccups during our stay due to a reservation oversight, but she was fast to identify and rectify the problem and did an amazing job in service recovery.
This will not be the only Hilton property you will find; Hilton is expected to open another Hilton-branded property in Melbourne Square come 2024.