This is the third time I’ve walked through these heavy, bevelled glass and brass fitted, doors. First in 2002, when the then medical chambers were transformed into a business hotel known as the Inchcolm with cigarette smoke still wafting from the suite’s original silky oak panelling. I was back again in 2014 when it became a glamorous addition to Accor’s high-end MGallery by Sofitel brand and now an altogether new life as Ovolo Inchcolm.
The cigarette smoke has long gone. The Ovolo Inchcolm is in the hospitality business and they are doing it better than most. Ovolo Hotels are design focused; eclectic and just high-tech enough to keep you connected 24/7.
That hospitality includes ‘Freebies”: in-room mini bar, self-service laundry, 24-hr gym, continental breakfast and a nightly two-hour happy hour in the Lo Lounge with snacks are all free.
Flipping the bird at Wotif and Trivago, Ovolo Hotels guarantee a better deal if you book direct online. If you find a lower rate they’ll match it and give you a free room upgrade subject to availability.
Rejecting a cookie cutter design approach each Ovolo hotel (six in Australia and 3 in Hong Kong) has a singular style. The Ovolo Inchcolm has revamped the public spaces to make them more romantic and idiosyncratic. Although the press release will tell you each hotel reflects its location there is nothing particularly Brisbane about the Inchcolm.
The fun starts with a Reception that doubles as a cocktail bar. Vaguely Deco wallpaper and jewel colour furnishings enhance the timber panelling and herringbone floors. For interior designers Hassell the vision was ‘Gertrude Stein/Parisian salon’.
Ovolo Hotel’s art curator Lisa Fehily has taken an eclectic approach. Mr Brainwash’s Je T’aime is a pop art delight. Actually pop is all over the walls with various collage works by Neon Pear of Bowie, Lennon, MJ and Prince.
It’s the lavishly appointed rooms and suites that make the hotel dazzle. Everything you would expect and a whole lot more. A ‘padded’ maxi bar contains free goodies of wine, beer, cola and real milk for the Nespresso. Bathrobes and slippers are baby soft. We also arrive to a DIY Negroni kit – how better to kick off the weekend?
The bathrooms still sport oversized, backlit mirrors and Appelles black label niceties. A word about the bath towels: I’ve never before contemplated stealing a hotel towel but these are the plushest, most luxurious I’ve ever enjoyed. I could happily lose a day in bed with 24 hours of movies and my mini-bar to keep me warm.
Tip: Ditch happy hour and enjoy an outstanding cocktail – both the Green Olive with sage infused vodka, lillet, sage and served with a green olive and the Goji – Archie Rose Vodka, goji liquor and lime are off the charts.
New Dad and Executive Chef Anthony Hales heads up Salon de Co – an intimate and some how grand dining space. Swanky velvet sofas and chairs are paired with unclothed tables. Expect surprises with the menu – descriptions are simply ingredients and somewhat divided into bites, share plates, mains and desserts. Or Chef can design a menu according to your tastes.
Chickpea/Beetroot/Coriander is a scrumptious mini chickpea taco. Fermented Corn/Chicken/Mushroom makes me want more but there are other treats to discover. The menu isn’t deliberately vegan but there are many ways to enjoy veggies here.
Both the Tomato/Native Thyme/Wild Herbs and Pumpkin/Sunflower/Myeoke are breathtakingly simple allowing perfect in-season produce to do all the heavy lifting. Sublime. King Fish/Illawarra Plum/Mt Pepper is subtle and refined. Unashamedly fatty (not that there’s anything wrong with that) Pork/Daikon/Sesame is surprisingly delicate.
Desserts read ambiguously too. Chocolate/Rice/Dark Fruit is different elements all trying to compete but nothing really winning. Note I’m not a chocolate dessert fan. Not cake Carrot/Walnut/Sour Cream is pillowy soft cookies – subtly sweet looking like one thing and tasting completely different.
Is Salon de Co a fine diner or something more casual? The menu is certainly flavourful and different enough to keep even jaded diners interested.
Next morning after giving the bathrobes and slippers a road test it’s back to Salon de Co for breakfast. We decide to try the free breakfast of muesli, fruit, toast and coffee. The muesli is grainy and nutty with honeydew melon curls and yoghurt on the side. Quality bread is chargrilled and salted – along with good coffee it is a great start to the day.
The all-new Ovolo Inchcolm works for both business and leisure travellers. Whatever your reason, take the time to really enjoy the comfort, smell the roses, sip a cocktail and stay a while – you’ll be so glad you did.