AC Hotel’s tagline ‘Everything you need, and nothing you don’t’, doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. At the AC by Marriott Southbank, Melbourne everything is at your fingertips; and a whole lot more.
The AC refers to hotelier Antonio Catalán. In 1997, in Spain, his vision was for timeless hotels with a ‘European ‘feel’ while incorporating their locale in every element from design to dining. He believes, “Hotels should serve as an escape, an oasis from the mundane.”
Despite over 200 hotels in 27 countries bearing the AC Hotel name, it is a relative newcomer to Australian shores, opening in May 2022.
Catalan sold 60% of the portfolio to Marriott in 2011 as the crunch of the GFC grew tighter. He remained CEO. ‘Perfectly Precise” remains the touchstone for the current AC Hotels brand as it expands worldwide.
His brand ethos remains. Purposeful design. Signature moments. Everything has been optimized to create a comfortable, elegant and effortless stay with details that matter most to sophisticated guests who don’t normally stay in a traditionally branded hotel. Focussing on the locale remains important too to ensure each property stands alone.
AC by Marriott Southbank
While the hotel’s architecture is striking in an otherwise underdeveloped streetscape, the Melbourne Convention Centre and Southbank are just a short walk away. The glass facade is bold by day and glows at night. Twenty floors (205 rooms and suites) of the property are dedicated to the hotel with nineteen floors of residential apartments.
Once inside we catch the lift to the seventh-floor reception. And it’s busy. We are offered a glass of cava as the reception staff work through the arrivals. Bonus points for a thoughtful start. We take in the Melbourne skyscape in the AC Lounge – a comfortable, contemporary and flexible zone that’s part lobby and part workspace in cool greys, stone floors and layers of drapery to soften or enhance the view beyond. Behind us, we spy Bar Triana and Sorolla Restaurant.
Check-in is efficient but friendly. (For once as a media guest I’m trusted not to throw a TV into the swimming pool with no credit card required). And we have been upgraded to a Premium King.
Nice touch: There’s dried lavender in a large bowl for scooping into small bags to make your dreams sweeter.
“Hotels have the opportunity to be something better than a home.” – Antonio Catalan
Our 16th-floor room is much more. It is a suite. In fifty shades of grey (including steel, slate and platinum) it is comfort-driven with plenty of luxe accoutrements.
The combined lounge/dining/desk space might have a smart TV, but it competes with the views towards the Yarra and CBD that floor-to-ceiling glass frames neatly. The oversized lounge includes a chaise. A coffee bar with a small sink has Nespresso machine, a minibar fridge and a kettle. The two-seater desk is thoughtful but who’s working with that view?
Away from the panorama, the extra comfy King-size bed and wardrobes bookend the boudoir with a deep tub, double vanity and separate toilet and shower rooms at the other end. Blackout curtains? Check. Expansive wardrobes with handy lighting and plenty of real coat hangers? Hooray.
At the bathroom end, there’s everything you need and a whole lot more. Designer Dyson straightener and hairdryer shares space with enough sweet-smelling Korres toiletries from soap to body lotion for ten people.
I’m sure the heated year-round infinity pool overlooking the city skyline is a hit in the warmer months. A few laps in mid-winter Melbourne aren’t on the agenda today.
Before dinner, we try the nightly Gin and Tonic cart that manoeuvres Bar Triana between 5.30 to 6.30 pm for a very happy hour. Our server offers a choice of three Patient Wolf varieties, three Fever Tree tonics and a Spirited Lot Ninch Dry Gin with garnishes, as well as Seedlip for the non-drinkers.
The 70-seater Bar Triana at AC by Marriott Southbank has a superb selection of 28 international and Australian boutique gins. Local distiller (and AC Hotel partner) Patient Wolf is the preferred spirit for a ‘Perfectly Precise’ signature cocktail, The ACGT (A Custom Gin Tonic). Served in a scientifically-engineered glass with etchings to create the perfect G & T.
The restaurant is named for the Valencia artist Joaquin Sorolla and is
Espanol through and through with dishes inspired by San Sebastian, Seville and Barcelona.
Chef Ryan Flaherty – ex-El Bulli, Stokehouse, Reserve and The Fat Duck leads the team that runs a well-oiled 70-seat machine on a Friday night. The view (especially at night) and what’s on the plate make up for the hotel restaurant’s low-key blonde timber decor.
Maitre ‘d Lorenzo is the kind of all-knowing professional that every restaurant needs. He suggested the Torreblanca Cava Brut over our choice of Prosecco, and he was right.
We started with the perfectly cooked Brochette de Polla (chicken skewers) on a subtly spiced Mojo Rojo. The Spanner Crab Montadito was sublime crab with turmeric butter, Aleppo pepper and radish atop slices of baguette. Wow!
Next, we paired our shared olive-crusted lamb rump with one of the finest green salads I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. And eating. Perfectly dressed butter lettuce leaves, cucumber and chives never tasted so good. The lamb was perfectly pink tender and served with celeriac puree, grilled radicchio, and a hazelnut jus. Words can’t describe it.
So far showing much restraint, we knew we could share not one but two desserts. Churros with chilli chocolate, salted caramel sauces, and flourless orange cake with fraiche ice cream. It was an absolute powerhouse of flavours and textures. We finished with a dark and not-too-sweet glass of Pedro Ximénez.
The ‘everything you need and nothing you don’t’ line doesn’t allow guests to know that every moment has been designed to be unforgettable. Little things like lavender bags, cava on arrival, the complementary G & T cart, and bathrooms with every possible detail covered aren’t mere gimmicks; each is part of a whole experience that’s purposeful. Designed to make you come back for more.
Disclaimer: This Magnificent Life was hosted by AC by Marriott Melbourne Southbank.