As you walk into the Sage Hotel James Street you can miss that certain nonchalance that comes from you know you’re doing it right. A relaxed vibe and a towering green wall combine with smart looking (and thinking) front desk staff to make you feel you’re a regular.
The smartness continues in the rooms with wait for it – sliding glass doors that open to a balcony, partitioned only by weathered iron laser cut screens. Just the spot for an early morning cup of joe from your Nespresso machine or a stretch on the yoga mats available from reception.
As hotel beds go this is more than ‘Lovely’ or ‘Dream’ it is a miracle. Crisp cotton bed linen atop a divine blend of plushness guaranteed a great night’s sleep. The bathrooms too are impressive with powerful showers and lighting that may be a little too good.
The boutique hotel comfortably shoehorns into one of the inner city’s much-loved watering holes, the Queens Arms. The 130-year-old QA has undergone an extensive facelift including Botanical Bar + Kitchen and the James St café in the Sage Hotel lobby. The restaurant’s open plan design blurs the lines between pub and hotel.
Cleverly, in Brisbane’s fashion shopping mecca, Sage Hotel has a multi-purpose and flexible space custom-built for fashion and creative showings – the Sage Style Room. You’ll recognise the striking jewellery worn by staff and other pieces around the hotel as Dinosaur Designs whose flagship boutique is also on James St.
Sage Hotel James Street is situated in the smart end of town – no I won’t say the Paris end of Brisbane. James St has more of a low-key Beverly Hills vibe; high-end but much, much more relaxed than LA’s showbiz playground. It is where locals like to see and be seen. This precinct of fashionable boutiques and all round purveyors of the good life make for a great day of casual window shopping, sipping and tasting.
Sage Hotel James Street is the ideal launch pad for a weekend of indulgence. For those mixing business with a little leisure you are minutes away from the CBD and Brisbane International and domestic airports. If you can drag yourself away from that fabulous bed and complimentary in-room movies, you’ll find James Street is one of Australia’s hippest hoods.
Here are just some of Sage Hotel James Street fashionable neighbours
How better to start a staycation or a weekend away than with some serious R&R? Waterlily Day Spa is a few doors up from Sage Hotel James Street and is a little piece of paradise. Again it’s all about the scent – floral but not too sweet – perhaps it’s from the delicate white orchids throughout the spa?
The candlelit room is similarly fragrant and the moment I’m under the covers and ready for my petite facial, I start to de-stress. I’ve never had a facial where they’ve started at the feet but is a great way to relax. Part facial, part head and shoulder massage, this is 45 minutes of utter bliss. And I can honestly say I glowed afterwards.
Waterlily has developed a range of quality products based on Aromatherapy, with pure, vitamin-rich and natural ingredients designed to slow the anti-ageing process. Both the Spaceuticals and Waterlily products I got to test drive at home have kept my skin smooth and well hydrated.
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to food on James St but there is only one Gerard’s Bistro. With two chef’s hats and multiple state and national awards, the Ben Williamson led kitchen delivers every time. A menu best shared like a sumptuous Middle Eastern banquet, the dishes are a flavour revelation.
The crisped flatbread that accompanies the lamb tartare, harissa, zingy preserved lime, shallot and pickled cucumber with creamy egg yolk is perfect for getting every last bit of meaty goodness from the plate. The Bekaa chicken wings are a triumph and the fried cauliflower with ras el hanout, grapes, smoked almonds and garlic oil will make you fall back in love with cauliflower.
Warm organic bread with whipped, smoked cultured butter is the best way for wiping up the warm juicy puddle at the edges of the board of slow roasted Wagyu. To finish? The delicious rose, barbary and pistachio nougat is a sticky and sweet delight.
At the Arthur St end of the Queens Arms is Farrier Bar & Supper Club – a very welcome addition to Brisbane’s after hour’s bars. As their social media says: ‘Farrier is Brisbane all grown up’. Open Friday and Saturday nights to 2 am Farrier is a splendid sandstone brick cavernous, late night spot for quality cocktails and serious bar food from baos to meatballs and jaffles. You can thank me later after you’ve tasted one of the excellent Espresso Martinis.
After a delicious breakfast at Botanical Kitchen + Bar, we still managed to find room to indulge a little more at James St institution Jocelyn’s Provisions. We walk into a store (or is that cake boutique?) filled with intoxicating aromas and old-fashioned display cases filled with old-school cakes, rustic quiches and homely bread.
We saw the rightfully legendary Chocolate Sour Cream Cake transformed into wedding, anniversary and birthday cakes. It is the moistest of chocolate cakes with a not-too-sweet white choc/sour cream ganache.
The one of a kind TWFineArt is a must do. Not only a gallery filled with exciting contemporary pieces, it is also an online space with knowledgeable curators to help you buy the perfect print. Unfortunately, not wanting to impinge on the artist’s copyright we didn’t show you any of the current artworks on exhibition.
NEW FARM CONFECTIONERY
Courtesy of the hotel’s courtesy Mercedes we make a detour from James St to another New Farm sweet spot – New Farm Confectionery. Again we are greeted with another seductive scent; this time it’s warm caramel.
Owner Jodie Nielson was in the middle of keeping Brisbane well stocked in Couverture Easter Eggs but she took time to greet us with delicious, silky, thick, chocolate peanut brittle milkshakes.
Some years ago she saw a gap in the Australian market for grown-up treats. In Paris, there is store after store filled with minimally packaged bon bons, salted caramels and pillowy marshmallows created for a sophisticated palate.
Now, her modest store (conveniently located around the corner from New Farm Cinemas) is filled with the yummiest brittle, nougat, sherbet, Rocky Road and much more.
If you don’t know the River City, James Street is a great place to start. If you’re a ‘staycationing’ local or a regular visitor, this is the neighbourhood that proves Brissy is no longer a big, bush town.