Although New Zealand is dead cool for the kind of traveller who enjoys dangling at the end of a bungee cord, nobody ever accused its cities of being hip. Ohtel, which opened this year in Wellington, the capital, aims to do something about that: it proclaims it is New Zealand's only designer boutique hotel.
Wellington is lacking in level ground, so a wooden Victorian house had to be removed to give the Ohtel its central location within Oriental Parade on the inner harbour. The house was recycled to the countryside; the new building, clad in wood and glass, claims eco-friendly credentials, with solar panels and a heat exchanger for hot water. The 10 rooms are a unique mixture of hi-tech features and furniture from the 1950s and 1960s.
Our double bed was wide, deep and handsome, and the mid-century chairs, table and desk certainly made the room feel different from any chain hotel. The flat-screen TV and sound system had controls worthy of the space shuttle – when I brushed a button in the middle of the night, setting off a life-size All Blacks game, it took an age to figure out how to shut it off. There was a distinct lack of shelf and hanging space, however. Not only did I have to leave most things in my suitcase, but I also kept tripping over it, because there was no stand to put it on.
The Ohtel makes a feature of its bathrooms, which are indeed opulent. But they are divided from the rooms only by a floor-to-ceiling glass screen, with a gap in the centre. There is a curtain – which is transparent. Everything one does in the bathroom is on display. I was told there had been some "negative reaction", and opaque curtains – far more necessary than the free flip-flops – are on the agenda.
The food & drink
Excellent, both in taste and presentation. There is no restaurant, but the breakfasts and light meals reflect New Zealand's evolution as a foodie paradise. Dishes include macadamia-crusted chicken and cured Akaroa salmon with rocket. There is a well-chosen list of the country's world-class wines.
Ohtel's selling point is its central position, within yards of bars, restaurants and Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum.
The lobby and the lift are at street level. One room on the ground floor is equipped for guests with disabilities. Children over one year are not encouraged, and pets are not allowed.
Doubles cost from NZ$495 (£190) per person per night.
Ohtel, 66 Oriental Parade, Wellington, New Zealand (00 64 4 8030600; ohtel.com).