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Room Service: A city base that thinks it's the business

Ovolo Hotel, Melbourne

Ovolo's mission statement to create "shiny, happy" clients, initially sent me into a head-spin. But at last Melbourne can claim a fun, sleek hotel in the heart of the CBD (Central Business District, or city centre). Better still, it's in Chinatown. You sense a progressive spirit behind this new enterprise. It is the first of the Ovolo group outside Hong Kong, though it certainly won't be the last. The reason? The team have hit on a relaxed, contemporary formula that combines clean, functional design with comfort and personality.

With limited public space, action is focused on the narrow, nightclub-like lobby, from informal "grab'n'go" breakfasts (Nespresso and fresh pastries) to daily happy hour, both of which are complimentary. However, the lobby offerings are somewhat marred by constant, often grating house music. Upstairs, your sleep may be interrupted by the clunk and whirr of nocturnal rubbish trucks servicing neighbouring restaurants. But with respectable prices for the centre of Australia's second city, plus well-designed rooms, flexible check-out times and welcome perks, you'll feel more shiny and happy than you will disgruntled.


The hotel is tucked away at the eastern end of the city centre between the Victorian-era Parliament House and the Princess Theatre. Nearby are high-rise office blocks, intriguing "laneways" harbouring bars, cafés, boutiques and barbers, and pagoda-style archways announcing Chinatown`s excellent array of restaurants.

A taxi from Tullamarine airport takes 30 minutes to the door for a fare of A$54 (£32). For a first glimpse of the city, hop on the free City Circle Tram (No 35), which clanks past, just around the corner on Spring Street, every 12 minutes.


Inside the rooms, dazzling white, taupe and grey tones form the picture. The tenebrous charcoal corridors are lifted by spotlit doors painted in vivid gloss yellow, ultramarine, scarlet or lime green. Artworks are inspired by local street art, a bench is covered in AstroTurf and dozens of chrome eggs suspended over the lobby refer to the name – ovolo, an architectural term derived from the old Italian for "egg". So far, so quirky.

Six types of room multiply to a total of 43 over five floors. They are crowned by a two-bedroom penthouse with huge terrace and hot tub, beside two other terraced penthouses – one accessorised with a punchbag and gloves, and all with sleek kitchens and two shower rooms each.

In the hermetically sealed nether regions (no windows open, though ventilation is virtually silent) you can choose between a tiny studio, squeezing in a comfortable double bed, desk and shower-room; a far more adequate studio suite of 25square metres; a generous one-bedroom suite that's like a small apartment; and a large two-bedroom suite for families.

The rooms have been configured so as not to waste space. Unfortunately that includes designer basins that are far too small, compensated for by spacious walk-in rainfall showers. But the basins look the part, matching the clean lines of the furnishings. While these verge on Ikea-style, they are saved by sparky humour such as the large blackboard in every room on which offbeat facts and jokey sketches are regularly updated by the staff.

Flatscreen televisions (two in the suites), anglepoise bedside lamps, high-quality bed-linen, microwaves and urban-grit views add to the all-round appeal.

Meanwhile, the mini bar – like the Wi-Fi – is free and replenished daily. The bounty doesn't end there either: on arrival, a large loot bag awaits, filled with moreish snacks from peanuts to jelly babies – just the ticket after a long flight.

The toiletries, not something I generally obsess about, really hit the spot being the cult New York brand, Malin+Goetz, deliciously infused with coriander, peppermint or rum.

Ovolo Hotel

19 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (00 61 3 8692 0777; ovologroup.com).

Rooms ****

Value ****

Service ****

Doubles start at A$197 (£131), B&B.