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There was a plant in my room. It was real — I checked. And it wasn’t even a fern.
This may sound like a strange thing to comment on, but anyone who has stayed in as many hotels as I have will understand what an anomaly this is, particularly in an inner-city hotel.
This plant is literal living proof of the care that went into the $3.7 million renovation of Ovolo Hotel’s Ovolo the Valley, which is just one of the many new five-star hotels that have opened in Brisbane, Australia, in the last 18 months. In November 2018, it became the Hong Kong and Australian chain’s second Brisbane location (after Ovolo Incholm, which opened eight months earlier).
Formerly home to Emporium Hotel (which has since moved to South Bank), Ovolo the Valley features a facelift led by design firm Woods Bagot, which gave each of the 103 guestrooms a clean, 1970s-inspired look. The color palette features mustard yellows and a shade of rose that’s somewhere between Millennial Pink and Living Coral (Pantone’s 2019 Color of the Year).
Yes, the hotel has the potential to look dated in five years, but I didn’t care. A throwback to a bygone era, the ombre pink curtains, globe lights, custom botanical wallpaper and plush headboards are a visual feast for the eyes. And that’s not even considering the art collection, which features work by Sydney-based landscape artist Lisa Madigan, local costume-maker Gerwyn Davies and Cyprus-born Barbara Kitallides.
Plus, there was the plant.
It wasn’t the only green thing about the guestroom, however. There were no placards pontificating about Ovolo’s commitment to the environment (which always seem to be placed beside an unnecessary plastic bottle of water), but the property’s go-green initiatives were clear. Bathrooms are stocked with 100% recycled toilet paper made by Australian social entrepreneurship enterprise Who Gives a Crap. And the paraben- and sulfate-free shampoos come in large dispensers (almost a shame, as they were high-quality enough that I actually wanted to take them home).
What there is signage for, however, are the all-inclusive amenities — Ovolo’s main selling feature. In the lobby, there’s a candy bar and infused waters. In each guestroom, meanwhile, clients will find a Nespresso machine, a stocked minibar (yes, even the wine and beer is included) and loot bag of sweet treats. Breakfast is included in the morning, too.
After staying at sister property Ovolo Incholm last year, I was most excited about the all-inclusive social hour at this sister property; at Incholm, it had included a choice of about five handcrafted cocktails and was a highlight of my stay.
But before heading there, I went outside to explore. The hotel is located in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley — a popular spot for clubbing — and only a 30-minute walk from the Central Business District. It’s even closer still to the new Howard Smith Wharves precinct (which was also developed by Woods Bagot) under the storied Story Bridge.
It was easy walk, and by the time I got back, I was ready for a cool-off in the hotel’s rooftop pool. Although small, it’s an oasis with cushy loungers built for two. After my dip, I briefly considered using the gym or sauna, but then I got my priorities in order: Cocktail hour was nearly underway. I showered quickly, said goodbye to the room’s Alexa service, blew a kiss to my plant and headed downstairs.
Disappointingly, the bartender at on-site restaurant and bar Za Za Ta only offered up a draught beer or house wine, while cocktails cost extra. It was only a slightly better selection than what was back upstairs in the minibar. Like the spoiled guest that I was, I reluctantly ordered a white wine — but it didn’t take long before I was glad I left my room. Unlike at Incholm, where the restaurant is very much a hotel restaurant (read: the only patrons are property guests), Za Za Ta has its own street-side entrance that attracts the after-work crowd.
Helmed by an Israel-born chef, the buzzing Tel Aviv-inspired restaurant has impeccable service, nonalcoholic beverage options (I had a hibiscus iced tea) and an expansive vegetarian-friendly menu. However, while delicious, the shared plates aren’t ideal for individual diners. As I tried to figure out a way to stuff more of the Yemenite bread — made with a 3,000-year-old recipe — into my already full belly, I sat back to watch the scene. Every time a new plate appeared, the eyes of the group behind me lit up. To my right, two Australian women excitedly discussed costumes for a movie they were producing.
Brisbane is having a moment, and Ovolo the Valley might just be the place to spend that moment. With its vibrant artwork and prime location, it’s sure to appeal to millennial business travelers. But the truth is that my heart was back at Incholm, which may better suit older clients or those on holiday.
After all, Incholm might not have a plant, but it does have (free) cocktails.
The DetailsOvolo the Valleywww.ovolohotels.com