The best way to test a high class hotel is to pull up in the most beaten-up car imaginable and see how they treat you.
At least that's what I told myself as my partner and I pulled up to newly built The Hotel Britomart on a sunny Thursday afternoon in my old Toyota Corolla with a broken wing mirror and coffee stained seats, and handed my sellotaped-together key to the valet.
To their absolute credit, they barely blinked an eye - although the concierge did confirm the price of $55 per day with me about three times, something I tried to pretend they probably did with all the guests.
With many of Auckland's best hotels currently taking on their new roles as MIQ facilities, there's something pretty special about walking into one fully relishing its role as an escape, rather than a lockdown. The hustle and bustle of the city centre outside is muted upon entering, staff are bright, friendly and attentive, and reception has plenty of nooks to fall into and watch the world go past.
The open plan reception is worth peeking into even if you're not staying: the clean lines, modern colour and indoor/outdoor flow is beautiful - so much so you'll suddenly find yourself snapping architecture pics, even if that's not your thing.
The architecture is one of the main drawcards of the new hotel, which blends seamlessly into the surrounding distinctive Britomart area almost as if it's been surrounded by the buildings housing Tiffany and Co, The Store, and Amano for years, rather than a few short months. That's unsurprising: architect Nat Cheshire and his father Pip have reportedly been working on the regeneration of the area for over 15 years.
Cheshire Architects are the designers behind many aspects of the nine blocks that make up Britomart, including the light-strung walkways of The Pavilions just outside. On The Hotel Britomart site, Nat says for nearly 15 years they've been making "a really big thing out of lots of really carefully crafted small things".
This sentiment was evident upon entering our fifth-floor room, which was wood-paneled in a way that somehow managed to capture old-school smoky saloon sexiness while still being ultra-modern. It's down to the little touches - the bathroom sink that at first glance appears to be in the bedroom before you pull a secret sliding door across, the beautifully lined and strip-lit cupboard housing the minibar and a full-length mirror.
Of course, one of the main draw cards is the view out the window of Britomart just outside, and the waterfront beyond.
But all the wood paneling, while incredibly hip, made the room very, very dark. Before we found the touch-controlled panel to raise the blind and turn on the light, I was tripping over myself a little. It might be a bit tough for those harder of vision - in this case me, a 27-year-old millennial.
The Hotel Britomart is a quintessentially boutique, inner-city hotel and that's reflected in the amenities - there's no pool at the hotel and apparently only a small gym somewhere (I was there for only about 16 hours so wasn't going to waste time investigating that). If you're dying for a workout, you're probably best to walk 100m to Les Mills.
Or just take comfort in the fact this is your oasis away from those day-to-day responsibilities and instead pull up a stool at the polished bar at Kingi - which actually appears to be half a felled tree, polished up. There you can let the very efficient and charming staff make you a cocktail and pretend you're actually on holiday in Melbourne or London, rather than 5km from your Auckland home.
If you are dining in, I recommend you ignore the mains completely and just order enough small dishes to share until you vaguely resemble King Henry VIII, surrounded by plates. Our mains (venison and flounder) were fine, but it was the small dishes that really brought the flavour - burrata, heirloom tomatoes, wood-roasted oyster mushrooms, and the raw fish plate.
One night at The Hotel Britomart was enough to leave us feeling relaxed and like we had had a good taste of travelling, even if it was just in that beaten up Corolla rather than a Boeing or Airbus. If you stay over the weekend, take advantage of the staycation vibes to relax around the Britomart area after checkout, perhaps shopping at Commercial Bay and grabbing an afternoon drink on the waterfront.
If, like me, you have to go straight to work, at least wait until after the 10am checkout to miss the rush-hour commute. You don't want to undo all that hard work.
Sarah and her partner had a night's complimentary stay at The Hotel Britomart for this review.