In the heart of Melbourne's thrumming theatre district, Rydges Hotel has reopened its doors after undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation.
Located on Exhibition Street in the city centre, Rydges is attractive for its location alone as an easy stroll away from some of the city's iconic bars and restaurants, while the beautiful Princess Theater is also just down the street.
The hotel's recent facelift was undertaken with a theme of 'refreshingly local' which informs the design of both the hotel itself and the services it provides. The work of local artists adorn the walls, the food and drink choices are from local suppliers and even the cutlery and crockery are made by Melbournians.
How this will work when the hotel is fully booked and there's a queue to the door I'm not sure, but during my relatively quiet check in period it added a welcome human element to what could have been an impersonal process.
I stayed in a deluxe apartment for three nights, which at around NZ$525 per night is one of the priciest options - but for those willing to fork out it is a luxurious experience.
The 60 square metre apartment contained a well-equipped kitchenette and living space separated from the bedroom by a wall which nicely divided the room into a lounge area on one side and a bedroom/bathroom on the other.
A spacious bathtub sat against one wall, by the bed and beneath a giant mirror, which might feel a little exposed for some; but it's hard to top a room service wine while taking a bath and then being able to face plant into a mattress wearing a fluffy dressing gown.
And what a mattress it is. All the fancy amenities in the world won't save a hotel with an uncomfortable bed, but every room in Rydges has the same signature DreamBed mattress which feels like sleeping on an ergonomically designed cloud.
As nice as my room's interior was, it also afforded an amazing view of the skyline despite being so central, which avoided the awkward moment of looking out your hotel window while half dressed directly into someone else's apartment or office space.
My only gripe with my own accommodation was the water pressure in my shower not being particularly strong, so it felt more like standing in a light drizzle. But with the spacious bathroom with dual vanities and a bathtub on hand, the disappointing shower didn't impact my stay too much.
The less expensive rooms get many of the same comforts I enjoyed, too. Even the entry level king rooms I checked out during a tour have the same DreamBed mattresses and manage to do a lot with their space while costing a lot less than staying in an apartment - the King Rooms start at NZ$286 per night.
While hotels can easily feel sterile, Rydges overall has a warm, homely feel. There's natural timber on the walls, stone floors in the public spaces, genuinely interesting art in every room and soft lighting from bespoke fixtures that all make it feel more like you're staying with a wealthy, slightly bohemian friend.
The automated customer experience makes much of the stay pretty frictionless, from the checking in and out to accessing 24/7 room service from your room's TV. The ability to cast any content to said TV using hi-speed Wi-Fi was also a plus.
While the combination of an exceptional bed and ability to order room service through a television mounted in front of that bed made a convincing case for never leaving my room, I did manage to explore the rest of the hotel in between food naps.
Melbourne is famous for its rooftop entertainment and Rydges continues this tradition with a rooftop pool and a terrace space hirable for events. Since my stay was mid-winter I only took a quick dip, but the pool was mercifully heated, comfortable and afforded another spectacular angle to view the city.
A fully equipped fitness studio is also available on one of the floors beneath the pool area and while I have never been the kind of person that works out while travelling in a city famous for its food and drink, I assume these people exist and I'm sure they'd be well catered for.
I was more interested in the also newly-refurbished bar and restaurant, Bossley.
I popped in for lunch on my second day and the hotel's overall balance of classy and casual is reflected in the dining, with cocktails and food which were all tasty and well presented but not pretentious or eye-wateringly expensive.
I had a breakfast martini which I highly recommend, though with its alcohol content I'd also recommend planning nothing strenuous for your afternoon. If you fancy something sweet, the Bossley twist on a Snickers dessert was a highlight.
Bossley also provides the hotel's excellent buffet breakfast and even as a full grown adult, there's something about buffet breakfasts that turn me into a child. When else can you have a bowl of cocoa pops, a side of bacon, three different kinds of eggs, juices and danishes and have no-one judge you?
There's even brass taps which dispense varieties of milk, water and juice which was an excellent touch and gave a sense of the hotel obtrusively providing comforts with a touch of class.
My overall impression of the new Rydges Melbourne was of a hotel delivering an impressive mix of class, luxury and convenience. It's lavish yet comfortable and stays out of your way, letting you enjoy your stay at your own pace.
Of course my experience may not be the typical one, as the hotel was putting its best foot forward during a grand opening for media and invited guests - it's easier to have a great time in a hotel when you're one of only a few guests and the red carpet is rolled out for you.
But a great time is definitely what I had. What Rydges offers following its renovation, at its price and in its location, makes it a hard hotel to beat.
Newshub received three complimentary nights in Rydges Melbourne for this review.