Review: Abstract is a bohemian hotel that offers great value in Auckland's CBD

Abstract Hotel, Auckland.
Abstract opened at 8 Upper Queen Street in February. Photo credit: supplied

As soon as I walked into Abstract I was struck by how unique it felt. I've been in plenty of boutique hotels before and each has its own quirky sense of identity, but this one feels its own kind of special.

There are a great deal of bespoke art pieces and clever design flourishes, but there is also just a vibe within the place that is distinctly bohemian and charmingly reflective of K Rd culture.

Abstract opened earlier this year and has apparently been busy from day one. That may not be surprising considering the room rates start at $140 per night for up to two guests, which is much cheaper than many other central Auckland hotels. So how does it compare to those?

I stayed at the hotel earlier this month and while most of the luxury that has been scaled back to keep costs down is easy to do without, some of it is not. Here are my thoughts.

The good

There is a stunning attention to detail in this hotel's design that helps make staying at it a richer experience than many others can offer.

That appears to be largely thanks to the leadership of Nigel McKenna who heads up the Templeton Group that developed Abstract. He's a particularly particular man who used his decades of experience on this passion project, meticulously tinkering with seemingly every aspect, sometimes literally down to the millimeter.

Abstract Hotel, Auckland.
The Library Lounge. Photo credit: supplied

The results are easily sensed as you walk about the shared areas and take time to observe the colours, the materials, the staff uniforms, the flooring and - of course - the art.

A couple of those shared areas on the ground floor are particularly charming: the Winter Garden and the Library Lounge.

The former is a wonderful indoor/outdoor area for eating and drinking, covered from harsh sun or light rain but still providing outdoor ambiance. It's a pleasure to spend time in, whether sitting down for a meal, enjoying a few drinks, or just hanging out. It would make a great venue for certain types of private gatherings if it's available for hire - I foresee countless great nights being had here by a great many people.

Abstract Hotel, Auckland.
The Winter Garden. Photo credit: supplied

The Library Lounge is a quieter area with plenty of great, carefully curated books to get into. You can take them back to your room, but then you'd be missing out on enjoying a really lovely area custom designed for chilling with a book in.

Some of those books and indeed the art on the walls of the Library Lounge is a little risqué, intentionally so as a reminder of the Karangahape Road area that Abstract is now a part of.

There is art in every hallway and every shared space that is just really cool. Even if you don't have the eye to notice the clever design of this place, the art really will jump out and grab your attention. I even ventured to a few of the storeys other than that of my room just to see the unique art on each level.

If it's not the art that's the first thing to hit you as you enter Abstract, it will likely be the beaming smiles of the staff. While some of them knew I was a reviewer, others did not, and all exhibited a great warmth - without the awkwardness that sometimes comes with it at other places where you're working out whether they're just doing it for a tip.

The food and drink on offer at the on-site bar and restaurant is all high quality. I don't know if it's quite impressive enough to become independently popular with patrons who aren't hotel guests, but it's diverse and delicious enough that you definitely don't need to head out of the hotel for a great meal and tipple, even with the amazing offerings of K Rd just a brief stroll away.

Abstract Hotel, Auckland.
The Gallery. Photo credit: supplied

There's also a small gym and the Gallery, which has a large amount of tables, powerpoints and yet more art. The actual bedrooms aren't good spaces to do much aside from sleep in, so if you want to get some work on your laptop done the Gallery is ideal, although I actually preferred the Winter Garden for that too.

There's one other area of the hotel that I really loved - more on that later. But first, what about the shortcomings?

The bad

The tradeoffs to get prices down appear to all have been made in the bedrooms, which suffer from some issues that will be easy to fix as well as others that won't be.

The main thing to think about when deciding if you want to stay at Abstract or not is how much you value bedroom space. Compared to most hotels in Aotearoa these are small bedrooms with just a bed, a TV, a little bedside table, cupboards and drawers.

Abstract Hotel, Auckland.
The bedroom. Photo credit: supplied

The bathrooms are also cramped compared to most other hotels in the city, but these and the bedrooms are actually spacious when compared to many Japanese hotels I've stayed in.

Also, if you're not staying in one of the studio rooms, the apartments offer generous space in the kitchen/dining/lounge room. Still, the smaller bedroom and bathroom size is notable.

The kitchens oddly feature a stovetop, but no pots or pans, so it seemed useless. However, you these are available on request.

Abstract Hotel, Auckland.
The living space. Photo credit: supplied

The rooms don't have aircon, which could be a real problem at certain times. There is a heater and a cooling tower fan, but I don't think that would be very effective mid-summer.

Costs have also been cut on the cheap TCL TVs, which are kind of fine, but they're small and have very average image quality.

While many hotel rooms have bizarre lighting setups that end up delivering dark spaces, the Abstract bedrooms went for two little roof spotlights and that's it. When they're on, it's definitely not dark, but rather too harsh a light if you're lying on the bed relaxing.

Although the supplied bedroom photo has a bedside lamp, mine did not, and that would have been a simple fix which would make reading a book or anything like that much more pleasant.

It's probably harder to fix the bed base issue, however. The mattresses themselves are beautifully comfortable, but the bed bases are of that wooden style with unforgiving corners that just love painfully finding your shin or knee.

There is also limited soundproofing, which could be a major problem if you have the wrong type of people in rooms nearby. Fortunately I didn't during my stay, but there was the odd loud noise that startled us in our room.

Depending on why you're in Auckland, the hotel's location may not be great. It's quite a distance from the touristy waterfront area, but is very handy for other locations and once the City Rail Link is up and running the location will become considerably more attractive.

Abstract Hotel, Auckland.
The bathroom. Photo credit: supplied

There's also no on-site parking or valet staff, nor is there a phone in your room to contact staff; none of which was an issue for me. There's a porte cochère to park in and unload or reload your stuff and then paid carparks nearby, and you can just use your mobile to call the front desk if you need to.

But then, while I'm happy to lose those features and have extra cash in my pocket, not everyone will be.

The amazing

Perhaps my favourite aspect of Abstract is Sa-Ni the day spa where I received one of the very best massages I've ever had.

Like other areas of the hotel, a lot of care has been taken to custom design this space with plenty of little touches executed by someone who is passionate about the service rather than some corporate overlord who isn't fussed.

Sa-Ni day spa at Abstract Hotel, Auckland.
Sa-ni day spa. Photo credit: supplied

My masseuse was very skilled and it came as no surprise when she told me she'd had decades of experience.

After blissfully floating away from the massage table, there's a wonderful relaxing area to chill out in and sip on tea in a comfy chair for as long as you need before heading back to your room or off into the real world.

Price-wise, the options at Sa-Ni are not cheap, but they're certainly competitive with the offerings at other CBD hotels. The 90-minute aromatherapy massage I got - and wholeheartedly recommend - will set you back $220.

It was so good it makes it tempting to stay at Abstract over a more expensive hotel and use the savings to pay for a treatment at Sa-Ni.

The verdict

Abstract is an offbeat CBD hotel that offers great value for money.

If you don't mind giving up some in-room luxuries, it's an alluring accommodation option in the K Rd area that I can see earning fans.

Do your homework to see what you'll be missing out on if you choose this over a 5-star place, and you'll probably be delighted with the character it offers instead.

Newshub received a complimentary two-night stay at Abstract for this review.