Published in The F:
Located towards the ‘Paris end’ of Collins Street where cute cafes, designer shops, and exquisite fine restaurants permeate the area, the Sofitel Melbourne On Collins is a hard place to miss.
The hotel is a part of the prestigious Accor Hotels family – one of France’s largest and oldest hotel groups.
You’ll find it at the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, with the entrance sitting snugly inside the Collins Place shopping complex or around the back where valet parking is widely available.
If this piques your curiosity, then do read on, because this lucky reviewer ventured deep into its domain to check out what was really on offer before traversing to the racing pits of the Melbourne International Grand Prix.
The verdict? An unforgettable experience like no other hotel we’ve ever stayed in before.
In the reception area we were greeted with a friendly ‘bonjour monsieur’ from the hotel clerk. The atmosphere screamed European with its warm lighting; comfortable couches and large windows where you could aimlessly watch the world go by.
Next to it is the Sofi’s Lounge, where anyone could indulge in high tea splendour while being surrounded by exhibited arts, natural lighting and a lofty ceiling.
The building itself proudly boasts 363 accommodation rooms starting from level 36 to level 50, ensuring that every tenant has an astonishing view of Melbourne city from all angles.
Our room – the Luxury King Club room to be exact – was no different, with captivating views overlooking the Melbourne arts precinct and Yarra River. With features such as mood lighting, a plasma television, complementary newspaper deliveries and an opulent marble bathroom with French toiletries you just want to slather yourself in, it felt somewhat tempting to just stay inside all day. To top it all off, a bottle of champagne and chocolate strawberries eagerly awaited us as we entered.
Image: Sofitel on Collins
The room also entitled us to complete unbridled access to the Club Sofitel Lounge, an area placed on level 35 and exclusive to luxury tenants. From unlimited Wi-Fi access, computers complete with printer and fax, a feature fireplace for the colder months as well an as all-you-can-eat breakfast, lunch, evening canapés and yummy dessert (all at set times) – this private area offers everything you need in one convenient place.
But the best part about the Club Sofitel Lounge? A panoramic view that offered spectacular looks at Melbourne, so much so that you couldn’t help but be hypnotised by it all.
Image: Sofitel on Collins
In addition to the lounge area, their acclaimed restaurant No. 35 and the Atrium Bar all reside on the same level. Generously open to the public, both venues offer winning menus that cater to anyone’s unique palette.
If you’re someone who basks in busy social settings where fine meals and quality conversations are your ideas of a good time, then No. 35 Is the place to be. The acclaimed restaurant serves modern cuisines that takes inspiration from a diverse range of cultures, and is headed by none other than international chef Martin Horsley.
The unique U-shaped space is extremely versatile and available to book for any kind of function (fun fact: at one point it was even a venue for a popular runway). As you wine and dine, you’re surrounded by captivating artworks and of course, a great view of Melbourne’s beautiful nightlife.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more intimate and quieter hangout, get onto the Atrium Bar. The bar consists of lighter meal options but an extensive list of concoctions, making it the perfect venue for unwinding or pre-drinking before a night out on the town. The sight above us was something to behold as well.
The drink of the day at the bar also changes daily to keep things interesting – we’re weren’t sure what our one consisted of, but it had plenty of citrus flavours mixed with tequila which is a huge tick.
To top it all off, Sofitel Melbourne On Collins has a strong commitment to the arts, aptly receiving the title of Melbourne’s Hotel For The Arts and cementing proud partnerships with the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV),The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
As of current, the hotel is host to an art exhibition entitled ‘Revealed’ – a display that not only takes a close look at the world’s greatest modern artists including Picasso, Dali and Hockney to name a few, but celebrates Sofitel’s whopping fifty years of business success and cultural ties. The exhibition displays until March 29.
After a private check out from the hotel via the Club Sofitel (another great feature in the lounge), we travelled to the picturesque Albert Park where the yearly Grand Prix was held.
To say that it was an adrenaline packed day is a major understatement. The energy was electric as there was never a dull moment. In short, there was something for everyone. You could rub shoulders with racing greats like Daniel Riccardo, Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa in the F1 Fan Zone, try to beat records in the Pirelli Pit Stop Challenge or have a few bevvies with your mates in the James Boag Premium Beer Garden. For families, you could keep the kids entertained with Disney & Stars Wars Activations or even give them a mini driving lesson at the Porsche Kids’ Driving School.
Highlights of the event included quirky car displays and fighter jet showstoppers, which were able to reach extreme heights of 25,000ft in six seconds and flew as low as 250ft from the ground up. Yikes!
For the well-anticipated Grand Prix race itself, blink and you’ll miss the lightning fast cars. As patriots waved their native flags in honoured salute for their comrades, the atmosphere was intense as the racers fought long and hard in a battle that went on for a gruelling fifty-seven laps.
Aside from the scary crash by Fernando Alonso (unharmed, thankfully), German representative Nico Rosberg took out the title for 2016, with our very own Daniel Riccardo placing a respected fourth place.
Overall, the experience of staying in Sofitel Melbourne On Collins and attending the Grand Prix was nothing short of remarkable. For those travelling abroad or local for the event, we couldn’t recommend the Sofitel hotel enough. With its fine French aesthetic, you’ll be transported into a Parisian world where being spoiled like a king is of common occurrence. It’s all that and so much more. If you ever needed more ideas on what to do in Melbourne, try the Sofitel Melbourne City Destination Guide right here…
*images credit: Aleczander Gamboa and Karl Gerada