The CBD’s most stately stay has been given a facelift

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This grand dame on the banks of the Yarra was once a meeting place for traveling salesmen and its original image was that of the Commercial Travelers Association (CTA). This 1913 building exudes old world luxury from every ornate crevice. Returning to its splendor after decades of neglect, the complex has once again been modernized since it was acquired by Singapore-based Rendezvous Hotels, this time focusing on creating cohesion between the traditional and new wings. The property’s storied history is a big part of its appeal; past visitors have included members of the British royal family, and management hasn’t ruled out one day reviving the ninth-floor rooftop space, once famous for its netted cricket pitch.


The Rendezvous light-filled lobby space, with its grand white coffered ceiling and elegantly masculine checked rug Traveller’s Bar, takes guests into the past with a touch of modernity. These understated nods to a bygone era leave you unprepared for the scale and splendor of the adjoining Grand Forecourt – the hotel’s beating heart. There seems to be some confusion about how best to use the cathedral-like space – sparsely placed armchairs and tables are huddled under a double-domed ceiling, ringed by eight marble columns. It is one of the earliest and most outstanding examples of Edwardian Baroque architecture in Australia; intricate glue-leaf designs in the cornices, ceilings, stained-glass windows and chandeliers complete the polished timber, tiles imported from Monaco and a staircase modeled on the Titanic eclectic patchwork between. It’s one for true architecture buffs.


My Edwardian King Balcony Room is located in the Heritage Wing and has an extraordinary five meter high ceiling and two sets of double doors that open out to an oversized balcony facing the Yarra River. Some playful cockatoos have been pecking at the building’s new faux stone façade, evidenced by a pile of debris on my balcony, but my view of the beautiful Flinders Street station more than makes up for it. All 340 rooms have been modernized; mine is an autumnal wash of khaki, gold, cream and dark wood furniture, softened by floral high-back armchairs and plush headboards. There is a desk, full length mirror, tea and coffee making facilities and a Smart TV with Chromecast. The ensuite has only a vanity and shower, which can feel a bit cramped and impractical when getting ready (shelf space for toiletries and styling tools is scarce).

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Few hotels offer a grand afternoon tea better. Rendezvous stays true to tradition, offering three tiers of exquisite sangers, scones and sweets, accompanied by a glass of champagne ($59) and an option for free flow ($79). Room service options are good: duck liver parfait served with a fluffy brioche is mouthwatering, while ricotta gnocchi ticks all the boxes for comfort, served with a lime and spinach plaster. The hotel’s upscale restaurant, Mr Tompkins, is now finally taking dinner reservations, serving more European dishes such as scallops with smoked mussel bisque and red wine with fudge fudge Wednesday through Saturday. Expect to pay close to $100 per person for three courses (excluding drinks).

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The CBD location means that most of Melbourne’s popular entertainment, shopping and dining precincts are within walking distance; Flinders Street Station is just a few minutes’ walk away.


Of course, there are more luxury and gourmet hotels in the CBD. But it’s easy to be seduced by the history and grandeur of Rendezvous; the property has been beautifully remodeled.

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Room rates start at $215 per night. A night’s stay in one of the traditional Edwardian rooms starts at $270. 328 Flinders Street, Melbourne.Look


The exclusive Yarra Riverside Balcony Room offers the ultimate in luxury.

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Those cozy suites feel less luxurious at best. Worst of all it was cramped. The price, of course, is those five-meter ceilings.

Our rating (out of five)


Katherine Scott was a guest at Rendezvous in Melbourne.

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