Crowne Plaza Melbourne

IT MIGHT SOUND absurd considering the level of proximity involved, but until recently, I’d never been to Melbourne. I’m a Sydney boy through and through. Give me the harbour city’s warmer climate and scenic beaches over Melbourne’s clouds and coffee any day of the week. But that’s not to say I’ve never had a desire to visit Melbourne. All those ‘world’s most liveable city’ headlines certainly add a level of appeal. So when I was offered the opportunity to fly down for a weekend and stay at one of the city’s premier hotels, the Crowne Plaza, I jumped at it.

Nestled along the banks of the Yarra River in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, the Crowne Plaza doesn’t so much sit by the Yarra as it does tower over it, possessing what I’m convinced is the best view of the tributary in the entire city. The imposing, cylindrical structure is part of IHG Hotels & Resorts’ premium collection and has stood since 1988, but it underwent a wholesale refurbishment as recently as 2020.

All in all, the Crowne Plaza comprises 432 guest rooms and suites, making it one of the larger hotels in the city centre. There’s three options for drinks and dining, with Ottie’s, Dive Bar and Pow Wow Café providing an idyllic setting for every meal of the day. For those in town on business, the Crowne boasts ten meeting rooms with pre-function facilities. Then there’s the rooftop pool (which is heated year-round) and the 24-hour fitness centre, which is packed with top-of-the-line Technogym equipment. That all looks great on a website, but naturally, I was eager to see if it holds up in person.

Crowne Plaza Melbourne

From the moment I step into the Crowne Plaza, the lobby sets the tone for my stay and doesn’t let up. The welcoming area, a blend of modern design and classic touches, exudes warmth, with an open-plan layout and double escalators leading to a large domed atrium by the elevators, where that brilliant view I was banging on about earlier first presents itself. It’s also in this space where I first catch a glimpse of the various in-house eateries and begin mentally planning my order, but more on that later.

As anyone who’s ever flown into a city in the early hours of the morning will know, the wait for your room to be ready for check-in will usually have you aimlessly strolling the streets for hours before declaring you’ll never book an early flight again. Such was the expectation for my visit to Melbourne, but to my boundless relief, my early check-in request was granted. It’s often said that at hotels, first impressions matter. It’s doubtful the Crowne Plaza could have made a better first impression than that.

Each room at the Crowne Plaza is positioned to provide views of either the Yarra River or the city skyline. As a Sydneysider accustomed to life near large bodies of water, I counted myself lucky to be on the side of the river view, which immediately announces itself through a wide window that takes up the full width of the room.

There’s more to the Crowne Plaza than the views, however. On the interior, the space is modern, with a tidy room layout and generously spacious setting made up of premium furniture and sharp lighting. The decor is a mix of muted tones and rich textures, creating a stark but serene contrast to the bustling city below. The well-appointed bathroom is the real standout though, with tiled walls, a golden-rimmed mirror and a luxurious shower.

Culinary excellence is a hallmark of the Crowne Plaza, and, as mentioned, it comes in three distinct offerings. The hotel’s primary restaurant, Ottie’s, which hosts breakfast but has an all-day menu is a gastronomic tour de force. The menu is both innovative and deeply rooted in local flavours, with each dish utilising only the freshest ingredients and taking influence from a variety of cuisines. There’s seafood dishes like the moules frites, French-inspired delicacies with an Australian twist like the confit ocean road duck leg, and vegetarian options like the zucchini pappardelle. I opted for a Southern Ranges rump cap steak. No notes.

For a more hedonistic, but equally impressive option, the Dive Bar serves up a selection of expertly crafted cocktails, top-shelf liquor and light bites. Its relaxed atmosphere makes it the ideal spot for unwinding after a day of exploring the city. Pow Wow, on the other hand, features bright, Californian-inspired interiors and what they claim is Melbourne’s finest coffee. It’s a big call, but I didn’t have a cup that trumped it.

The Crowne Plaza’s prime location is another of its many assets. Stepping out, the hotel is located right next a tram line, providing easy access to Melbourne’s sporting precinct, the nearby Southbank area, and to the city’s best restaurants – the ones that occupy real estate at the top of every ‘where to eat in Melbourne’ article. One such entry sits inside another IHG hotel (the brand has 19 in its portfolio), the venerated InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto, with its iconic architecture and timeless appeal.

Inside InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto lies a privilege for members of the IHG One Rewards platform, the exclusive club room. IHG One Rewards is IHG’s loyalty program, giving members a number of benefits and the ability to save and use loyalty points. One such benefit is Club InterContinental, an opulent, private space that evokes an atmosphere of sophistication, with complimentary refreshments and a range of other services. For me, it was the site of pre-match drinks before a football game – where, it bears mentioning, the A-League All Stars utterly dismantled the English Premier League’s Newcastle United 8-0. Leaving for said game was no easy task once I had fallen victim to the Club room’s hospitality.

Travellers rightfully put a lot of weight on where they stay, but the best hotels do more than just serve as a place to rest our heads at the end of the day. The Crowne Plaza Melbourne is one of those hotels that does more. It’s a sanctuary of comfort in the heart of one of the world’s most dynamic cities. Unfortunately for me, my time in that sanctuary was fleeting. But it left me with a renewed outlook on Melbourne upon returning to Sydney. It may have been my first time in the city, but it won’t be my last.


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