187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Victoria. 34 rooms from $250 (Australian); adelphi.com.au.
What could be more inviting than a stay at a dessert hotel? Sweet dreams are made of this. Once a warehouse, then transformed in the 1980s into the city's first boutique hotel – grabbing headlines then for its ninth-floor, glass-floored, cantilevered rooftop pool – the Adelphi has undergone another high-design transformation.
From the moment you walk in, your eyes are overtaken by two decadent, whimsical pieces of art: a glimmering golden face like a latter-day Picasso, and a galloping wire-framed horse pulling the front desk.
The dessert theme is subtle but deliciously present on this busy first floor, where local design firm Hachem has cleverly worked three intimate areas: Lobby, lounge and dessert bar are separated by distinct furnishings (shocks of bright colour, couches that swing, a set of small tables that look like licorice allsorts) and it's all very moody and atmospheric thanks to ebony walls and indie background music. Sit a while with your drink (it's comped with your stay) and watch Melbourne's creative class and young business elite start their Friday nights here.
Rooms are also delightfully eclectic in design, but still very functional. Powerfully patterned rugs, quirky coffee-table books and lipstick greetings on the mirror play against a sensible, comfy king-size bed, a working desk that's all business, with lots of outlets and smart bedside lighting. Flick the switch and the lights dim slowly; it's a surprisingly comforting effect and I feel like I've just been tucked in.
The Adelphi is steps from the hip laneway life that Melbourne has become known for: The street art of Hosier Lane is around the corner, while the pedestrian corridors of Hardware Lane and Degraves Streets are a short walk away.
The hotel is also a block from Flinders Street Station, the city's main transport hub, and the shopping and bustle of Swanston Street.
Deciding where to start exploring is made easier with the handy Culture Secrets deck of cards I find in my room. It identifies 52 landmarks, why they're cool and how to find them – and it's a whole lot easier to carry around a deck the size of a pack of smokes than a guidebook.
My room comes equipped with all the boutique standards – sexy glass shower, a seating area right out of a design magazine, organic, heady-smelling lotions, flat-screen perfection and – incredibly – an enormous jar of complimentary confectionery. Sweet! Chocolate pastilles, ginger mints, dried peach puffs, licorice nibs, candied nuts and on and on it goes. There's also free water and organic juice in the minibar fridge. It's a charming feature – I squeal like a child and spend too long deciding what to try first – and it goes a long way to smoothing over my only quibble with the hotel.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
During all the recent renos, somebody somewhere forgot the soundproofing. Sleeping smack dab in a lively laneway neighbourhood is great – until the delivery and garbage trucks get started in the workaday laneway adjacent to the hotel, which is also directly below everyone's window. Which means you'd better pack ear plugs.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT?
The Adelphi's respected restaurant Ezard features the fine-dining wizardry of Teage Ezard's "Australian freestyle" cuisine (mains from $48 Australian), but when you book into a dessert-themed hotel, there's only one course you're really interested in. You'll find Om Nom dessert bar at the end of the lobby. Here, savoury is secondary – delicious, mind you, but mere appetizers for the grand finale – chef Christy Tania's trompe l'oeils. Tania's desserts are plated with painstaking perfection: Raspberry Field is a rosewater and lychee forest floor in meringue, and the Apple Sphere of ginger and lemongrass is a picture-perfect treat. There's more, lots more, enough to send you into sugar shock. Certainly worth flying 18 hours hours to try.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.