W Hotels are about to stage a massive comeback in the Australian market, returning down under with three properties, one for each major city across the east coast. While Melbourne and Sydney openings are on the horizon, Brisbane was the first to receive the luxury Marriott brand’s renewed energy when W Brisbane cut the ribbon mid-2018. Now, just over a year old, the W has been enjoying prime position as one of the city’s premier hotels.
W has always been one of the world’s more interesting hotel brands. Just ask anyone who has stumbled into W Bali’s sprawling sun-soaked playground, or W Hollywood’s ritzy address, once famously crashed by Prince for an unplanned performance during a routine jazz night. The one-letter brand has easily established a unique, eccentric and exciting identity in the lodging industry, and each new W property indicates that the design-forward, highly conceptual approach is only getting stronger and more distinctive.
W Brisbane is no exception. Finessed with extraordinary vision by designer Nic Graham, who is perhaps best known for his constant work with another high-concept hotel brand, QT Hotels, the property is a complex beast that feels like it’s been ripped from the pages of a colour-saturated comic book. And it’d most definitely be a graphic novel dedicated entirely to the stories of Brisbane, giving the property a fierce sense of place as Graham abstracts various aspects of the city’s riverbank heritage and the state’s vibrant landscape, its flora, and its flora.
An Ode to Brisbane River
Those browned cylindrical models that dance throughout the hotel’s common spaces aren’t matchsticks – though you’d be forgiven for the mistake – they are in fact modelled after river reeds. They snake up the entrance’s winding timber staircase, introducing the hotel’s irreverent theatrical bent with impact, and dance from the ceiling to frame cushy multi-coloured lounge areas.
The surprising details continue in the spacious Living Room (W’s twist on a traditional lobby). Although it lacks the intimacy and warmth of other W properties I’ve experienced, the seductively fun references in this reinterpreted lobby are almost too much, from the odd watermelon and pineapple art piece and oversized flip-flops with glittery straps, glowing opposite the trio of reception desks, to the springy light fixtures cascading from the ceiling.
Though W always make giant leaps when it comes to reinterpreting a property’s surrounds in their own eccentric way, comfort and classic hospitality clearly take up significant limelight. Reception is speedy and friendly, sending guests up to one of 312 rooms, the types of which start at 40sqm (“Wonderful Room”) and reach all the way up to the 200sqm “Extreme WOW Suite”. The latter was famously occupied at the beginning of this year by Nicki Minaj, with the pop star singing social media praises for the lap-of-luxury type apartment with its private in-suite bar, 1.9m TV, full kitchen, and views that stretch all the way to Mt Coot-tha.
Quirk and comfort flow through the entire hotel. Perhaps this is best realised on the “Wet Deck” (pool area – W love their odd brand names), with edgy black and white walls zig zagging over (and even in) a 25-metre indoor heated saltwater pool, looking like a David Bowie approved serpent snaked its way into the water, fuzzy with its psychedelic aesthetic. Appropriately, the Wet Deck is also the thumping heart of W’s social scene, with a sprawling pool bar beckoning both guests and locals to a sunny cocktail session on the generously sized balcony.
Three Blue Ducks
Though, food lovers will want to head down to Three Blue Ducks. The famous Sydney-born restaurant, highly reputable for their genuine paddock-to-plate ethos and fresh-forward dishes, has gone full hotel-restaurant mode at W Brisbane. Their large indoor-outdoor space is home to a fantastic breakfast buffet that pairs up nicely with a la carte options. It’s quality all-round, with freshly baked strawberry danishes and other generous pastries taking up one end, while nearby sits house-made (non-alcohol) virgin mary shots, maple glazed roasted pumpkin, and house-made single origin cold brew coffee. Order up eggs any way at the chef’s counter, and load up on all the exceptional and sweet black sausage you can.
I unfortunately can’t be as gushing about my poor a la carte pick, the uninspiring spanner crab scramble with papaya, bean shoot salad, housemade sriracha, cashews and sourdough. Sounds good; isn’t good.
Though the restaurant itself doesn’t hold the same fun design as the rest of the common spaces, the entrance is preceded by wall-fixed Japanese-style food models of Aussie classics like plates of fairy bread and vegemite on toast. The homegrown humour doesn’t stop there either, with an odd and seemingly endless tiled wall made up entirely of popularised Aussie slang phrases (“C” word not included). And you thought a bunch of Cockatoo lamps and fake gum trees was Australiana.
A Room to Remember
As if the trippy hallways weren’t enough to signpost a truly unique guest experience, walking into one of these actual suites is an experience unto itself. Incredibly spacious, open design is enhanced by the attractive design choices, emphasising the bright and playful vibe with a cage-like wardrobe, outback-inspired metal tub, and brightly coloured cushions sporting snappy phrases.
Natural light floods in from the cinematic river vista, highlighting certain statement features throughout the room like the circular mini-bar that is ridiculously well-stocked with all types of alcohol, from Chambord to Four Pillars Gin, and even a bottle of Penfolds Cab Sauv.
A focus on tech-forward, luxury living means there are plenty of USB ports and plugs around, even right beside the exceptionally cushy king bed. There’s even a pouch on the bed head for the remote to control the huge wall-fixed TV directly opposite, and a touch-screen panel to control all the lights and curtains.
The white-panelled bathroom is almost as big as the bedroom. Said tub sits meekly in one corner, while a partitioned double shower stands opposite. Luxury amenities are to be expected.
Everything, and More
As if the Wet Deck bar and Three Blue Ducks weren’t enough, the hotel has a third, slightly more hidden bar which backs onto modern shopping complex Brisbane Quarter. The comfy and relatively peaceful Living Room Bar is found past the metal chess boards and plush couches, tempting guests with a relaxed atmosphere for cocktails or a quick night-cap.
Elsewhere, the “FIT” gym sticks true to its name with a lively, animated atmosphere stuffed full of modern Technogym equipment with an offering of personal trainers for hire should guests have time for a session. It’s not far from the equally slick “AWAY” spa, the menu for which reads like a wellness tourist’s fantasy. Even if you’re not getting a full treatment, try and get into the salt inhalation chambers or the aromatherapy steam rooms.
W’s touted philosophy of “whatever, whenever” rings true for their hip, young staff. Highly attentive, ready to assist at the drop of a dime, and brimming with knowledge about Brisbane’s ever evolving social scene. This is exactly the kind of service you want attending to you throughout your stay, sticking to the brand’s high standard.
You’re looking at around $330-$350 per night for the hotel’s lead-in category, a “Wonderful Room”. It’s not a pretty price, but you’re getting a lot for that kind of cash.
It was to be expected that W take the go-hard-or-go-home approach when re-entering a market they once retreated from, and it seems they’ve bought a fresh evolution of their brand with them, making W Brisbane one of the finest modern examples of a millennial-minded luxury hotel in the world right now. I can’t even begin to think what they have in store for Sydney and Melbourne.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Address: 81 N Quay, Brisbane City QLD 4000
Contact: (07) 3556 8888
The writer stayed as a guest of W Brisbane
All images supplied unless otherwise noted.