Each year in March, the Formula One Grand Prix descends on Melbourne. It follows on from a great summer of major sporting events here. In a big city full of hotels, it’s sometimes hard to know exactly the best place to stay. If you aren’t a formula one fan, then your best bet is to steer clear of the south side of the river. Better yet, it’s probably best to stay away from Melbourne altogether.
However, if you are a fan and you want close proximity to the track, then the Pullman Mercure Albert Park Hotel should be high on your list of hotels to consider. This hotel also allows for easy access to the track with purpose built overpasses erected for the race. This means you don’t need to play a game of cat and mouse every time you want to cross the busy road immediately out the front. The location of the track also means you don’t need a car, or even public transport.
Hotel rooms facing Albert Park are also afforded a view of the track and therefore the race so if this piques your interest, be sure to request a room with a view.
But this hotel isn’t just for race fans. Located just outside of Melbourne’s CBD, this hotel is a good alternative if you don’t need to stay in the city.
There are four types of rooms here ranging from the Classic(queen and king) to the Superior lake view and Executive. When it comes down to it, the more you pay grants you more space and a lakeside view. The Executive room also includes access to the executive lounge.
We stayed in the Superior lake view room, and had we been there to watch the race then our view would have made us very happy indeed. This time around, the conference room downstairs was going to keep my husband busy, and I was going to be hanging out in the city. No time to sit back and enjoy the view here.
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This room was well appointed and at 30 square metres, it felt very spacious. The large open window provided a view across to Albert Park but also to the CBD. Whilst this room had some beautiful contemporary design elements, as usual, the lighting is on the dim side. Having such a huge window at least allowed for more light during the day.
The room was full of nice artwork and the furniture had more flair that is normally seen in a hotel room.
The king size bed was comfortable, and for those who have a particular pillow preference, there’s a pillow menu on offer also.
A large flatscreen tv is positioned on the wall at the end of the bed, making viewing very easy.
Thick blockout curtains are great if you want to sleep in, and double glazing means that the noise from the busy street below doesn’t make its way in. Having not been here for the Formula One however, I’m not sure if the din from the racetrack would be completely drowned out.
Unless you book the Executive room, the office area is confined to a corner of the room. A glass desk (one of my pet hates) and the necessary connections for your devices can be found here. I always smile at the blue ethernet cable running from the wall, hoping that someone will attach it to their computers. It makes me wonder whether anyone still uses these, such is the proliferation of wifi ready devices.
On the subject of wifi, the hotel includes wifi as part of your room rate, but they will make you give you credit card details as security at the front desk. Access is via a sign on process with your name and room number. It’s simple enough and lasts for 24 hours before it kicks you out and you need to sign back in.
Tea and coffee making facilities are included plus a minibar at expensive Australian mini bar prices. A safe is available to store your valuables and there is ample wardrobe space as well.
The bathroom consists of shower and standard vanity setup. The shower is not fully enclosed and despite the rain shower providing beautiful hot water, its volume and lack of careful design means the water goes everywhere over the floor.
Standard toiletries are provided.
We arrived late into Melbourne so decided that it was easiest to eat at Windows Restaurant, the onsite restaurant, advertised as providing a modern Australian whilst overlooking the views of Albert Park. With the Grand Prix only just over the week before, and all the scaffolding still in place, the heralded view wasn’t much to speak of. It did however come to the party with the food.
It’s always hard to go past duck, and this one, paired with watermelon and a soy caramel just had to be tasted. I didn’t order an entree myself, so had to look pleadingly at my husband every time I wanted another bite. The watermelon had been compressed to heighten the flavour and alongside the pickled spanish onion was just so fresh. The duck wasn’t bad either!
My husband always finds it hard to go past a good piece of beef. I went for the pork scotch fillet, a generous serving of juicy pork meat, piled high with fresh shaved fennel and orange.
The side of duck fat potatoes were less than inspiring. Duck fat potatoes have a reputation for being super delicious because of the crunch they provide. Whether it was the way they cut the potatoes, or just that they had them soaking in it for too long, they weren’t very appetising.
No dessert for us but if the plates being presented to the other tables around us were an indication, they looked just as good as the rest of the menu.
The Pullman Mercure Hotel has a bit of a captive audience when it comes to dinner in this area. Being in a commercial precinct, there isn’t much available in the immediate area after 3pm. The cafes and restaurants that are close by require a good walk, a taxi or a tram at the very least.
It’s also not an inexpensive place to eat either. A main and a glass of wine will set you back around AUD$50 and an entree, main, side and a few drinks will be around AUD$100.
- The hotel is close to the tram network, with a short 300m walk to the nearest trams. The Melbourne tram network is excellent and provides connections all over Melbourne. The closest tram stop is a short 300m walk, and the ride into the CBD takes about 20 minutes. St Kilda, in the opposite direction is also close by.
- Full buffet breakfasts are provided at the hotel daily and some room rates include this. If you are heading into the city early, there are lighter and cheaper breakfast options available there.
- The hotel includes full conference facilities and a business centre.