Melbourne is a city with no lack of apartment hotels, which is a real boon for the business traveller. Extra space to work and relax is a real benefit when compared with regular hotels.
In Australian Business Traveller's continuing quest to bring you real-world experiences of places you'd stay while away on business across the country and abroad, I headed to the Mantra on Little Bourke.
Location & Impressions
The Mantra on Little Bourke itself is tucked away on -- unsurprisingly -- Little Bourke Street, in an unassuming building that looks like an office block.
If you're unfamiliar with Melbourne, Little Bourke is one of the smaller streets between the main tram-carrying ones, so if you're arriving with luggage a taxi might be a good idea.
The lobby is a little dim, and check-in seemed a little disorganised, since the staff had no record of my reservation, which took some time to fix.
Upstairs, the corridors felt more like an apartment building or converted office than a hotel.
Inside the apartment, the corporate office feel continued, with white-white walls and a fair bit of corridor with a distinctly corporate hard-wearing carpet. The bedroom and bathroom doors were off the L-shaped corridor, with the living/dining/kitchen room at the far end.
The bedroom was a reasonable size but average in furnishings: bed, bedside tables, glass-doored wardrobe.
The bathroom was fine, with notably decent toiletries, bath and separate walk-in shower, although the flimsy shower cubicle felt more motel than hotel.
The main room included a fairly uncomfortable two-seater sofa and two chairs by a coffee table, facing a large flatscreen TV.
A small desk and round four-seater dining table were on the other side of the room, by the small kitchenette with sink, microwave and two-ring hotplate.
Inexcusably, there's no way to control the air conditioning from within the apartment, and even on a relatively cool spring day in Melbourne the room was stuffy.
While the staff tried to adjust the air-con settings for the whole floor and brought up a fan, it did seem a little odd not to be able to adjust the temperature, and the office-style overhead louvres reinforced my impression that the hotel had been converted from a cubicle farm.
At night, the room could have used a few more lights: the overhead options were mainly small halogen spotlights, which didn't exactly bring a warm, homey feel to the place.
The working setup isn't great, with only a small desk and a non-adjustable chair. I ended up working at the dining table instead.
During my stay, the hotel was right in the middle of upgrading its Internet offering, so I can't comment on speed or price. Wifi signal was available throughout the hotel.
Alibi Kitchen & Bar is downstairs in the lobby, serving up reasonable food, which is also available for room service. The calamari were particularly good -- so much so that I picked them two days in a row.
The room service was oddly done, though, with starter, main and dessert brought up to the room separately. It took ages and meant that I had to stop what I was doing and walk down the corridor to let the room service waiter in each time.
But with a very handy location, you won't be short of places to find a decent bite to eat nearby. (Try the cafe Le Triskel, motto: "arrogantly French", for good coffee and a fantastic crêpe.)
The room might look well-provisioned with sofas and chairs, but they're not especially soft or comfortable. I ended up padding the sofa with a pillow from the bed, which seemed a little odd.
While the TV was a decent size, the input system for it was very much last-generation, with dreadful picture quality even for broadcast TV.
Despite the central location, there's not a lot to look at out the large, bronze-glazed windows, apart from other buildings.
I'm generally a fan of apartment hotels, but the Mantra on Little Bourke really needs to pull its socks up if it wants to be taken seriously by the business traveller.
From the lost reservation to the inability to adjust the air conditioning in the room, this seems like a hotel that's ripe for a revamp.
Our reporter was a guest of the hotel.