Novotel opened its newly built Auckland Airport hotel in advance of last year's Rugby World Cup, so once the sport fever had died down I spent a couple of days at the hotel to investigate further.
I'd stuck my nose in for an AusBT sneak peek five days before the hotel opened, and after a few months of bedding down I was pleasantly surprised at how much everything was in the groove.
Location & Impressions
The Novotel sits just across the road from Auckland Airport's international terminal, in a modern glass and steel building that you just can't miss. There's fully flat access so if you're wheeling heavy bags you don't have to negotiate stairs.
The two-storey glass lobby definitely has the wow factor and punches above most other Novotels I've seen, with beautiful blond wood, a living wall and space across to the bar and restaurant.
In terms of location, with Auckland traffic and the lack of any reasonable public transport to the airport, you may well be better off making your way into the city if your business trip is focussed there.
The Novotel has an impressive amount of meeting space, though, so you might be able to convince colleagues or business contacts to join you at the airport rather than making your way into town.
I stayed in a suite on one of the Novotel's executive floors, which was large, comfortable, well-equipped and would have served well for informal meetings between colleagues.
(You could well consider a suite instead of a meeting room if you're having a small tete-a-tete meeting, and space is tight.)
The door opened into the living room area, which had a big L-shaped couch, a small desk and chair, and a large flatscreen TV with the new Novotel connectivity panel.
The tea and coffee station (including a Caffitaly espresso machine) sat on top of the minibar next to the door into the toilet part of the bathroom.
The bedroom was large -- as big as a regular hotel room on its own -- with a very comfortable king-sized bed, a chest of drawers and a large flatscreen TV.
Plus marks for bedside tables with power points on either side (and an iHome dock/speaker/alarm clock combo).
Minus marks for the tables being needlessly small -- I'd challenge anyone to charge a Kindle and a smartphone on either bedside table without knocking at least one of them off or having to put the hotel phone or dock on the floor.
Extra marks, too, for attractive, thought-through design and massive (completely soundproof) windows.
The bathroom and toilet were separated by a glass door, with separate sink next to the loo. Through the glass door, a large walk-in shower with rain head was on the right, a deep soaking bath on the left, and double sinks at the far end.
All in all, the bathroom was as large as many top-end luxury hotels' bathrooms, and with decent water pressure and stylish minimalist fittings it was better than many I've seen.
The regular Novotel toiletries block was joined by the usual executive floor additions: basically body scrub and moisturiser.
Nothing to write home about, and when in a Novotel I tend bring my own toiletries anyway, since I find Novotel's a bit too chemical-scented for my taste.
The desk was a reasonable size and I appreciated the connectivity panel (for charging via USB, connecting to the TV for music/videos/presentations and so on). Cables and cords are available from reception on request.
Less impressive were the power points on the desk -- only two of them, and both sunken into a rotating block to hide them away.
While that might be aesthetically pleasing (though not that much since the top of the block is grey plastic anyway), it means that if you're using an Apple charger without the longer lead, or anything that needs one of those larger "wall wart" style adapters, you're out of luck unless you travel with a power board.
Wifi was the deeply frustrating Reivernet (which I've ripped into previously), but the speed was good: 9Mbps down and 8Mbps up. At this Novotel, you get 300MB of full speed Internet for your NZ$29.90 before you're slowed to an unusable crawl for the remaining 700MB of your quota.
Breakfast is a fairly standard buffet in the Square restaurant int he lobby, though with a top-quality range of food. I was surprised to see (and disappointed to taste) coffee from an automatic machine that didn't even grind the beans, which was a let-down -- with decent coffee available in many Novotels this is a real let-down for the jetlagged traveller.
Dinner at Square, though, was exceptionally good, with a top-notch wine list featuring many excellent Kiwi drops.
I started with a superb plate of scallops with asparagus, cooked to perfection (including the coral roe) and generously portioned. (Try a NZ Riesling or Pinot Gris with the scallops -- fantastic match.)
The braised beef cheeks for my main course were absolutely excellent too: tender and full of flavour.
The cheese board underwhelmed, though, with generic Kapiti cheese that's available in any NZ supermarket. New Zealand has some amazing cheeses and it's a shame that the ball was dropped here.
Overall, though, I'd stop in at Square for lunch or dinner instead of eating in the airport lounge any day.
Room service was only okay by contrast. All hotels should do a decent burger, but the Novotel's was limp, tasteless and clearly from the freezer rather than fresh.
If you're in a suite, you'll have the comfortable L-shaped sofa that will seat two comfortably or three if you're very close.
With a massive TV that you can hook up to your laptop for movies you've preloaded (don't even think of trying to download something from iTunes over the awful Reivernet connection), and fantastic views if you're into watching the planes land, it's a great place to chill.
Alternatively, I can recommend the impressively equipped gym for working off your dinner.
You can't get any closer to Auckland Airport's international terminal, so if you're taking an early or late flight (or need to sleep off some jetlag between connections) this is the hotel to aim for.
The thought and design nous that's gone into the hotel -- and the fact that it's less than a year old -- means that it's one of the best-equipped and most attractive Novotels I've seen. I'll definitely be returning.