Auckland's a tricky city for meetings, especially when the group of people you need to talk to involves both local and flying-in members.
The Novotel Auckland Airport is handy for people flying in, but it's a pain to get to if you're in town -- and especially if you're based on the North Shore.
As a geographical compromise between the airport and city, I was interested to see how the Novotel Auckland Ellerslie, best known as a conference hotel, would work.
Location & Impressions
The hotel is, unsurprisingly, located in the Ellerslie suburb, southeast of the city centre and roughly north of the airport.
In timing terms, the Novotel is about halfway into the city from the airport, making it a useful way to avoid Auckland's notoriously dire traffic if you need a meeting location.
There's an Ibis attached to the Novotel too, which provides useful overspill accommodation if the Novotel's full.
On the Novotel side, the reception area is a little small, and the way up to the rooms involves a slightly odd lift lobby, but I was checked in quickly and efficiently when I arrived mid-afternoon.
My recently renovated Superior room was a decent size in the usual hotel shape, with a king-sized bed, work desk and -- an excellent addition -- a chaise longue-style sofa with a side table.
The chaise is an excellent compromise between a regular chair, which seems cheap and is often uncomfortable, and a sofa that might make the room cluttered.
Top marks for the side table, which was perfect for working on my laptop (and for a bite of room service).
A reasonably-sized TV hung above the desk and -- hurrah! -- the luggage rack.
The bathroom contained a shower-over-tub layout, which was a shame -- newer or more thoroughly renovated Novotels have an excellent walk-in shower.
Toiletries were the usual Novotel set. They'll do, but I find them a little drying-out. BYO if your skin or hair tend to need something more than just shampoo/body wash.
I appreciated the good-sized desk and reasonable chair, although the power strip was seemingly designed by someone who's never had to actually travel with electronic devices.
Recessed at an angle into the desk, it fails the "can I plug in an Apple power adapter" test, which means other larger adapters will fail too. Just stick the power points flush with the desk and be done with it.
Extra points for the connectivity panel, though -- it's a great way to get a movie you've downloaded or are streaming online onto the larger TV screen.
If you've forgotten a cable (or don't have one), pick up the connectivity cable box from reception when you check in or ring down to have one delivered.
The Reivernet Internet rort is a major downside, though. I've previously explained why the model is one of the biggest ripoffs in travel, but at this hotel you get an eyewateringly paltry 300MB for your NZ$29.90 (A$24) before your connection is throttled down to an unusably slow connection.
It's a shame, because the actual speed is fantastic for New Zealand: 9.4 Mbps down and 6.4 Mbps up when I tested.
Acacia restaurant downstairs does a surprisingly good hotel meal, including a fantastic buffet at dinnertime. Try the seafood section, which is particularly good, and save room for desserts -- they're fantastic.
Breakfast, served downstairs in the restaurant, was fine. But the space was a little dim for wake-up time, and the coffee machine was awful, which is pretty inexcusable for coffee-mad Kiwis.
I tried room service at lunch, and it was just okay, so head downstairs if you're hungry.
The Doubletree bar and especially its outdoor section is a real gem in the summertime, with a pleasing selection of interesting and less well-known NZ wines. Several of my personal favourites are on the wine list, so have a gander if you're a fan of the grape too.
I was surprisingly impressed by the chaise longue in the room, which was comfy for both relaxing with a glass of wine while catching up on the day's news with my laptop and as a sofa, watching a movie on the TV.
The hotel has a small fitness centre, and with under 150 rooms it's a reasonable size for the hotel. Runners will rejoice in the leafy suburban options, especially with the open spaces of Ellerslie racecourse, One Tree Hill and Cornwall Park nearby.
Don't expect to get into Auckland city easily -- it's a fair distance, the public transport is awful and cabs are a rort. There are a few local options for bars and restaurants, though. Ask the front desk staff for recommendations in good time: I discovered that some of them know the area rather less well than others.
As a compromise between central Auckland and the airport -- or for a change of pace if you've already done both -- the Novotel Auckland Ellerslie is a good pick.
But if you need to be in the centre itself, or if your flights are at an unsociable hour, Ellerslie isn't the most convenient.
With an especially good restaurant, above-average rooms and the chance to explore nearby suburbs, frequent travellers to Auckland would do well to consider it as an option.