Melbourne's Docklands area is one of my favourite areas in the city for a quick business trip.
Numerous offices and corporate headquarters are in Docklands, and it's convenient for the airport (a short hop to Southern Cross station for the Skybus) and the city's tram network.
With apartment hotels high on my list of places to stay, I decided to check out a one-bedroom apartment at Quest Docklands.
Location & Impressions
Quest Docklands is at 750 Bourke Street, in front of Etihad Stadium. It's sandwiched between the street and the pedestrian plaza that leads up to the stadium. That means there's a fair stack of convenient services (restaurants, shops, and so on) but that it'll be noisy on game days.
Keep an eye out for the storefront entrance on Bourke, which isn't particularly well-signed.
Check-in was swift and pleasant -- and the staff were superb throughout my stay, with knowledgeable suggestions and helpful transport directions.
Several tram options will whisk you through the CBD in no time, and the convenience store on the corner has tickets for sale.
The door to the apartment opens onto the living room section, with the kitchen-dining-living-area to the right, the desk ahead, the door to the bedroom on the far left and the door to the bathroom immediately to the left.
Quest's internal esthetic is very much corporate rather than homey or luxurious. Cool greys, cold whites and right angles with little colour to break up the monotone are inoffensive, but verge on the stark.
More light -- especially warmer and non-direct light -- would have been a benefit. The room's quite deep, so even though there are sliding doors onto the balcony at the far end it's quite dim over by the desk, kitchen and dining areas, and the only light sources are overhead spots.
The bedroom is small but that's not a problem since it's an apartment hotel. A decent sized wardrobe easily took my large suitcase with hanging space to spare.
I'm baffled by the Quest standard bedding, which involves one sheet under an uncovered doona (duvet) and another sheet over the top. It's a recipe for tangled bedclothes and scratchy doona material against your skin.
Top marks for a decent number of pillows, however.
In the living-dining-kitchen-work area, I really liked the big L-shaped sofa, which also had a decent-sized coffee table. The TV felt a little small for the size of the space, but I appreciated the Quest DVD lending library.
The small balcony -- with its two-seater table and chairs for dining or relaxing al fresco -- overlooking the plaza leading up to Etihad Stadium was great, and I spent a fair bit of time out there.
Inside the (very white) bathroom you'll find a shower over the bath with a water-saving head, the sort with needle-thin streams of water at high pressure. If you turn down the pressure, it becomes a little less painful.
Quest's standard Puriti toiletries are in plentiful supply, but they're very generic in scent. Bring your own or add your favourite brands to the shopping list. Scratchy towels are also on the list under "could be improved".
A full-sized washer and dryer are also found in a closet the bathroom, with laundry powder provided free.
Having access to these is one of my favourite things about apartment hotels, since hotel laundry costs are such a rort. Note that the dryer vents internally to the bathroom, so don't close the laundry closet door or it'll be dripping with water.
The desk tucked away in the corner by the bathroom felt like an afterthought, especially with the dining chair instead of a supportive work chair. and suffered from a lack of task lighting. I ended up working at the larger dining table instead.
Internet in the room is wired only, but the Quest has a number of wifi routers that it's happy to bring up to your room to use if your laptop doesn't have an Ethernet port or you just prefer to work wirelessly.
At $20 for unlimited use over 24 hours, the Internet is a better deal than many hotels, although the speed could be improved: 2Mbps down and 0.6Mbps up was the best that it could manage.
(It says something about the state of Internet access in Australian hotels that this is among the best Internet offerings out there.)
Quest's well-equipped kitchens come with with just about everything you need: pots and pans, cooking tools, cutlery, crockery, tupperware for storing leftovers. The side-loading dishwasher (which I've seen elsewhere) is remarkably capacious for a small unit, and the full-sized fridge very welcome.
The plunger coffee is okay, but if you like it strong you'll probably want to coldbrew it in the fridge overnight to get a real kick in the morning.
Breakfast options at the Quest include one of the long-life breakfast packs (cereal, milk, juice, fruit cup) which will do in a pinch, or you can charge brekkie from one of the excellent local cafés back to your room.
Chargeback is also available for numerous local restaurants, and menus are provided in the room.
I had dinner at Bob's Steak and Chop House nearby, which is a Texan import and was absolutely superb. The steak is great -- that's nearly a given with a steakhouse from Dallas -- but the wine list was carefully chosen and featured some incredibly good Australian and local drops. Top-notch.
The staff will also sort out a pantry shop for you, where you tell them what you want and they fill your fridge with it. You can pre-order before arrival, too. This is an awesome service, with extra points for managing to track down my favourite flavour of protein bar.
The comfy L-shaped sofa is a real gem, and the option to sit outside on the balcony is very welcome too. (Smokers will particularly appreciate the balcony, of course.)
If you're new to the Docklands area, have a wander round: it's a pleasant enough walk, and there are some good running track options. Ask the helpful staff for routes.
There's no gym in the Quest itself, but you have full access to the excellent, well-outfitted and remarkably empty YMCA gym thirty seconds' walk across the plaza.
With a lap pool, heaps of cardio machines and your choice of weights, band machines or weight machines, this is one of the better hotel gym options I've found recently.
The useful location and excellent staff make the Quest Docklands a good pick, but it's the added-value services -- cafe/restaurant chargeback, excellent gym, pantry shopping and so on -- that make it a great choice.
It's certainly on my list of hotels to pick in Melbourne.
Our reporter was a guest of the hotel.