Food and Drink
Posted by Jessica Morris
28. Nov, 2014
The wide, open, street front bar beckons us in. Trendy workers, winding down for the day, line the front seats. It’s dark in the reception area, but not in a disturbing way; it’s a tad suggestive.
Upstairs, it’s a young Melbourne crowd, swathed in black and white. There’s a touch of the casual corporate collective; dapper men with their top buttons undone, shirts without ties, checked print shirts; lively women with bright skirts, silk shirts and a relaxed expression. We’re with the height of the Australian tourism industry for the re-opening of the Jasper Hotel, a 4-star boutique facility situated in Melbourne’s thriving market precinct. Just a stone’s throw away from the Queen Victoria Market, overlooking Elizabeth Street, the look of the $7 million refurbishment can be stimulated fairly quickly; the Australian bushland. You’re looking up at the stars, taking in the thick scent of grass and trees and humming along to the buzz of cicadas. It’s a massive sensual experience.
The feel of the Jasper is pretty unique. The indoor courtyard we are being hosted in is walled by open suites to explore, the garden feature wall is lit up with purple spotlights, and the evening sun beams down through the glass roof. Its statement is not obnoxious, and it takes a while to put my finger on the feel. I get pinches of French cool in the corners of the rooms, and there’s something about it that screams Canberra. The rooms are minimalist, featuring large beds facing big screen TVs. Palates are simple as ivory, orange and grey blend with soft brown wood and we’re reminded of desert Australia with long, landscape paintings of burnt yellow and bush green above each bed. It’s homely, it’s earthy and it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
We’re offered a sample of the tapas off the bar menu, the selection of which is sourced from the nearby markets and served in small wooden boats. Freshness is on show in the juicy tang of biting through garlic buttered prawns, the succulency of the beef in perfectly portioned sliders, the tenderness of the braised chicken bruschetta. They have nailed Australian cool with carefully selected drinks being carried around; Boags brew, white wines and sparkling champagne.
David Mann of the 3AW network bounds onstage and adopts our attention with his infectious energy. He tells the story of the Jasper; it’s origins as the YWCA headquarters, it’s hippie history, its transformation. As he elaborates on the architecture, it hits you like a fist to the face; the slanted wood walls, the diagonal lighting features from the rooves and walls indoors, the graceful but evident focus on natural light. All designed by David Lee, of Eureka Tower fame.
We’re prompted to take a tour of the rooms, and this is where the showcase begins. The bottom three floors offer what we’ve seen in the rooms surrounding the courtyard. Above this, the old school Jasper comes out to play, with each floor receiving its own standout colour theme that stretches into the rooms. We’re taken to level 7, where royal blue is on show. The rooms are slightly smaller, and whilst it would be easy to feel confined by the slight spaces, the animated bursts of colour simply make you feel happy to be home.
I get the privilege of speaking to Doug Smith, the kind, energetic General Manager of the Jasper, and I secretly, silently beckon him to validate my thoughts on the facility. What are we supposed to see? What I’ve written down may as well have been his script for this conversation. ‘We hope it has a lively, fresh, contemporary feel’, he explains. ‘It’s modelled after the Jasper stone, with pops of green, pops of colour. We want you to explore the colours of Melbourne, and to simultaneously feel as though you’re lying out in the bush, rustling the grass with your fingers.’
It’s worth taking an adventure to this side of Melbourne. Ideal for couples or travellers with a little more money to drop, rooms are currently being offered at discounted rates for the opening, starting at $160 and up to $600. Book yourself an inner city space with a whack of Australiana…and enjoy the scenery.
The Jasper Hotel
489 Elizabeth St, Melbourne
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