When I lived in Melbourne I always wanted to stay at The Olsen in South Yarra. A clear favourite of the fashion set, I’d seen too many pictures of beautiful white bed linen and funky apartment-style living on Instagram. Not to mention, being part of the Art Series Hotel Group, it has a completely different aura about it compared to the big hotel chains.
However, when you live a kilometre away and pay through the nostrils for your Prahran rental, it’s hard to justify double parking for a night of pillow-resting luxury.
Then I moved to Sydney and no longer pay through the nostrils to live in Prahran (instead I pay through the nostrils to live in Bronte). So when I recently flew back to Melbourne for a wedding, I thought, “Hot diggity, we’re staying at The Olsen”.
Here’s a round up of what you can except from a sleepover at The Olsen:
The Olsen is boutique, modern and fun
You definitely can’t smell any whiff of tired hotel here. The Olsen’s got paint pots of personality. Even the staff are ludicrously cool (I wouldn’t be surprised if they all owned French Bulldogs and had Johnny Depp on speed dial) – they’re also quite helpful, more importantly.
While the rooms are beautifully kitted out with furniture and accessories that you might believe are from Matt Blatt, they’re not much bigger than a MINI Cooper. Mind you, we did stay in the littlest studio suite, which is the least damage to your AMEX at approx $200 a night.
Bizarrely though (for a small space) there’s a duck-tonne of furniture in the room – there’s tables, chairs, foot poufs and lounge chairs. I felt I needed to invite the Richmond Football Club over to use all the sitting paraphernalia we had.
This also left one question: “Where the feck do you put your suitcases?” That mystery is unsolved.
There’s a fair bit of ART
As you’d expect from the Art Series Hotel Group. Just like if you stayed in Hotel Chandon you’d expect the bathroom taps to run free with champagne – now I just need to find this Hotel Chandon of my dreams.
All of the hotels under the Art Series umbrella honour a different Australian artist. The Olsen is a celebration of the work of landscape artist Dr John Olsen, who won the Archibald Prize in 2005. Also nearby is The Cullen in Prahran (dedicated to Adam Cullen) and The Blackman on St Kilda Road (inspired by Charles Blackman).
Approaching The Olsen you’re immediately greeted by the work of Olsen himself. Shaking your hand is a larger than life yellow mural on the outside of the building that goes by the name of ‘Paella’, along with a six-metre piece of art taking pride of place in the foyer – this one is called ‘The Yellow Sun and the Yarra’. Each room also proudly displays a different piece of Olsen artwork, so you feel like you’re staying overnight in a gallery. It’s all so Melbourne, right?
Finally, if you’re not arted out, there’s a library of art books in each room for some extra curricular bed-time reading.
The Olsen’s swimming pool
Part of my obsession with The Olsen came from every time I was shopping up a thunderstorm on Chapel Street I would always look up enviously at the people happily swimming in the shimmering glass-bottomed pool above.
What I didn’t realise was that the shimmering glass-bottomed pool is outdoors, exposed to the elements of wind, rain and hyperthermia. While it may be heated, you can only enjoy the warm water after you’ve gone to battle with Melbourne’s weather.
Melbourne weather: 1. Me swimming above Chapel Street: 0
I’ll need to come back during one of the 10 days Melbourne actually has sun.
- A cheese set. I mean chess set. The cheese set is at Hotel Chandon.
- A sun deck (albeit a sun-worn sun deck).
- The Norbu Day Spa for some massaging, facialing and spray tanning.
- 11am check-out – heck yes!
- evo branded toiletries, including a ‘rain helmet’ (most commonly referred to as a shower cap) and ‘self indulgence’ (what normal people call moisturiser).
- A considerably comfy bed, albeit queen-size.
- A little kitchenette in each room for those parties with the Richmond Football Club.
- The hire of bikes, scooters and smart cars.
- A hair salon – you can’t help but love a hotel hair rescuer.
- Valet car parking for $40 a day (or $32 a day for self-parking).
- A gym that is almost Fitness First.
- Complimentary Bugaboo 3 pram hire.
- A monkey that tangoes in each room. Ok, I made that last one up. I just wanted to make sure you’re still awake.
See what else you can swangle when booking – sometimes you can get FREE wi-fi, breakfast and other included trinkets.
Location: South Yarra
I loved living in Prahran (the next suburb over from South Yarra), so I most probably am on the biased side when I say, this is a great area to hotel in.
South Yarra is chic and stylish. If it were a celebrity it would be Lara Worthington (the re-invented version not the Being Lara Bingle version).
Situated on the shopping end of Chapel Street, shoe hunting is dangerously easy to access, as is general outfit ferreting. Shopping aside, there’s also restaurants, bars and galleries (that’s if you’re staying in the Art Series Hotel for the art).
Plus, being a six-minute walk from South Yarra Station, you can easily be whisked away into the city, Richmond or the trendy-hipster part of Chapel Street in Windsor at the drop of a beret. Or jump on a rattling tram, of which there are many in this neck of the woods.
Where to eat in South Yarra
There’s the restaurant Spoonbill (Modern Australian) at the base of The Olsen. While I can’t say that I’ve ever dined here, I did have the lasagne via the hotel’s 24-hour room service and that was spot-on, and the size of a cheese platter.
Where I have eaten at and would recommend, if we’re talking restaurants in South Yarra, would be Thirty Eight Chairs (Italian), Bistro Gitan (French), Healthy Vibe (dumplings) and Zumbo (dessert). Other places in the vicinity that I’ve blogged about (and therefore endorse) are: Hawker Hall, Kong, Toko and any of the Saigon Sally, Tokyo Tina and Hanoi Hannah trifecta.
For brunch, you can’t look past Top Paddock, Hobba, Abacus and Two Birds One Stone – all of which require some serious crowd hustling. Otherwise Middletown, Journeyman, The Kettle Black and Fourth Chapter are Melbourne favourites a little further afield.
Where to drink in South Yarra
Tart yourself up and head next door to Two Wrongs, which is part restaurant, part bar, or part dive bar – a concept it’s been bizarrely modelled on. Beers come in cans only, the glassware is crystal and you can play Nintendo if the company gets boring. It’s all just a bit intentionally weird and kitsch.
It’s the most convenient of boozers to The Olsen, yet it’s full of South Yarraians, and they’re a different breed. They eat caviar for breakfast and top their spaghetti with shaved gold.
I much prefer the southern-end of Chapel Street (one-kilometre south of The Olsen), which is more authentic, less showy and all-round fun. I’ve pre-recorded a bar crawl of the Windsor-end of Chapel Street – you can read it here.
All in all, it was so flippen weird being back in my old city, that no longer feels like home, but not a holiday either. Alas, The Olsen was probably the perfect place to stay, which feels more like a home than a hotel.
The Olsen | 637 Chapel Street, South Yarra, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9040 1222