The Express is the sleek little brother of the Holiday Inn brand, and it’s Melbourne’s second Holiday Inn Express – the other is across the river at Southbank. The newly built, self-rated four-star hotel is part of the InterContinental Hotels stable and is run by one of Melbourne’s few female general hotel managers, Ketaki Kelkar.
The Southern Cross end of Little Collins Street is unrivaled in its convenience for travelers – minutes from the airport bus depot and metro and regional trains, with streetcars running in all directions.
There are 312 rooms in the new tower; take the elevator from street level to reception on level 2 (you will see a large mural that says “Hotel” so you know you are in the right place). Here, the Great Hall includes the reception, the bar, the dining room and the hall. Level 1 houses a gym – it’s windowless, like so many new hotel gyms – it’s much better to hit the city streets for an exploratory run or walk through the city grid in nearby Flagstaff Gardens or on Southern Cross and the waterfront in Docklands. Level 1 is also where you’ll find super-cheap DIY laundry detergent, which is a godsend for traveling families and anyone who’s ever spilled red wine on themselves.
The blackout curtains are so effective in my bedroom that they wouldn’t be out of place in the London Blitz. The room is compact but lacks nothing, and I use everything provided: tea, iron, Chromecast on TV, hair dryer and closet – I’m not a fan of closed wardrobes, because I’m bound to forget something, so this open hanging space, which also incorporates the luggage rack, suits me perfectly.
Toiletries from Australian company Urban Skincare Co are a unisex, sweet-smelling blend of citrus, gardenia and jasmine, supplied by wall-mounted refillable pumps – no one-off mini toiletries wasted here. IHG Loyalty Members can even earn points for not using disposable toothbrushes and razors. Bonus points for the cityline decal around the glass bathroom. Because no one – no one – wants to look inside.
A slim cabinet stacks a mini fridge, coffee station and hotel safe into a compact space. Fans should note that it’s just instant coffee, but this is Melbourne, so go out and find an awesome cafe instead. A comfy chair and table provide workspace, while the armchair provides a place to daydream. My north-facing room on level 26 overlooks a fascinating mix of old churches and new skyscrapers, while the higher south-facing rooms overlook the Docklands and the city. There are 96 connecting rooms to suit traveling families, and there are 20 accessible rooms throughout the hotel.
From 6.30am on weekdays, the Express Start breakfast offers all the usual suspects – eggs, tomatoes, sausages and a range of toast and cereals, which is ideal for a quick breakfast. While the breakfast buffet’s automated coffee machines turn out a passable flat white, you can ask the staff to make one for a fee at the bar. But you’re in brunch country, so my advice is to walk five minutes to the Higher Ground on nearby Spencer Street, for one of the best cafes in town. The kitchen also offers an even faster and more generous Grab & Go option for those running for a train, with a piece of fruit, a quality muesli bar and a warm bacon, egg and cheese muffin.
A snack menu is available 24 hours a day, and the lobby bar is also licensed, with a range of beers, wines and spirits for a relaxing afternoon. As a sign of the times, the hotel has a partnership with Deliveroo, which applies a 10% tax.
GET OUT OF
A plethora of streetcars run on most streets surrounding the hotel, including Bourke and Collins streets, with stops within minutes of the hotel. Federation Square is around 10 minutes away by tram – remember that all trams in the city network are free. Nearby attractions include the Immigration Museum and Queen Victoria Markets. Notable nearby bars include the underground Curious, under the W Hotel, and at the other extreme, the rooftop Q bar atop the Quincy Hotel.
Everything just works at this brand new hotel, conveniently located for arriving or departing travelers.
Our score out of five
The maintenance staff turned the shower head against the wall so I don’t blast myself with cold water when I turn on the shower. It’s a small detail, but often overlooked.
With low occupancy the night I stayed, the cavernous lobby felt like an echo chamber, but expect that to change as low rates and Melbourne’s renaissance take hold. .
Belinda Jackson was the guest of Pro-invest Hotels.