This year I’ve travelled to Paris, Sydney, The Maldives, Japan and will soon be heading to South Africa, so I’ve seen my fair share of hotel rooms. It’s always exciting when you swipe your key card and open the door. Those first few seconds either elicit delight or disappointment. So when my friend Kath Rose suggested I try out the Rydges South Bank staycation package, I jumped at the chance to spend a night away with my husband that didn’t involve a plane trip! Being at home in Brisbane is my very favourite place to be.
It was so easy! We’d packed our overnight bag and I met hubby at his city office before the five minute drive to Rydges. Hubby loved the idea of leaving the office early on a Friday and by four o’clock the friendly Rydges staff had checked us in, provided us with our tickets for the show ‘Chicago’, parked our car and informed us we’d be dining at the beautiful Bacchus for dinner and breakfast. We almost cried at the flawless service , as everywhere in Japan it had taken ages to check in. We were only here for one night but we were determined to make the most of our stay.
Rydges provided us with a deluxe suite on the eleventh floor of their newly refurbished hotel. We’ve stayed at Rydges twice before but nothing prepared us for the ambience that awaited us as we swiped the keycard and opened the door. I am pleased to say that ‘Wow‘ was the first word out of my mouth. The rooms in Japan were small so I was absolutely gobsmacked when I saw the size of the suite. There was a covetable glass desk and beautiful inviting lounge in soft grey. The carpet was swirled with burgundy and pink, two of my favourite colours, and a big screen TV in both the lounge room and bedroom gained Hubby’s tick of approval. There was a handy kitchenette for those planning longer stays and a well stocked mini bar. Rydges have spent over thirty million dollars on renovations and it shows. The last time we visited the rooms were a little tired, so I was pleased to see the thought and taste that had gone into the refurbishment.
Opening the floor length silver drapes we were in awe of the engaging view stretching from The Gateway Bridge, past Streets Beach, back to the Brisbane Eye and up to QPAC, where we’d be headed later. Watching the City Cats zoom up and down the river we were amazed at how peaceful it was high above the Friday night traffic. Hubby remarked on how lovely it was to not be fighting the Friday night frenzy. Having our own balcony was a big plus and it was very tempting to while away the afternoon sitting and drinking in this awesome view.
Taking our luggage into the bedroom we heartily approved of the king sized bed, which proved later to be just as comfortable and inviting as it looked. There was plenty of storage and hanging space, too. The bathroom with lovely neutral patterned tiles, freestanding bath and glass shower were also very special and oh, so clean. Of particular note is that the shower pressure was amazing and the lighting was excellent. I have spent many years doing my make up by touch in poorly lit hotel bathrooms, so great lighting is always a bonus for me. I always check for hairdryers and an iron, both were there and easy to find.
The staff at Rydges had thought of everything to make us feel welcome with delicious welcome chocolates, a bottle of wine and even a gift of Bacchus Olive Oil to take home. It was so tempting to just stay and relax but just for you, dear readers, I soldiered on to Soleil Pool Bar to sample some Friday night cocktails and snacks before dinner.
The Food and Drinks
It was a sweltering 37 degrees day in Brisbane, but Soleil Pool Bar was a little oasis above the hustle and bustle. Families were enjoying the pool, colleagues shared after work drinks lounging in the inviting and colourful cane outdoor settings and hotel guests chatted happily with their families whilst looking forward to weekend adventures to come. We found our reserved spot and I happily perused the range of cocktails before selecting one called ‘ Secret Garden Party’ labelled as for the ‘ party starter ‘. Sounded just right!
My cocktail was every bit as refreshing as it sounded. Full of Distillery Botanica Gin, St Germain Elderflower liqueur, Dolin Blanc lime juice, seasonal specialty syrup and fresh mint it was served with flowers in a cool copper mug. My husband sipped on a perfectly chilled Sauvignon Blanc or two and, as we’d both foregone lunch, we devoured the generous serving of delicious Peking Duck Spring Rolls that we’d chosen to start our Rydges culinary adventure.
Although we could have happily stayed at Soleil Pool Bar we were conscious that we needed to change for dinner and the show. We have dined at Bacchus several times before and are now greeted like old friends. The food was even better than ever, with my husband’s duck ravioli entrée, my main dish of Milly Hill lamb and a side of baby eggplant with marinated goat’s cheese just a few of the standouts. This time we made sure we’d left room for dessert and were glad we did. There is some real whimsical magic happening in the kitchen , with our desserts of Strawberry and Apple proving to be a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. It really is worth visiting this charming French influenced restaurant to try dessert alone. My husband said that Bacchus must be the best restaurant in Brisbane now. This is strong praise considering we eat out a lot. We will definitely be back again soon!
Looking at our watches we had to sprint to QPAC and just made it in time for the razzle dazzle that is the musical Chicago. Starring the beautiful Natalie Bassingthwaite and crooner Tom Burlinson, this show has all that jazz and more. I was once again blown away by Casey Donovan’s powerful voice and the sass and high kicks from Alinta Chidzey as Velma Kelly. My favourite number was the poignant Mr Cellophane. If you love your musicals this Tony Award winning show is full of show stopping numbers and the slickest dancing in town.
We walked back to our room in minutes and were greeted with a lovely tray with tea for two and shortbread bikkies (How did the Rydge’s team know that they are my husband’s favourites? ). We polished off the artisan chocolates as well and fell into bed extremely well fed and watered, not waking until morning, feeling so refreshed after a perfect night’s sleep. We both agreed it had been a special night out!
A delicious breakfast in the relaxing surrounds of Bacchus, a quick read of the papers and a stroll around South Bank and Saturday’s artisan markets completed our staycation. Rydges staff had us checked out and the car waiting out front when we came back from our walk. Such efficiency in every aspect of our stay! Reluctantly we left but happily realised that it was only Saturday morning and we had the rest of the weekend ahead. It really felt like we’d been away for a week.
Rydges has partnered with QPAC and Queensland Theatre to offer guests a range of packages including tickets and dining options to suit couples, families and friends. Chicago will play until December 7 and Antigone till November 16. For next year look out for Cirque de Soleil’s Kurios in January, March’s Golden Ticket Stay for Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or watch out for the much anticipated Boy Swallows Universe penned by Brisbane’s own Trent Dalton, playing in August.
It was truly wonderful to see the big changes to the rooms, the sparkling new gym and realise how easy it is to vacation in your own city. This Summer why not try a staycation? We often do for work Christmas parties instead of having to wait around in the endless snaking taxi lines. There are plenty of shows to see, art exhibitions to view and museums, beaches and restaurants to visit right here in South Bank. It is right in the heart of Brisbane’s cultural hub. Love ya Brisbane! Love ya Rydges! And all that Jaaaaz…
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).