I have always had a fascination with hotels.
It seems that these pillars of comfort and commerce hold a different world inside their grand facade, with people coming and going at all hours. There is a magic about the way that they transform an ordinary night of sleep into a fairytale. I’m not talking here just about a business trip, where you put your head on the pillow and have done with it. I’m talking about the real-macaw-full-night-of-luxury. And, from books like ‘Eloise at the Plaza’ to Richard E Grant’s Excellent TV series ‘Hotel Secrets’ Hotels to the documentary about Claridges that was on TV two years or so ago, I’m not alone in my wonderings.
Within Wellington there are a few five-star places you can stay if you are visiting the city, yet none is quite so eclectic and enticing as the QT Museum Wellington. Formerly just ‘The Museum Art Hotel’ until it was sold last year to the Australian company, Event Hospitality and Entertainment, under the brand ‘QT Hotels & Resorts’ (I’ve interviewed the hotel founder here in a previous blog post), this establishment has long been respected by Wellingtonians for business and pleasure. With the change of hands, came renovations, ditching the tired aspects of the building and keeping the best including the legendary Chris Parkin Art collection.
The new lick of paint and dash of life has done the old girl a world of favours. Long established as a mecca of art, and the odd surprise, QT Museum Wellington kindly invited me and the ever-patient (and yet most fortunate), Matt, to experience a night and to uncover the secrets of the hotel ourselves on a mini-staycation. And so, on an overcast Saturday afternoon with - in typical Wellington fashion - an unexplained sailing boat coming into shore, Matt and I overpacked our bags in the fashion of nomads set on a six-month journey and sheepishly unloaded ourselves on the doorstep of the QT Museum Wellington.
There, over the next 18 hours in heaven (no, not like that!?), we discovered some of the most exciting and glamorous secrets of a shining jewel in New Zealand’s hotel scene. Here are just a few.
1. The Astounding App
QT Museum Wellington is a forward thinking mistress when it comes to technology, and she knows what you require even before you know it yourself. Along with the typical phone service, the QT Hotels & Resorts has introduced a dynamic ‘QT Concierge’ App which provides you with everything you need to know for your stay, and instant service to boot.
Download the app onto your smartphone on arrival. With one swipe, you’ll be able to message the concierge (as we did when we were running late the next day) and inform them about what you require, from room service to dry-cleaning. You can also check in and check out, find out about basic information key to your stay, access your wi-fi password and access maps. With another swipe, you can find out where to eat, drink and party in Wellington CBD. Take the recommendation of QT - I can only say that they’ve done their due diligence to the highest level with an excellent range of suggestions. Jeeves couldn’t do better if he tried.
2. The Revealed Rooms
You may not know it (although you should) but besides the hotel rooms, QT has a wonderful award-winning restaurant, Hippopotamus. While the 5 star (No longer have white tablecloths!)service is without parallel, some may desire a somewhat more intimate affair. Enter, the secret dining room, Le Salon, which only those in the know are - well - in the know about.
Adorned with wall-sized images of maidens pictures in somewhat erotic poses, this is a place where I imagine private business is conducted, and dark deals traded (or maybe just a discussion about who moved the lawn mower that morning and whether the family should consider life insurance). Above the set table are crystal chandeliers illuminating the space. On the table, large candles burn. I know that when the time comes for an intimate occasion with a trusted group of allies, I’ll be calling QT’s Hippopotamus to book the secret, salacious dinner room.
3. The Bamboozling Booze
Find yourself in the Lobby Lounge or Hippopotamus again, and you’ll find some of New Zealand (and indeed the world) most skilled cocktail makers at your service. While you may choose to play it safe, I’d recommend allowing yourself to be led astray - who knows where your tongue could take you?
QT surely has one of the widest ranges of liquor anywhere in the city. From whiskey to wine, they’ll take care of you like a prince (or princess). Their staff also has excellent chat. After a cocktail from the menu, and a Vesper martini (RIP Roger Moore), our bar tender talked us out of a dull Bailey’s on the rocks as a nightcap and into some creme de Absinthe. While we resisted tasting the pure stuff - and being led down the green fairy garden path - we did have a teaser of his creme de Absinthe which was surprising and dangerously tasty. They also have an absinthe fountain, for the more enthusiastic artist. Safe to say, the next day we were a little dusty headed from the sprinkling of fairy dust, but thrilled for the experience.
4. The Bombshell Bathtub
If you, like us, find yourself staying at the QT Museum Wellington, stay in a QT Executive Suite. You’ll have to pick your jaw off the ground as you take a look in the incredible bathroom. As I have said before, baths are what make me happy in this life. So, to be completely honest, this was the thing I was looking forward to the most about staying the night.
A deep tub, set next to a black tiled wall, richly textured features and a his and hers sink will submerge you in perfection. The shower boasts a double head (don’t do what Matt did though and run both at the same time for fear of flooding the floor) in coal coloured matt cladding. Everything, from the ornaments on the side to the toothbrush cups and toiletries has been carefully considered right down to the last golden detail. Once you have been fully soaked through, slip into a fluffy black toweling robe and regain consciousness on the QT Gel King-Sized bed.
4. The Deadly Dining
Why not abandon all formality and stay in? We did. Surely the most pleasurable thing about hotels, which few other establishments can replicate, is being delivered teas on knees in bed. Hippopotamus have a delightful and simple menu (if your idea of simple is a gourmet burger) which they’ll gladly bring to you on request. At a slightly lower price point than the main menu, go to town and pop into your PJ’s early, while watching some trash TV and eating a sublime meal. Perfect for the inner fuddy-duddy, a la moi!
5. The Vivacious View
The next day when you wake up, if you are able to nab a spot at the front of the hotel, you’ll find the whole of Wellington at your feet. It’s hard not to feel like royalty. Looking down on the Sunday markets, from Te Papa across to Oriental Bay, Wellington is laid out like a toy town! Resist the urge to turn to your other half and say “Simba, one day all this will be yours!”
6. The Astonishing Art
From portraiture to sculpture and collage, the QT Museum Wellington has an art collection which is as good as any gallery. Chris Parkin collected his art for love, not any intellectual pursuit. As a result, the QT Museum Wellington has one of the most accessible and interesting collections you’ll ever see. Spend some time loitering around the corridors and examine pieces from New Zealand artists and sculptors, many of whom may even be familiar, from Seraphine Pick to Wayne Youle.
7. The Secret Spa
If you have the time, or inclination to get active, you can find your way to the gym and pool. A fully equips gym and sauna awaits, with a lane pool. There is even a hot tub if you want to get va-va-voom hot and steamy. The high airy space is perfect to swim through the blue waters, and should you go at night you can even look out on the stars above the city. I wandered through, and while I didn’t get a chance to take a dip, I found myself wishing I had found the energy to get out of the soft super-sized bed and move my derrière!
8. The Surprising Shop
For those who want to wow without leaving the hotel, a fabulous shop full of goodies is available with everything from local food to $10,000 glass sculptures. If you go further afield, the QT Concierge App was able to give us all the goss on where in Wellington you could find retail therapy, from Cuba Street to Markets to Outlet Stores. I was really impressed by how comprehensive it is, really showing that the QT Museum Wellington know their Moore Wilsons from their Wilson Trollope.
9. The Puzzling Poolroom
Another space which may fit the brief, should you have a larger party you wish to entertain, is the Billiards Room on the ground floor of the Hotel.
While this space is primarily for private functions (and we all know that one conference room is much like another) once again QT surprises. The space feels like a library from ‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’, where one would expect to get a mysterious letter arrive calling you on a journey to the jungles of Indonesia. Pool tables, large mirror and a private bar all lend a feeling of genuine luxury, unparalleled.
So there you have it! 10 secrets of the QT Museum Wellington. Whether you are a local Wellingtonian or just passing through for the weekend, the QT Museum Wellington truly is a five star extravaganza which will leave you feeling like you’ve been living in a fairytale. Just remember that life goes on outside…although I must admit, anyone would be tempted just to stay one more night…
Photos by me and Matt Dixon