While looking out of our Shadow Play hotel window onto an overpass, it strikes me that Melbourne is a city not known for its natural beauty. Don’t get me wrong, the river is nice when the days are warm and the sun is shining (which, let’s face it, isn’t often), but unlike certain other cities (cough, cough), there is no magnificent harbour to impress out-of-towners with.
And, yet, the tourism industry in Australia’s fastest growing city is booming. While world-class museums and galleries have their part to play, most visitors flock to Melbourne for its unsurpassed food, imaginative bar scene and the many wineries, distilleries and farm gates all just a day trip away.
If you are a foodie, wine aficionado or spirits lover, then this is your town. Which makes this new design-driven apartment-style luxury hotel a bit of a genius move by property developer Jonathan Hallinan.
Exploring Shadow Play
When we walk inside the 46-storey Hecker Guthrie-designed glass tower, we are enveloped in darkness. The dark grey and black tones of the décor, and dim lighting, provide no sense of place – we could be anywhere in the world.
I eye off the restaurant and its imposing ‘wine wall’ attached to reception as we make our way to the lifts. To say I’m blinded when we step inside our two-bedroom apartment might be an overstatement, but the contrast is striking.
Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the expansive space with natural light, and white, light blues and beige are the dominant colours throughout the area. A restrained and minimalist design includes a fully equipped kitchen, dining table for four and hidden laundry with washing machine and dryer that beg us to consider this our home away from home.
The hotel is made up of similarly elegant one- and two-bedroom apartments on the first nine floors of the building. Views of the aforementioned overpass notwithstanding, the rooms are definitely fitted with all the amenities you could possibly need and are comfortable enough for a long-term stay.
In fact, my companion, a high-level executive and frequent business traveller, quickly decides that Shadow Play will be added to her company’s list of hotels for colleagues who regularly come to Melbourne.
A big part of that decision is the hotel’s location – the CBD is only a 10-minute walk across the river and the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre is even closer. Plus, the Southbank promenade is bursting with restaurant options for those nights when weary business travellers don’t want to cook, and plan to leave their laundry on spin while they duck out for a bite.
Pass the (Victorian) wine
We walk past large-scale prints of storm clouds and flickering flames lining the dark hallways as we make our way to the ‘winter garden’ on the 46th floor. Here we find two garden walls, black leather chairs, an enclosed fireplace in the middle of the room, and 180-degree views of Port Phillip Bay all the way out to Williamstown.
It’s a space perfect for a mid-winter whisky by the fire, but we’re a little disappointed there is no bar to be found up here. However, there are two private dining spaces that would seriously impress clients during a business lunch.
The hotel also has a lounge, library, heated outdoor pool, gym, sauna and steam room, but it’s only later that night that we discover the ‘genius’ part of Hallinan’s plan for Shadow Play.
Edwin Wine Bar & Cellar is in a horseshoe shape, can seat 65 people, and is “all about celebrating the diversity of all things Victoria”. Like the other public spaces, it’s decked out in blacks and dark browns, except for the white linen tablecloths.
Once seated, we are promptly informed by Yumi, the in-house sommelier, that all the produce used in our food tonight (besides the Tasmanian oysters) is sourced within driving distance – Port Phillip sardines, Gippsland lamb, Great Ocean Road duck and Yarra Valley washed rind cheese all make an appearance on the menu.
All 21 wine regions of the state are represented on the Dan Sims-curated, all-Victorian wine list, and 50% are made by female winemakers. Given that only 10% of winemakers in Australia are women, this is quite the achievement.
We quickly fall in love with Yumi and her stories – this winemaker sold his Studebaker to start his winery; this gin distiller converted an old mill; and this one, well, he loves to go fishing.
The beauty of Edwin’s is that you don’t just get a delicious meal and exceptional wines and spirits, you also can discover the best of Victorian food and wine without leaving your hotel.
For a business traveller who will likely not have the downtime to head out to Healesville for a Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz gin, or even to St Kilda for a famed Woodfrog bagel, this is no small thing. A visit to Melbourne should always be a culinary adventure and Peppers has you covered.
There are already plans for in-house wine and spirit tastings led by the makers themselves – another way to enjoy the delights of the surrounding state on the shores of Southbank.
Wonderfully sated, we begin to make our way out of the restaurant when Yumi stops us. We do know that the food and drinks in our minibar are all Victorian, don’t we? She recommends the gin-flavoured dark chocolate and we know that one piece won’t be enough. We may not be able to place ourselves in Melbourne from looking out the window, but our full and happy stomachs know just where we are.
*Conditions apply, subject to availability. Valid for sale and travel until 30 September 2019.
For an exceptional meal in Sydney, try 1821 – traditional Greek cuisine with a modern influence.