Ok, so we might be a tad biased – the NewActon Precinct is home to Hotel Hotel, our favourite Canberra crash-pad, after all – but that doesn’t make our crush on this cucumber-cool cultural hub any less legitimate.
The NewActon Precinct has prompted a whole new buzz around Canberra’s art, design and retail scene. Its highlight – and beating heart – is the striking, pineapple-shaped Nishi building, which hosts Hotel Hotel (hello, again) and nabbed the ‘International Project of the Year’ gong at the 2015 Building Awards in London.
You could spend an entire holiday within the Nishi building. For starters, there’s the Nishi Gallery, which exhibits works by local, national and international artists and regularly hosts performances. Just across from the gallery is the Palace Electric Cinema, whose extensive charms include a prosecco bar (yes, really) and gourmet treats courtesy of the Electric Espresso Cafe. Other Nishi highlights include the Goodspeed bike shop, Pilates Canberra, a Soma Day Spa and a swish Roji hair salon.
Once you've had a meal at Hotel Hotel (hello, hello), explore the NewActon Precinct's wealth of eating options. Mocan and Green Grout (+61 (0)2 6162 2909) at 19 Marcus Clarke Street is headed up by Steve Mcconnell, the man behind Hotel Hotel’s bar and lounge; expect the same emphasis on fresh produce, quality suppliers and crowd-pleasing flavours, delivered with relaxed panache. A.Baker (+61 (0)2 6287 6150) is more than just a baker – it’s a restaurant with an underground speakeasy bar. Everything is made locally, from the organic milled wheat bread to the coffee roasted on-site and the vegetables grown in the garden. Parlour Wine Room (+61 (0)2 6257 7325), also in the NewActon precinct, houses an array of antiques and serves tasty tapas and delicious desserts until late. The vibe is 1920s; add feathers or a fedora if you’re feeling fancy.
Spotlight on Hotel Hotel
Hotel Hotel in Canberra has us saying ‘yes yes’, thanks to its dazzling design, brilliant staff and capital location. Housed in the exciting NewActon precinct, the hotel rubs shoulders with galleries, a cinema and quirky dining spots – and all that creative energy has clearly rubbed off.
The Meandering Rooms are the biggest and most spacious of the hotel's sleeping quarters, graced with a tub for two and double rain showers. In particular, Room 230 caught our eye, thanks to its retro reading chair, reclaimed timber furniture, large lounge, interesting art and big bed lit with a spotlight (go on, aim for an ovation).
Affable chef Sean McConnell captains the kitchen, championing seasonal, local ingredients at the bar and lounge, a moodily dark and relaxed setting with a library and garden and a soft spot for live music. Expect McConnell's signature small plates, with humble ingredients transformed into punchy dishes that betray the chef's love of foraging.