We all know Canberra is now cool – wine bars, freak shakes, vegan juice bars and wholefood cafes have slowly transformed the small capital city into something pretty special. But what about the spots that are just absolutely classic, in all the right ways?
Hotel Kurrajong Canberra fits the bill. We’re not talking about the fact that many bills, budgets, and laws, have been discussed at the bar. The Kurrajong dates back to 1926, and is practically hallowed ground for anyone in politics. Designed by John Smith Murdoch, the Commonwealth Chief Architect also responsible for Old Parliament House, the property started life as government housing, and has long been the watering hole of choice amongst our nation’s movers and shakers.
The low rise, Art Déco building is worlds away from Canberra’s high rise hotels, crammed full of serviced apartments and cookie cutter design schemes catering to the commuter set. Pull up into the grand circle driveway, walk through the front door, or even just up the front steps, and you know you’re in for a treat at the Kurrajong.
Given a new lease on life by an extensive renovation last year, the Kurrajong is a mix of classic Canberra fused with old world glamour. A grand fireplace is the focal point for the lobby bar, where winged backed arm chairs and comfy couches are the daily setting for casual chats about the state of affairs (or in our case, our dinner plans). Fabulous teal carpets line the hallways, leading you around the H-shaped property. Australia’s prime ministers keep you company, their black and white portraits offering a quick history lesson to those who need to brush up on their facts. Rooms in the heritage wing (26 of the 146 rooms) are tastefully kitted out in muted grey, blue and whites and have the convenience of ground floor access so you can pop in and out quickly. It all comes together to create a cosy, yet chic, home away from home.
Back in the 1940s the hotel probably wasn’t so chic, but it was certainly still cosy – Prime Minister Ben Chifley escaped Parliament House and instead chose to live in the hotel while he was in office, and afterwards. It is, after all, only 700m from the hotel to Parliament House. Now that’s what we call commuting.
There’s something extremely refreshing about a hotel stay in a city where you don’t need to use the elevators to get anywhere. The low rise building does have lifts, but there are wooden staircases scattered around the floor plan – staff will tell you it’s a little bit of a maze, but happily provide maps that outline rooms, the gym, bar, restaurant and outside courtyard. On weeknights, you’ll find a crowd gathering around the Chifley Bar and Grill that spills out to the leafy courtyard out the back. Not too different to an English country manor, but on a smaller scale, the manicured lawns of the courtyard are dotted with bar tables, water fountain and sculptures. On Fridays and Saturdays on summer months live acoustic guitar performances take place as people wind down from the work week.
Wander through the courtyard, stopping for a drink or two, before heading out the back gate and across the street to Vincent Restaurant. This small wine bar/restaurant is a prime example of how Canberra has upped its game. The menu is posted on the wall in jumbo scrabble-tile letters, and the wine list gets just as much space as the short list of share dishes and tasting plates.
8 National Circuit, Barton, Canberra
Daily Addict was the guest of Hotel Kurrajong