Hotel Review: The Royce Hotel slips into top gear, showing off its Roaring Twenties origins, and a luxurious sense of contemporary style

The Showroom Bar in the original Rolls Royce showroom

It may have been in the ‘workshop’ a while, but The Royce Hotel, in Melbourne’s leafy St Kilda Road boulevard, has been fine-tuned into a boutique hotel that channels luxury, elegance, opulence.  Not to mention a sense of fun.

This 1928 Art Deco–Spanish Mission building began life as luxury car showroom – the original home of Rolls Royce. I know! That’s crazy, isn’t it?

As we drive into the silvery porte-cochère we’re greeted by a staff member who offers to valet park the car (yes, please!), while another whisks away our bags. Service here is definitely on the money  – we are guided to our room, welcomed to the lounge, greeted as we arrive and leave.

We sweep through the glass doors into the Lobby Lounge, a lofty, welcoming  space filtered with light.

The Lobby is like a Rolls Royce interior on a grand scale. Butter-soft leather panels, exquisite timber veneer panelling, sleek chrome railings, luxurious seating, discreet colours.

While some new hotels are dark, moody and minimal, or a slightly crazed mishmash of colour-drenched Memphis style, The Royce positively glows with light and gleams with chrome, bevelled glass and Deco-style chandeliers.

Original 1920s detail on The Royce, on leafy St Kilda Road, Melbourne

Architect Harry Norris (who also designed Melbourne’s iconic mansion Burnham Beeches mansion, slated to soon be a luxurious Six Senses Spa) created an indulgent setting, lavishing it with detail, from curved ceilings and columns, intricate cornices and marble stairs, to copper chandeliers and Spanish Mission panels. It seems nothing was too much for the new-fangled  ‘horseless carriages’ of the era.

For history buffs there are loads more facts.  The building led numerous lives, including being used by the Air Force during World War 11, before being converted to a hotel in the 1990s. This recent revamp, however, takes The Royce to a whole other level.

The current design taps into the glamorous mood of the Roaring Twenties and motoring heritage, with the RR grill inspiring panels, windows, chairs, even the cutlery! – it’s fun to spot all the references.

Silky wallpapers from Barcelona, bespoke carpets in regal blues, purple, plum and rose, ribbed and frosted glass, chrome and curves and elegantly rounded edges abound.

Cocktails at the Showroom Bar

The Showroom Bar
The Royce’s face to the world is the fabulous Showroom Bar, which is bar, lounge, restaurant and all-out high glamour. Beneath a totally OTT Deco chandelier, bar staff  stir, shake and pour a positive river of beverages.

If you fancy a martini or French champagne, this is your spot, though a Signature cocktail, or mocktail, is another option (the bitter and aromatic Paradisi with gin, Campari and grapefruit bitters is intriguing – and powerful!).

Executive chef Pawan Dutta brings a raft of five-star credentials, from Tokyo and the Maldives to the Middle East.  The menu veers classic but with a few clever twists, and a relentless focus on exemplary produce.

You have to love the attention to detail. The olives are served warm and I’m never serving my olives any other way!

The Burrata with truffle honey is divine. There are fresh-as-fresh briny oysters. Caviar with blinis, crème fraiche and crispy potatoes is a thing here and classic Steak frites and the flame-grilled Black Angus burgers are nods to tradition.  

Caviar and briny fresh oysters are stars on the menu

Just feeling peckish? Order up the luscious Butter-poached lobster roll or the intensely  flavoured mini Mushroom and stilton tartlets.

While the Triple chocolate and hazelnut mousse was calling my name, we ordered Rhubarb Eton Mess, with rosy-pink poached rhubarb cubes, mascarpone and shards of French meringue speckled with raspberry powder. Who says there isn’t a heaven?

The heavenly Rhubarb Eton Mess

For breakfast, the hotel restaurant’s  blond wood chairs, parquetry floor and a palette of duck-egg blue and coral make a soothing combo for the morning after (err… a little too much champagne the night before perhaps?). French doors open into the Conservatory with its scalloped awning striped in soft grey and white and French-tiled floor. Or retreat to the leafy outdoor terrace, where floor tiles are heated, because, well, this is Melbourne after all!

Breakfast covers all bases: perfect seasonal fruits, just-from-the-oven croissants, or any eggs your heart desires (in our case, scrambled with Spanner crab and fermented chilli ) and all the essential  goat’s cheese, avocado, black pudding sides are on offer. Plus barista coffee, chai… or a little more champagne?   

The Conservatory

The Suite  – Two Story Loft Suite
Of the 94 rooms 18 are suites, many with balconies looking into the plane trees, or across to the city skyline and the white turret of Government House.

The Presidential Suite is… presidential…with a vast balcony. It’s also perfect for a wedding suite.

Bespoke carpets, balconies and leafy views for the suites

We stay in a spacious two-storey loft suite with original cornices, where Rolls Royce vehicles were once serviced.  

Details please, you say. Well, there are silky wallpaper panels with exotic birds and orchids. Our bar fridge is stocked with full-size bottles of Taittinger Champagne, chardonnay and boutique beers and there’s a generous selection of Koko Black chocolates and crispy snacks (the Devil’s food – so hard to resist!)

Our white marble bathrooms (we actually have two!) gleam with bevelled and frosted glass, chrome detailing, scalloped wall tiles, rain showers, crystal-handled doors. Some suites have freestanding baths.

The Arctic-white bathrobes are mobile cocoons of comfort. Dyson hairdryers are on hand and if you need a Dyson hair straightener, just ring and it will be whisked to your door.

Naturally it’s all state-of-the-art lighting and air-con control, but sadly, we are not masters of hotel-lighting systems – in any hotel! – so before we finally settle down we move between total blackout and Battlestar Galactica, where every light in the room shines brightly. But at last we press the right buttons, the drapes swish closed automatically, lights dim and we sink into the cloud-like comfort of our bed. Bliss.

The Royce – Bathrooms at The Royce gleam with marble, chrome, bevelled and frosted glass.

There’s a ballroom with original features, a library for private events and, for serious business, three boardrooms.

We did peek in at the gym, but really?  Would you want to?  So many other things to do!

What’s in the ‘hood’
You’re right on the edge of smart South Yarra, well placed to stroll to the Botanic Gardens, visit the Shrine, jog around Melbourne’s famed Tan, or Albert Park Lake, or join the Lulu Lemon set for a skinny latte in Domain Road. Or you could cycle around on the hotel’s custom Royce Lekker bicycles.

If culture is your jam, you can walk or tram to the NGV, to the Concert Hall, or the CBD for the theatre or a little retail therapy in Collins Street. 

What we are addicted to:
The light, the excellent service, the curvy sofas, the exquisite finishes and the oh-so-glamorous Showroom Bar. We love the leafy outlook and balconies of so many of the rooms.

What would we need to be more addicted: The petite classic Molton Brown toiletries are lovely, but it’s so hard to enjoy anything in single-use plastic these days. Another option perhaps?

The Royce, 379 St Kilda Road,Melbourne 3004
The Showroom Bar: open 12 noon until late

About the author

Margaret is a Melbourne-based slow traveller who loves exploring hotels from high end to quirky, cutting-edge design, quiet beaches and off-grid retreats. While she loves galleries, museums and the buzz of big cities, she is also often dreaming of Tulum or the Aeolian Islands. She packs light but always takes a book.


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