House of Cards Hotel, QT Canberra Style


You know that feeling like someone’s s watching you? A million eyes spanning the political generations including Keating, Hawke, Fraser and Rudd are all here in psychedelic glory…and that’s just the wallpaper in the lobby. QT doesn’t do things in the way a normal hotel should. QT Canberra has more personality than Witlam. This is the capital of groovy governance.

QT Hotel ticks all the cool hotel boxes: hip soundtrack, slick reception, a wall of fairground-style optical mirror illusions from Obama being papped to Thatcher’s head with a mirror face insert so you too can explore that Maggie-hairdo-look.

It’s an addictive combo of personality and smarts. A resident Andy Warhol dog cushion presides over the black, white and chrome room from its majestic ebony plastic throne. The mini bar travels beyond alcohol to create a new level of fun including espionage spy kits, boxed 80’s pick-up sticks and formal emergency bowties. Fancy a cocktail? Whip up an Old Fashioned in a jiffy thanks to your daily changing cocktail kit with very thoughtful instructions.


Downstairs,the Capital Bar and Grill is the hub of conversation. Robert Marchetti (Bondi Icebergs, North Bondi Italian) is the Creative Food Director. This is one restaurant where politicians won’t mind getting a grilling. Sink into the yellow banquets or choose a table on the checkerboard dining floor. A stunning stack of heirloom tomatoes with lemon, basil and chilli arrives with a snow cap of Roquefort and blue cheese dressing. With a menu spanning classics, sea, farm and grill the ‘favourite seafood pie’ is a golden crust puffy topped winner with big chunks of snapper, scallops and prawns. A fennel crusted fillet of tuna grilled over coals is tumbled with Sicilian flavours and Tuscan dwarf peaches. Indulge with a black truffle, Taleggio and Gruyere cheese sauce crafting the best ‘Mac n Cheese’ ever.

If you are in the know (and we are!) it might take a nudge, wink or a high rolling deal to access Floor 15. It’s a stunning invitation only members club with wrap-around views, private bar, silky service and hideaway rooms behind walls that look like bookcases. It’s intimate, it’s sexy and it’s the place to be where your pleasure is in ‘not being seen’.


Those who prefer an underground vibe need to keep a look out. Beyond what appears to be a gangster style barber shop lies ‘Lucky’s Speakeasy’ perhaps named because that’s how you feel when you find it. A central cocktail bar showcases a wrap-around wall of crystal with decanter hanging lights casting playful shadows in the darkness. Go on the weekend and the DJ spins tunes even if the piano doesn’t. Order up a liberating Smoking Gun of Mezcal, yellow Chartreuse and sage or go classic with an espresso martini. Whatever happens, order the popcorn chicken. It’s a life changing experience.


The next morning you’ll be greeted with one of the best breakfasts in Australia. Throw everything you hate about buffets out the window. This is the real deal – a local, produce driven experience worth the three hour drive from Sydney alone. Rejoice in 61 degree slow cooked eggs, smoothies, ricotta tarts, freshly carved prosciutto, heirloom tomatoes, and omelettes to order with speck, shiitake mushrooms and more.

Yes, it’s worth a trip to Canberra. Make a weekend getaway out of it – this boutique hotel is the real deal.

QT Canberra
1 London Circuit, Canberra ACT 260

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).


Forrester’s Pub on the corner of Riley Street in Surry Hills has been a much loved watering hole for almost 100 years, it’s seen different owners, changes of prime ministers, generations of friends and family along with periods of being laid ‘fallow’ to rest. It took hospitality favourites, Applejack to rescue this local gem and bring it back to life. A budget of $1.5m doesn’t get you much these days but the renovation its both sensitive to its history and of this era, reflecting a new, more feminine, organic and lighter approach to interior design.

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