Hotel Review: Design hotel Indigo launches in Brisbane with a new Izakaya Publico, meshing art, history and its a whole lot of fun

I am having an Alice in Wonderland moment entering the ground floor; there is a Tuk Tuk which doubles as a cafe in the morning, an illuminated cherry tree (which makes Brisbane’s Christmas tree look a bit dull) and then there are the doors. Like a child, my head goes upwards in wonder. These red doors reach over 6m high, suddenly I feel small entering the elevator. Butterlies appear as I step into my new world for the next few days. Get ready for a different kind of stay. Whimsical, creative and expressive.

Reception and check in
With an early Sydney flight I arrive at 9 am. I know there is littel hope of an early check in but they do get me in around midday. The reception desk plays homage to its proximity to the Law District which recreates an olden day lawyers filing cabinet. I am looking out the windows and watching lawyers and barristers below battle against wind and rain as their paralegals are pulling files on small trolleys. It’s history and the present blended together.

reception with the lawyers filing cabinets and LED display

Behind the warm smiles checking me in, is an artwork of an illuminated backdrop of numbers. Red relates to the year in which the case took place, those in blue are the case numbers.  

I am only 10 minutes into my experience and Indigo is already sharing its stories through art, riddles and sculptures. It’s a joy to unravel the secrets being told here, though a painting, a butterfly or simply a doorway. Is this a stay, or a living book of memories which is being told through everything I see, touch and experience. 

butterflies guard your stay

The Design
Indigos around the world absorb their environment and become a curated reflection of culture inwhich they inhabit. Just as no two cities are the same, expect the unexpected from Indigo. In fact I really need a bit of an intro’s guide to art around here. Bris Vegas is home to some incredible artists and whimsical laneways. The stories started when I pulled up at the hotel. The outside wall is a mural by Bronte Larsson of the suffragette seamstress Emma Milla famed in the 1912 Black Friday March. 

The Queensland Public Art project encouraged the creation of mini fairy doors (or baby hobbits?) around the city, in a way many of us have witnessed guerilla yarn bombing of lamposts. The six metre high red entry doors I find out are homage to the little faerie doors in Burnett lane close to the hotel. Arrrrhhh.

Room 1520 One Bedroom Suite with City View

Room 1520 One Bedroom Suite City View
Hurrah! Swipe cards in hand. I walk down the corridor then have to double back. My room is right by the elevators, normally this would see me running down to reception in a mild state of anxiety. Experience has taught me a formula: Elevators = noise from machinery + humans having a good natter while they wait for their lift, leading to no peace, quiet or sleep. However, I hold my steele and swipe to enter.

As the door closes, with a lovely soft thump! The suite opens up. My fears ease, it’s beautifully, luxuriously quiet. As rock legends, Queen said “It’s kinda magic”

Firstly, hello sofa! I am lusting after the ridiculously large, red, sumptuous, curvy glamazon of a padded chillax fest. Two people can actually lie here, fully stretched in its chaise lounge style arrangement. Yippity do darh. Mmm, not what end do I occupy? 

I am loving the office bench, not pushed to the side wall as we would come to expect. This is a statement, boldly at the diagonal, no one is putting this baby in the corner, it’s a sexy, organically shaped table which serves for dining or a mighty fine work desk. Over the next few days I work from different angles but mostly in my zooms have the background of the suite so they can enjoy art on the walls by the sofa.

One of the clever design feature is a central structure in the middle of the room separating the bedroom, which hosts two enormous TV’s; one in the lounge, the other facing the bed.  There are no doors to section off the living room to the bedroom it’s all open plan, however this houses the wardrobe. Mirrored on both sides, one of the team explained to me that on opening night he was showing guests different rooms and thought it would be hilarious to literally walk through the mirrored wardrobe centrifuge and pop out the other side “OMG i think I have just come out of the closet” I promised that line, that made me belly laugh with irony, would be in this review!

Bedroom; A white king size bed is overshadowed by a ‘is-it-art-or-a-light’ moment. Artist James Middleton is behind the installation. Big bold colours dominate. The walls are burgundy, wood ash floors are covered with eclectic rugs.  The rooms are moody and have a lot to say with its intensity and character. All this shouty-ness is all softened with curves, they are everywhere, lighting , mirrors, woodwork, it’s hard to find a square edge. I love it.  

Bathroom; In an age of over-sexy-designerness, sometimes I dream of something I rarely see in new hotels. Give me a door to the toilet. Not a glass one, misted, hazy, glazed, etched but for the love of god, a door. Thank you Indigo! The sink is open to the bedroom with Biology full size cleanser and lotion with a separate toilet behind a door, then on the side a double whammy of rainshower/hand shower and a beautiful stand alone bath. It misses little touches like bath salts, aromatics etc to amp up the romantic look.

Tech – There is no ipad butler, the TV is used for menus, hotel information etc which is great if your tv works, mine refused to cooperate with me, so  I admitted failure, turned it off, and called reception, (which by the way was rather tricky given the low mood lighting) and that the phone is imprinted with tiny elf like font, what button do I press for reception? 

With no supplies in the mini bar, there is little spontaneous fun. I miss those old hotel days. Now I have to go to the confession box (aka call room service) and order a beverage then wait for my elf help who arrives with magic beer and to also tackle the TV. This all reminds me of my youth, when I call mum to help find a sock which is nowhere to be found ANYWHERE, then wham, the moment my magic elf (or mum) arrives the TV works/socks appear.

Bar 1609

Izakaya Publico
Feeling like I am in a scene from Gone with the Wind, my entrance to Ikakaya is via a swirling staircase to the level below. First, I have to enter the stylish 1609 Bar on level one which provides a breathtaking vantage point to look down on the scene below. It is essential to stop and drink it in…two giant murals by Blends (aka James Middleton) portray the opposites of historical and modernity. The first is the Warring State samurai on horseback, dark, moody swirling, to the left is a more hollywood style Samurai. The two are interwoven with painted pink chrysanthemums which symbolise the Japanese royal family. 

Izakaya Publico, the samurai

Without taking a plane, I feel closer to Japanese culture. The seating is eclectic with a sensitive range of leather banquetes for larger groups, low and high tables, the chairs are all different. The stage is the kitchen with the only Warayaki grill in the country – it enables hay to be placed on the lower section and uses this method of cooking to impart sweet, smoky flavours. Crowds gather to take videos; its a bit of an insta draw card as flames whoosh upwards. The kitchen is headed up by Executive Group Chef, Sumit Batra and Executive Sous ChefChris Jang who between them have an impressive CV (ex Nobu, Stanley, Hellenika).

I don’t mind sharing that I couldn’t go a day without ordering the edamame. Peas? Mweh? These babies are tossed in burnt butter and then sprinkled with housemade togarashi. You really just want to lick the pod all over in a very inappropriate way. It’s sensational, and the best thing on the menu, which sounds like a terrible disservice to the chefs skill, but think of the first time you ate a Pringle, yes there are other chips, but there is a reason many of us don’t trust ourselves to be alone with a full packet at night. Confession – I did order a portion via room service. (top marks for delivery in sustainable packaging and a paper bag!). Be warned..HIGHLY ADDICTIVE.

Other highlights include a beautiful sashimi platter with kingfish, tuna, scallop and salmon. Make sure you order the skewers, the grill gives the salmon skewer a lovely lick of char but the insides are still pink and soft. 

A departure from tradition is the katsu sando.. It’s like an indulgent chip butty with crust off fluffy white bread, crispy katsu, the right amount of slaw and tonkatsu sauce. My advice is to ask your dining buddy a question so they will talk non stop for 2 minutes so you have a chance to polish off the lot whilst politely nodding and wiping sauce from your mouth. The gyoza’s are delicate, light and decidedly porky! On our visit, they haven’t nailed the tempura, which should be crispy, with attitude. Our seafood serve missed that brief though the seafood sourcing was delicious. Our favourite sides were the mushrooms, an orgy of different fungi, beautifully cooked and with a scoop of soft, savoury Koshihikari rice. Our meal is complete thanks to an Asahi beer and a delicious rose! On a saturday night there wasn’t a spare seat in the house, with reason. 

Breakfast is a surprise! Hello buffet. Oh how I have missed you! There is a tight range of offerings but all done well. Cereals, breads, pastries, (thank you for the toasted ham and cheese croissant), this is not common among buffets but delicious. So too are the wonderful scrambled eggs. Creamy, soft, not over cooked. Grab a yoghurt or juice from the cold cabinets and you are set for the day.

Gym & Pool
With all this food, you will be happy to know there is a gym. Technogym rules here, no Peloton sadly but a bike, runner and rower. The weights are all pretty heavy, the lightest is 6kg, so if you are into repititons its gonna be tough. There aren’t any yoga mats either, most likely due to COVID best practice. You are welcome to use the pool at sister IHG property round the cover at VOCO. With such cold weather I didn’t take up the option!

The Verdict: Indigo is a tribute to the brand and team. The location to the mall is perfect, the rooms are quiety, modern, comfortable and have touches of art and service that make the stay memorable. As a boutique hotel it was refreshing to be handed a paper bag of room service goodies, not wheeled in an old fashioned cart! Staff are young, fun and want to please.

What we are addicted to; The storytelling through art and the attention to detail is extraordinary. Everything you touch, taste, experience has a story. Thumbs up for their approach to sustainability from extra IHG points awarded for not needing your room made up to the full size toiletries and sustainable packaging for room service. Did we mention the edamame??

What we need to be more addicted?: Sadly there isn’t any outdoor space, to enjoy a bevvy, or simply the sunshine. Some rooms have balconies so that could be the option. I am sure they will nail the tempura very soon. No dogs yet, but with wooden floors hopefully this could be a fur friendly hotel in the future.

Hotel Indigo,  27-35 Turbot St, Brisbane, QLD 4000 Australia

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).


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