The Cullen Hotel, Prahan, Melbourne – May 2011

The first thing you notice when you walk into the foyer of The Cullen Hotel in trendy Melbourne suburb Prahran is that it’s not very big. But that is what boutique is all about and The Cullen does this superbly. Part of the Art Series Hotels, (joined by The Olsen and The Blackman, also in Melbourne), The Cullen has been inspired by contempory artist Adam Cullen and his original art work infuses tongue-in-cheek humour and colour into every wall.

After a quick and friendly check-in I swiped myself up to level 5 and followed the black carpet and art hung walls to my studio suite. When I opened the door it was instantly clear why Australian Gourmet Traveller had named this place Best New Boutique Hotel in Australia 2011. It oozes cool. My room was themed with Ned Kelly prints – splashes of colour against the panther black cupboards and carpet. Designer furnishings, a dreamy Art Series Signature king bed and an open plan living area that includes a kitchenette (but why would you want to cook with Chapel St at your doorstep?), makes this room so appealing that you don’t really want to leave. Top it off with a 42-inch flat screen TV, ipod dock for your tunes and sliding doors onto a balcony that overlooks Comercial Rd and you’re all set. The studio feels quite roomy as space is saved in the bathroom which is a bit pokey – there is only a shower (but what great water pressure) and there’s not much room for a girl to layout her make up but who really needs to be hanging out in the bathroom anyway?

For business travellers, there’s the broadband and wi-fi access, a small but sufficient table that would do for a desk and the convenience of being in the centre of the action without having to stay in the city – it’s just a short 8 minute train ride to the CBD from Prahan station just 2 minutes down the road, or you’ve got trams and buses at your doorstep. Taxis drive past all hours of the day. It’s about an $80 cab ride to/from the airport and $20 into town.

I didn’t have time to workout in the state of the art gym but it had sufficient cardio machines with plasma screens and great views. Best of all, it’s open 24 hours if you feel the need to let off some steam at odd times of the night.

You can breakfast downstairs at the Mediterranean Terrace Bar & Bistro but I choose to wander over to the Prahran Markets directly across the road and grabbed a bite to eat and coffee there; the fresh food market and authentic delis with their bounty of delights were too hard to resist.

Despite being right in the thick of Melbourne’s best shopping and nightlife precinct, my sleep was peaceful as the thick glass doors and blackout curtains kept the outside at bay. My checkout was as quick as the check-in. The only downfall of this hotel is that I had to leave – I could have happily spent a few more nights there. It was surpemely comfortable and the service is efficient and welcoming with none of the snootiness that sometimes accompanies luxury hotels – low touch but warm and inviting if you need it.