Here's a travel truth: after just one afternoon in Melbourne, it becomes my favourite city in the world. For the semi-adventurous nomad, who doesn't mind getting lost in laneways so long as there are good shops to explore, this urban getaway is the ideal playground.
Melbourne's indie, artsy charm sweeps me off my feet, much like an indie, artsy boy might do. As a naturally curious shopper, I’m drawn into the tucked-away stores, the havens of vintage clothing and vinyl records, the boutiques packed full of Aussie designer wares. I lose hours (willingly!) sifting through racks of dresses at Smith Street’s cavern of secondhand treasures Lost & Found, musing over macaroons and hot chocolate at Koko Black in the CBD’s Royal Arcade, and gazing out the window at café-come-bespoke suit and boot emporium Captains of Industry while debating a permanent relocation.
Retreating to Prahran boutique hotel the Cullen with my best girlfriend from college, after we’ve had our fill of wandering, feels like making a graceful entrance at the most awesome art gallery opening ever. All slick glass and hits of colour, it manages to be at once lively and soothing – exactly what we need to recuperate from the day and recharge for the night.
The hearty breakfast and to-die-for coffees at the Gramercy Bistro are perfect for refuelling on both mornings of our stay, served by an incredibly generous waitstaff – so kind, in fact, that they pack our complimentary breakfast to take away on our last day when we have to depart Melbourne before sunrise (but let’s not go there yet…).
Exploring the local area, we pop in and out of shops and peer inside Prahran Market (the longest-running food market in Australia – oh, to have more time for snacks!). But the hotel (and the 'hood) come to life at night, with a buzz in the lobby and delicious duck and dumplings at ground-floor Chinese restaurant Hutong. The best part for us, as incredibly jet-lagged American gal pals, happens when we settle in on our second night for satisfying pasta dishes and a few glasses of wine at Orange, one of the many open-air spots on nearby shopping drag Chapel Street. After hours of gabbing – there’s something about warm weather and wine that brings out your inner conversationalist – we make tracks back to the Cullen, where we roam about and take in the wildly vibrant artwork by Aussie talent Adam Cullen on display in every hallway, nook, and cranny, from cartoonish highwaymen to horses.
An overnight stay at this beautiful hotel – especially one where you're keeping slightly odd hours due to an epic time change – is a bit like hiding away in a contemporary art gallery until everyone leaves for the night, then you get to discover the works all by yourself. Just us and the oil paintings – that's how we feel, and it’s both surreal and serene. Eventually we retire to our idiosyncratic Deluxe Studio Suite Twin room, where we continue our chatter through the nearly-transparent glass walls of the bathroom (risque!) and settle into our plush, comfy beds that fit flush against a mirrored wall (more risque!). Then we watch a TV special on the young UK royals – talk about a dreamy girls' night in – and wake up to a view of the entire city at sunrise. Who's the princess now, Kate?
Anonymously reviewed by Holly Thomas (Style maven)
Whenever you book a stay at a Mr & Mrs Smith, we'll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what real-life guests had to say in The Cullen's guestbook below.
I liked my good room and the bistro downstairs serves great food until late.
It's not great location for the CBD, sports stadia, etc.
Edward, BlackSmith stayed on 23 Nov 2013
The Cullen was great, particularly considering how affordable it as. The bed was outrageously comfortable, the food was delish and the staff unobtrusive but friendly. The artwork is not for everyone but the hotel has committed to what it set out to be, which is the only way to do it when you have art as controversial (compared to the usual hotel art anyway) as the Cullen's. The room was very spacious and the bathroom was well equipped. I also had to extend my stay last-minute and the hotel was entirely accommodating. They are also tied to Hu Tong dumpling bar so you can pop down for fab dumplings and charge it back – always handy. Overall, very cool and a welcome addition to Prahran.
Elizabeth Jane, SilverSmith stayed on 12 Jan 2012