Chic, seductive and sophisticated, the Lyall Hotel and Spa is where Carrie from Sex and the City would stay in Melbourne if she were in town. Set in upscale shopping neighbourhood South Yarra, its classy cocktail of sleek rooms, sensual day spa and intimate champagne bar, mixed with handy retail therapy, is perfect for girls or guys seeking a stylish mini-break.
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Two cocktails or glasses of wine in the Lyall Champagne Bar
40, ranging from one- and two-bedroom Deluxe rooms to Grand and Platinum suites.
11am, but flexible if available (from noon you’ll be charged 50 per cent of your room rate; after 5pm, for an extra night). Check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £92.30 (AU$169), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include newspaper and 24-hour gym use. Continental breakfast is AU$20; à la carte, AU$30, a credit card surcharge of 1.5 per cent applies against all accepted credit cards.
At the hotel
DVD, CD and book library, free WiFi throughout, spa, gym, laundry facilities. In rooms: two flatscreen TVs, cable channels, CD/DVD players, iPod speakers on request, kitchen with fridge, minibar, terrace.
Our favourite rooms
You can swing several cats in the vast rooftop Platinum Suite, dubbed the Platinum Blonde Suite after past celeb guests, including Gwen Stefani, Pamela Anderson and Paris Hilton. It comes with a separate living room, ensuite bathroom, a double spa bath, iPod speakers, graceful fireplaces, a kitchen (ideal for longer stays) and an airy terrace with dreamy views. We’d be content in one of the spacious one-bedroom suites though, which still resemble deluxe city apartments.
Zap your stress at Lyall’s rated destination day spa, a serene, white three-storey space scented with ylang-ylang and mandarin. We recommend the Lyall Signature Spa Ritual, a two-hour massage and facial. There are two steam rooms and an indoor-outdoor area for relaxing.
Bring your credit card as there's plenty of designer shopping in chichi South Yarra ideal for maxing it out. A spare Samsonite suitcase (Marc Newson's stylish design, naturally) to bear your fashionable finds home.
Arm yourself with the Lyall's exclusive Shopping Privilege Card, which offers guests 10 per cent off at over 20 chic local stores, such as fashion boutique Assin and Shoes by Alberto Piazza.
Welcome: kids can stay for free if using existing bedding, or the hotel can supply baby cots or rollaway beds for AU$30 each. Babysitting can be arranged with a nanny for a minimum of three hours for AU$80, then AU$20 an hour.
Welcome. The hotel can supply baby cots or extra rollaway beds for AU$30 each (infants can stay for free if they're using existing bedding). Babysitting with a local nanny can be arranged for a minimum of three hours for $80, then AU$20 an hour.
Any age, but young children might enjoy the nearby parks. Teens will love the area's sassy shopping.
The Lyall's two-bedroom suites are best for families with beds that can be transformed into twins. Suites have full cooking facilities with full-size refridgerators.
Although the Lyall doesn't offer any specific activities for children, the hotel set in a quiet, leafy residential street with parks and gardens nearby (including the Royal Botanic Gardens and Fawkner Park, as well as the nearby Yarra river banks). The hotel provides free push bikes for guests' use too, which is fun for older children. Major attractions such as the Royal Melbourne Zoo (www.zoo.org.au) and the Melbourne Aquarium (www.melbourneaquarium.com) are also within easy reach. There are 18 cinemas within walking distance too for keeping kids entertained.
Children are allowed in the Lyall restaurant, which can do a special menu for them, and provide high chairs, packed lunches or heat up baby food or milk for infants. The hotel kitchen can accommodate most requests, but in an emergency the suite minibars come stocked with ice cream and a block of Lindt chocolate. Suites also have full cooking facilities, complete with fridge/freezers, if you'd rather eat in the privacy of your own room.
Babysitting can be arranged with a local nanny for a minimum of three hours for AU$80, and from then approx AU$20 an hour. Just a few hours' notice will usually suffice.
No need to pack
Cots are provided at AU$30 a night, and the Lyall staff are happy to buy in any particular baby- or child-care equipment requested prior to your arrival and charge it to your account.
For a glam, green touch, the hotel provides free push bikes for guests to use when out and about. Here's hoping you can balance all those store bags on the handle bars!
If it’s sunny, grab a table outdoors on the shaded terrace.
Labels, darling. You won’t go wrong with finds from local fashion stores Mimco, Alannah Hill, Collette Dinnigan or Scanlan & Theodore (find their boutiques on nearby Chapel Street).
Ground-floor Bistro Lyall serves up light and healthy cuisine, such as chicken sandwiches and tasty hamburgers. Pop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner (the space morphs into the Champagne Bar by night). Decor is restrained, with moss green upholstered chairs, dark wood and smart mirror details.
Cool your heels after all that South Yarra retail therapy at the small but sexy Lyall Champagne Bar, to the right of reception, which offers intimate tables and bar stools for sociable perching. Signature drinks include the Lyall Cranberry Champagne Cocktail and the addictive Apple Crumble Martini, or just enjoy an afternoon latte (the bar opens from 3pm till midnight). Expect jazz or easy listening tunes, not a thumping DJ.
As a guest you can order drinks 24-hours a day, either in your suite or in the hotel's public areas. The bar is open from 3pm till midnight though, with peak time between 6pm and 8pm.
A full menu of modern, multicultural dishes is available 24 hours a day.
Located in cosmopolitan South Yarra, the Lyall has Chapel Street’s famous shops, restaurants and cafes on its doorstep. And being just 2km from the CBD its only a skip (or a short tram ride) from the attractions of the city centre.
Melbourne Tullamarine Airport (www.melbourneairport.com.au) is 28km north-west of the Lyall Hotel. International and domestic flights arrive and depart daily.You can get a shuttle bus (www.skybus.com.au; +61 (0)3 9600 1711) to Southern Cross Station and then a train, taxi, or tram to the hotel.
South Yarra Train Station is less than a kilometre from the Lyall Hotel and is just two stops from Flinders Street Station and three stops from Melbourne Central Station (www.metlink.com.au; 131 638 or international enquires can ring +61 (0)3 8608 5010).
You can take a taxi from Melbourne Tullamarine Airport or hire a car and drive the 30-minute journey to the hotel.
There is a tram stop at the end of the hotel’s street (only a few steps away). Jump on the number eight (www.metlinkmelbourne.com.au; 131 638) to the city. It should take no more than 10-15 minutes.
Worth getting out of bed for
Recharge with a treatment at gorgeous local beauty and wellbeing oasis Aesopspa (153 Toorak Road), just around the corner from the hotel – an Australian brand known for its heavenly unisex scented body care products and chic graphic packaging. Alternatively, the hotel's in-house Lyall Spa serves up a mix of pampering massages and hot-stone treatments, using Payot and Sodashi products. Mrs Smiths whose barnets need taming, crimping or just general zhuzhing would do well to visit the friendly fleet of capable cutters and colourists at Conrad Mace hair salon in the Como Centre, Toorak Road. (Mr Smiths are very welcome, too.) Nails can be polished and perfected at the back of the salon. Toorak Road and Chapel Street, Melbourne’s most stylish shopping strips, are just a short walk away from the Lyall in South Yarra. Look out for Australian fashion designers Alannah Hill at 533 Chapel Street and Scanlan & Theodore, 566 Chapel Street. You can gather stylish accessories including great handbags at Australian label Mimco, Shop 4, 567 Chapel Street, vintage interior finds at the fabulous Chapel Street Bazaar, at 217 Chapel Street and fresh food at the bustling, popular Prahran Market at 163 Commercial Road, which boasts a tempting mix of local and imported fare. You're only a short distance from great parks (including the Royal Botanic Gardens, which boasts popular jogging track the Tan which skirts an ornamental lake), the banks of the Yarra River (great for strolling with views or culture-hopping at the Southbank's galleries) and the CBD, Melbourne's buzzy Central Business District, alive with shops, galleries, cafés and bars. For more olde worlde charms, nearby Como House, on the corner of Williams and Lechlade Avenue, is a 160-year-old South Yarra mansion providing a glimpse into the luxe life of former owners the Armytage family.
If you’re after Italian food, there’s romantic Da Noi at 95 Toorak Road for menu-free Sardinian feasting, or the more straightforward Cosiat 68 Toorak Road, loved by locals for its fireplace in winter and courtyard in summer. France-Soir at 11 Toorak Road is loved as much for its authentic – and sometimes catty – Parisian attitude as its always perfect steak frites. Choose fish from the tank at bustling Chinese restaurant Pacific Seafood BBQ House, at 210 Toorak Road. If you fancy a stroll, Hanoi Hannah at 180 High Street in nearby Prahran serves up tasty Vietnamese hawker dishes and pho in a stylish space, with creative beers and cocktails on the side.
Join the locals for breakfast at Lawson Grove Shop, 1 Lawson Grove, and riverfront Kanteen, at 150 Alexandra Avenue, where you can follow up with a wander along the Yarra River. Oriental Tea House at 455 Chapel Street has delicious – and purportedly therapeutic – teas and elegant modern yum cha: try the prawn and pea leaf dumplings. Caffe Veloce, at 9-11 Claremont Street, is in a prestige car showroom; the paninis and pastries are as classy as the gleaming machines.
Drink (and eat) with the locals at Temperance Hotel, at 426 Chapel Street where there are interesting Australian beers to try. House DJs step it up on Friday and Saturday nights; Sunday afternoons feature laid-back live music. Visit French bistro Chez Olivier, at 121 Greville Street, Prahran for bonhomie and Beaujolais at the bar, or party hard at lavish nightclub Love Machine, on the corner of Little Chapel Street and Malvern Road, Prahran. Do as the locals do: glam up and arrive early to secure entry. For something more low-key, enjoy cocktails and the cruisy mood at Tyranny of Distance, at 47 Union St, Windsor.
‘You look like you’ve been on holiday for weeks,’ says Mr Smith, as I waft back into our room. The truth is I’ve just spent a couple of heavenly hours in the Lyall Spa having a Sodashi facial and Lyall Luxury Pedicure in preparation for the rest of our weekend away. It was bliss: attentive treatment from caring and knowledgeable staff in a serene space, all sleek marble and high ceilings. Flicking through magazines and sipping a fragrant T2 tea as my nail colour dried, it occurred to me that I could spend all weekend here – if Mr Smith wasn’t beckoning.
The spa is the embodiment of the entire low-key yet luxurious Lyall Hotel experience. Even its location – a tree-lined South Yarra street among elegant suburban residences, yet only minutes from the city – is the epitome of understated class.
On arrival earlier that day, we were greeted by one of the lovely reception team, whose talent seemed to be making guests feel like a friend returning home. As our weekend progresses, one of our favourite aspects of the hotel becomes the personal attention of the staff. You get the feeling you are part of an intimate, special experience, rather than staying in an anonymous hotel chain. Perfect.
Our suite – actually, it is more like an apartment – has the wonderful bonus of tall windows, a balcony to sit on and French doors that lead out onto the terrace, overlooking the trees below. We waste no time flinging them open to let in the natural light and fresh air. It seems like a rare treat since a lot of hotels these days feel like sealed air-conditioned boxes. The separate granite kitchen has a stove and large fridge, lots of amenities, and the option of a stocked pantry if you can’t make it to one of the many stores or restaurants around the corner. Fresh fruit is provided on the dining room table. The bed is huge and heavenly, with crisp white sheets and gorgeous plump pillows, and a pillow menu if you want more choice. The bathroom has a heated tiled floor and toiletries from the hotel spa. There is even a television – one of two in our room – positioned so you can watch it from the spa bath. Free broadband is another generous-spirited gesture. Yes, you could easily spend a lot of time holed up in this suite without feeling the need to emerge – pass me the ‘do not disturb’ sign, Mr Smith.
On the first morning of our Melbourne break, Mr Smith and I go downstairs to the intimate Bistro Lyall for breakfast. We take the papers out onto the terrace to read in the sunshine, although the room, like the rest of the hotel, is incredibly inviting. The decor is classic contemporary: all browns, taupes, blacks, moss greens and silver, with tall mirrors, dark woods and cosy-meets-seductive enclaves throughout. The library is especially come-hither with its appealing armchairs, array of newspapers, fresh orchids and soft jazz soundtrack.
If I wasn’t all ready won over, the jelly beans on the reception counter would be the clincher.
Our weekend-away agenda includes a stroll down Toorak Road and into Chapel Street. This is such a renowned retail precinct that the hotel even provides a special shopping privilege card for its guests. I drag Mr Smith along, stopping at Cose, Scanlan & Theodore, AG Arthur Galan and TL Wood among others. We refuel at the Pound, a cute café tucked away off Chapel Street, and finally arrive back at the hotel, where Mr Smith takes to soaking away the day’s efforts in the sybarite-beckoning bath. It seems a spell at Lyall has even made a proselyte of this spa addict’s other half.
That night, we have a pre-dinner drink in the Champagne Bar (not for the first time this weekend it dawns on me that Lyall is begging to have me back for a girls’ getaway), before heading off to Da Noi, an intimate Italian restaurant – chef Pietro Porcu designs a set menu each day based on the produce he’s found at the markets – just down the street.
We spend the rest of the weekend enjoying the neighbourhood around Lyall: Harveys next door for brunch, a short stroll up the hill to the beautiful Botanic Gardens and then down to the Yarra River. We even contemplate taking a couple of the hotel’s bicycles for a spin, but decide instead to relax on the terrace back at the hotel. Lazy? Deliciously so.
I notice, while we take our breather, that every request a guest makes is met with an ‘of course’ or ‘certainly’. Nothing, it seems, is too much trouble for the staff. In fact, they seem to take real pleasure in their work, and feel a personal and proud connection to the hotel and its owners. Even as we are checking out, they seem to have a twinkle in their eyes. It makes us sad to say goodbye.