Stroll along South Yarra’s Domain Road and you probably wouldn’t realise one of the city’s hottest boutique hotels hides behind an unassuming doorway.
This low-key entry is a fitting introduction to the hotel’s ethos. While some places win you over with razzle dazzle, United Places Botanic Gardens does it with understated elegance.
Set on the fringe of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens: it’s a peaceful, leafy oasis in the hustle and bustle of the city, just a short walk to some of South Yarra’s best restaurants and the Chapel Street shopping strip.
The exclusive accommodation offering threw its doors open last year, after four years in development. It quickly generated industry buzz when it was recognised on Conde Nast Traveler’s 2019 Hot List. It was one of just four Australian hotels to make the cut.
The hotel is the personal project of property developer and first-time hotelier Darren Rubenstein, who explains “United Places is a creative platform, built upon my very own experiences in design, travel and hospitality. I wanted to create a ‘home’ for the likeminded traveller seeking experiences that celebrate locality.”
Rubenstein’s unique concept of a ‘home hotel’ is felt as soon as you step through the front door. They have done away with the traditional hotel lobby and foyer – instead you are greeted at the door by a butler (who is on call 24/7) and taken directly to your room for a quick and easy check-in process.
United Places Botanic Gardens, 157 Domain Road, South Yarra, Melbourne, Victoria.
There are just 12 suites at United Places. The fact that they haven’t tried to cram as many rooms as they can into the building means the suites have a great sense of space (while still feeling warm and cosy).
The accommodation offers the best of both worlds: serviced apartment functionality and five-star hotel luxury. There’s a well-appointed kitchenette and plenty of wardrobe space for those enjoying an extended stay, as well as high-end elements like plush bathrobes and a nightly turndown service.
The rooms are contemporary without being cold, which is a design brief that is rarely executed successfully. They certainly haven’t scrimped on furnishings – a Redondo sofa by Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola is the perfect spot to curl up after a long day shopping, and the distinctively Australian Scape chair by Grant Featherston gives a nod to local design.
The lamps are handmade, the sheets are 100 per cent organic cotton and the plates and cups are exclusively designed for the hotel by Szilvassy ceramics. It’s little wonder the super stylish rooms are currently in hot demand for photoshoots.
There are plenty of pleasing tech additions, such as Netflix and an in-room iPad. Bang & Olufsen portable speakers and organic Turkish throw rugs by Loom are thoughtfully included for lazy afternoons in the Botanic Gardens over the road. The mini-bar is a fancy affair, with Sullivan’s Cove single malt whisky provided for your nightcap, and each suite smells heavenly thanks to the luxury Le Labo products in the bathrooms.
Our two-bedroom Garden Suite had a private terrace overlooking the Botanic Gardens. It also featured a large sunken bath set behind a charcoal-glazed window, so you can bathe looking out across the gardens (while still maintaining your dignity).
One of the greatest assets here is the butler. The service is spectacular, thanks to the fact they are looking after just 12 suites.
They can help with everything from valet laundry service to private picnic set-up. There’s no gym or spa in the hotel, but the butler can arrange personal trainers, massage therapists and yoga sessions if your heart desires.
The concierge’s local knowledge and restaurant recommendations were incredibly helpful, and upon returning from dinner one particularly cold evening they offered to bring up a hot pot of sleep-inducing tea for us to enjoy before bed. Bliss.
The hotel is affiliated with Scott Pickett’s Matilda 159 restaurant, which is found at the base of the hotel. The wood-fired eatery has made its mark on the culinary map, thanks to the innovative modern Australian food that capitalises on Indigenous ingredients.
Guests at United Places get preferential reservations in the restaurant, or you can select in-room dining which will be delivered to your room by the butler. It’s described as ‘a full restaurant experience in the privacy of your suite.’
The daily complimentary in-room gourmet breakfast is also provided by the Matilda kitchen. Simply fill out your selections on the menu card (choices include banana bread with hazelnut espresso butter, quinoa salad with dill and pomegranate, and yoghurt with granola and red fruit), hang it on your door before 5pm and it will be delivered to your room the next morning at your preferred time.
It’s a half-hour walk to Melbourne’s CBD through the Botanic Gardens, or you can zing up St Kilda Road on the tram, which goes straight past the front door of the National Gallery of Victoria.
This is the ultimate private haven for anyone planning a luxe trip to Melbourne.
Rooms start at $650 per night.
The writer stayed at United Places Botanic Gardens as a guest of the hotel.