REVIEW The Getaway

Belinda Jackson checks out Darwin’s newest hotel and its ‘‘help yourself’’ attitude.

  
 

THE  PLACE 

Elan Soho Suites, Darwin.

  
 

THE LOCATION 
Darwin’s central business district, five minutes from Smith Street Mall and a 10-minute walk to the waterfront. 

THE SPACE The 4 1/2-star hotel, which opened
in December 2014, has 301 rooms. Planned as an apartment block, it
morphed into a hotel part-way through construction. Like the forest of
small high-rises around it, don’t expect any architectural masterpieces,
or even a lavish lobby, which indicates its original intention: it’s
purely business here. Choose from a hotel room or oneor two-bedroom
apartments with kitchens, laundries and balconies.

  
 

THE ROOM The two-bed apartments have two bathrooms, a good option for groups. The king bed in my hotel

room is comfortable, with great
pillows and a choice of either aircon or an overhead fan. It’s all very
pared back, in a neutral palette of grey, white and beige. The
minimalist design attitude continues into the bathroom, where only the
basics (soap and shampoo) are supplied. Anything else is on demand, to
lower costs.

   

THE KIT With a combination of sweltering
temps and croc-infested beaches, thank goodness there’s a pool. It’s
open-air and unheated, no bother for this deep southerner. Happily, as
most Territorians won’t dip a toe in until it’s above 30 degrees, you
should have the 17-metre pool to yourself for a morning dip. It’s right
beside the gym, on level six.

  
 

COMFORT Tapping in to Darwin’s very young
population, with an average age of about 30, the hotel is tech-savvy.
Manager Steve Frichot says Elan

aims to reduce clutter for a
streamlined room. I think it’s lacking by not having a clock anywhere,
but you can use the room’s phone to self-program a wake-up call. It will
shortly become just one of a handful of Australian hotels that lets you
check in and even unlock your room with your phone, and you will be
able to order room service from Seoul Food, downstairs, through the TV,
which is conveniently kitted out with a media hub with international
power points (look, Mum, no chargers!). Wi-Fi is free for the first 20
minutes but then ups to $15 a day: not a rarity in Darwin.

   

FOOD 

The 24-hour room service is supplied
by Seoul Food restaurant and cafe, right beside the streetlevel
reception. It’s a sunny breakfast spot, serving an excellent eggs
hollandaise with good coffee to go. Seoul Food touts itself as Darwin’s
first Korean

restaurant, kicked off by Choong Jae
Lee, now a Northern Territory culinary ambassador. He tips the
bibimbap, coffee-braised beef cheeks and crispy-skinned local
barramundi. Sadly, I have a prior dinner engagement, but the restaurant
is licensed: they had me at ‘‘Bombay or Hendricks?’’

  

STEPPING OUT It seems all of Darwin is at the
Mindil Beach Sunset Market, which runs every Thursday from 5pm to 10pm
and Sundays from 4pm to 9pm, until the last Thursday in October. Arrive
with an empty stomach and shop the food vans for dinner: choose from a
Sri Lankan curry or Greek souvlaki, a plate of oysters or paella, then
head down to the sand to eat while watching the sun set. See
mindil.com.au.

   

THE VERDICT
This hotel will appeal to
self caterers, small family groups and those who just want a fuss-free
room. For the best water views, go for a high corner room in the
27-floor hotel. Manager Steve Frichot tips room 2504. A warning:
Darwin’s hotels have been shamelessly pumped up by fly-in, fly-out gas
workers, with seemingly bottomless pockets to pay for accommodation; so
dry (high) season prices are double the out-of-season tariffs. The trick
is to travel in the shoulder months.

   
ESSENTIALS 

Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Australia
fly direct from Sydney and Melbourne. Rooms start from $299 during the
dry season, until October 31. The Dry Season package costs $339 a night
with breakfast, two drink vouchers and a late check-out. Elan Soho
Suites is at 31 Woods Street, Darwin, phone (08) 8981 0888. See
elansohosuites.com.

 

This review by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age