Thomas Bywater visits a lapsed inner-city nunnery that's undergone a miraculous transformation to become a boutique hotel
Location: At the bend of Auckland's Great North Rd by the spire of St Joseph's Catholic Church.
Style: A hotel conversion with plenty of history, humour and eclectic art. A convenient convent "pension" for those suffering from European travel withdrawal.
Perfect for: A stylish, city break with a difference and easy access to Kingsland and Eden Park.
First impressions: Even before you enter the building, there are plenty of hangovers from the Convent's cloistered past. A large stone cruciform and the Sainte Famille still sit over the entrance. However, once inside, the old Grey Lynn mission is far more relaxed. Opposite the reception is the House Bar and a wall full of camp iconographic art.
Rooms: Ranging from Convent Petite to Mother Superior, the 22 studio suites all have names worthy of a Rogers and Hammerstein musical. We stayed in The Sacristy, a two-room studio.
It was distressed by design - high ceilings, exposed brickwork and patchy plasterwork gave it the impression of a crumbling Gothic abbey. In a good way.
The dark-framed windows sell the Italianate convent atmosphere. It's as close to a Florentine "Room With a View" as you'll get in Auckland.
Windows open up at eye level with the Mother Mary on St Joseph's Catholic Church on the one side, and have a view towards Eden Park grounds on the other. Oriented around the hotel's central piazza-like space, another interior window looks down on the busy tables of diners.
The main bedroom contains large wardrobes, a sofa and a modest kitchenette with kettle, and toaster tucked away for when needed. Like much of the hotel, furniture has been reclaimed from another period. The very comfortable and modern bed is paired with a carved, dark wooden headboard that wouldn't look out of place in the palazzo of Pope Francis.
The second, single bed in the anteroom is simpler. It can be converted to a cot, used for children or those prone to snoring.
Bathroom: The studio's stone basin, industrial-looking copper coloured pipes and metal ornamented mirror continued the theme into the bathroom. Ashley & Co toiletries were supplied in generous hand dispensers and in the shower unit.
Food & drink: The Convent shares space with Italian restaurant Ada. You can't miss the constant stream of diners leading in and out of the doors. Named for the patron saint of nuns, it serves relaxed, Italian-inspired fare. You'll have to be equally relaxed about what dishes reach you and in what order. Walk-in tables are saved for hotel guests, where possible. But what's the hurry? Have another Negroni.
Accessibility: The Convent's Sanctuary Suite on the ground floor is slightly modified to allow for wheelchair access, with additional space and an open shower.
Facilities: Don't let the crumbling walls fool you. It's all folly. There are Wi-Fi, Bluetooth speakers and Netflix-enabled smart TVs in each room. Guest parking is also available.
In the neighbourhood: At the quieter end of Great North Rd, the Convent is a short cab ride away from Ponsonby's restaurants or an appetite-building 15-minute walk to Kingsland and the Eden Park Stadium.
Sustainability: Giving a new lease of life to the old convent, Andy Davies' refurbishment has done plenty to restore and reuse original materials where possible. However, the use of LED and electricity saving measures have helped restore the old building to a greener and energy-leaner version of the 1922 mission.
Get thee to this nunnery!
454 Great North Road, Grey Lynn, Auckland