I have a confession to make. I have rarely spent over $265 on a hotel room.
As someone who has the financial management skills of a toddler, the five-star lifestyle isn't really one I've been able to afford. Motor inns and Airbnbs have been more my speed.
But recently I decided to push the boat out and book a night at Jackalope on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula.
The hotel opened to much fanfare in 2017 — shortly after it threw open its (artfully designed) doors it was named Australia's Hotel of the Year by Gourmet Traveller.
The following year it was the only Australian hotel to appear on the Condé Nast Traveler's Hot List. It's widely regarded as one of the country's best destination hotels … and because of that, they can pretty much charge what they like.
We booked a night during off-peak season. The midweek special for the lowest tier "terrace" room was $570 a night (and please note this room looks onto the carpark at the rear of the property). But feeling like that cashed-up Monopoly bloke in the top hat, I went right ahead and booked a room.
Upon arrival, first impressions are strong. It's a visually stunning place to drive up to. Set among perfectly manicured grape vines in a secluded spot on the peninsula, the sleek building clad in dark aluminium is a thing of beauty. The seven-metre tall black Jackalope sculpture by artist Emily Floyd bids a formidable welcome at the front door.
Check-in was a weirdly drawn-out process, with just one staff member on the desk welcoming a couple who had a list of questions about the Mornington Peninsula they appeared to have been developing over the past decade.
Any irritation about our remarkably slow check-in passed when they informed us we had been upgraded to a vineyard room (usually this room would cost from $819 midweek). The prospect of looking out onto sun-dappled grapes instead of my dusty 2009 Holden Astra certainly put a spring in our step.
Upon arrival you are offered a welcome drink that you can gaily guzzle in the hotel bar, an eclectic space with gold-covered chairs, a blue pool table and busts with agate where their faces should be.
To be perfectly honest, the room itself was slightly underwhelming. Design-wise, they have taken the dark tones and really run with it — there's more charcoal here than a chicken shop.
But the problem with charcoal paint is you can plainly see every scuff mark, so the walls in the room showed up numerous dings and scrapes, making it look a little shopworn.
The bathroom is one of those glass cube designs that allows you to wave at your friend watching telly while you're on the toilet. It is decked out with bespoke Hunter Lab toiletries and a double-headed rain shower. It was mildly disappointing there was no bath, which I figured would be present in a room of this price range, but that's really on me for not checking the room description properly.
The room has a strong tech component, including a Samsung tablet, Bose Bluetooth speakers and a good selection of free on-demand movies.
But sometimes with clever hi-tech hotel rooms they get the better of you — we spent a fun 15 minutes blindly bumping into each other while trying to locate the room's light switch. Being able to illuminate a room should not be such cause for celebration. (Having said this, the hotel does offer a fine example of high tech being thrilling. The lobby bathroom has those Star Trek doors that quickly and silently slide open when you approach them, which is an enormous novelty after two martinis.)
Another great joy of staying at a hotel is going full Hugh Hefner and swanning about in a plush robe. A friend of mind judges a hotel largely on the quality of their robe … unfortunately she would have taken marks of Jackalope for their (charcoal-coloured) offering.
They were super worn and pilly and left a weird black lint all over everything they came into contact with.
Huge positives were the complimentary mini bar, which included chips, cans of cider, beer, vodka and soda, and a rainbow-hued array of Kirk's soft drinks.
The bed was a cracker — one of those ones that makes you wonder why you don't spring for a plush new bed back home. The nightly turndown service included a heavenly Mecca Cosmetica face mist to spritz yourself with in the morning.
The piece de resistance at Jackalope is the damn beautiful pool and spa overlooking the vines. One issue with Jackalope's location on the Mornington Peninsula is the climate. It's darn cold here for a large portion of the year, and the small spa will be the only part of this hero area that is usable.
Pleasingly, our room had a lovely balcony that looked out over the pool. Sipping champagne in the spa and watching an autumn sunset while pretending we're more successful than we actually are was one of the things we were fantasising about … but we were socially cockblocked from the experience. The problem with a hotel spa is the Mexican standoff that comes when there is a couple already in it. It's a bold individual who breaks up that peaceful dynamic. So we just sat on the balcony watching them, willing them with our laser eyes to leave. But they never did, so we stayed dry and resentful.
The hotel doesn't have a gym, which has bemused some visitors on TripAdvisor, but as someone who has a strong aversion to physical activity, this just alleviated any feeling of guilt walking past it on the way to yet another meal.
Food and wine is one of the Mornington Peninsula's biggest drawcards, and the team at Jackalope are doing their best to put themselves on the culinary map.
We hit their fine-dining restaurant Doot Doot Doot for dinner and had an excellent degustation, but if you want something more low-key, the adjacent winery restaurant and cellar door Rare Hare gets strong reviews.
Breakfast is included in the room rates and isn't your usual hotel buffet fare. Instead, there is a small selection of pastries, mueslis, fruits and juices spread out, and you can choose one hot item a la carte. There are some slightly left-of-centre offerings on the breakfast menu, including a cold soba noodle salad bowl and a lamb curry. My companion downed the lamb curry with his long black and, after finishing, broke out in a sweat and declared there's a reason people don't usually eat lamb curry with coffee first thing in the morning.
When checking out — presumably to soften the blow of the bill — we were given a leather Jackalope luggage tag on departure, which was a nice touch and now makes me look like I roll with a better crowd when I'm travelling.
Besides the slightly slow check-in, the service at Jackalope couldn't be faulted. Upon learning we had a lunch booking elsewhere on our first day, staff provided a slick Lexus and driver to take us to and from the venue. I guess it's the little touches like this that elevate you to five-star status and get you on those impressive Condé Nast lists.