Pamela Wade checks into the recently-opened Oaks Wellington Hotel.
The lobby is typical of the whole hotel — light, airy and contemporary. Set back from the bustle of Courtenay Place, it's immediately quiet and soothing; and, staffed 24 hours, there's always a friendly face ready with help and advice. Framed photographs show the building's 1922 origins as a Ford vehicle assembly plant — now it has been completely transformed into a 4.5-star, nine-storey hotel, which opened in September.
Room: An Executive Room City View, the window faced the harbour but the seventh floor wasn't quite high enough to show the water beyond the Reading Cinemas opposite. Spacious and unfussy, there was a big-screen smart TV, a coffee machine and electric jug, a table and chairs, and pleasingly easy-to-find switches for the excellent lighting. The chairs are too upright for lounging, but the bed is right there, inviting, comfortable, sprawling. The hotel offers a range of rooms including two-bedroom suites and apartments, some with kitchenettes and open balconies. Some rooms have no windows.
Price: For this room, from $200.
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What's in the neighbourhood? This is the Oaks Hotel's greatest asset. Set plumb in the middle of Courtenay Place, most of Wellington's attractions, and its business centre, are within walking distance. Te Papa and the waterfront are just two blocks away, as is quirky Cuba St. There are restaurants, bars, breweries and coffee roasteries in every direction, interesting little shops and, on Sundays, the colourful Harbourside Produce Market nearby, alongside a row of irresistible food trucks offering a wide range of cuisines.
Toiletries: For washing and moisturising there is a choice of Native Earth, or Antipodes Fig and Feijoa products, both brands offered in small individual bottles, although environmentally friendlier pump dispensers are currently being researched.
Food and drink: The breakfast buffet in the Oak and Vine restaurant offers the usual selection of hot and cold options in a relatively narrow range, but is perfectly adequate. The enthusiastic chef gets into his stride however at lunch and especially dinner, when the dishes are inventive, well-flavoured and beautifully presented. The 12-hour lamb, artistically served on a sharing board, is a triumph; but be sure to leave room for the tarte tatin with butterscotch sauce and coconut icecream afterwards.
The bed: Made up of twin beds pushed together, you might expect to notice the join down the middle but, even when lying in full starfish mode, the mattress toppers ensure soft and uninterrupted comfort. The sheets are sensuously smooth, the duvet cosy and the pillows puffy, offering a choice of two sizes and densities, just perfect.
Bathroom: The main wall is glass, but with a reassuringly generous frosted modesty panel right across it. The shower is helpfully set for the monsoon head to be the second option, so there is no unexpected dousing.
Facilities: There is a gym, sparsely equipped with a running machine and a range of weights. There are conference facilities for business meetings, after which everyone can repair to the bar for social time. The hotel has a car park and offers a baby-sitting service.
I loved: The pillows, the sheets, the soft mattress, the cosy duvet … that bed was hard to leave.
WiFi: Free, fast fibre with an even faster option available to guests.
Perfect for: Being so close to both business and pleasure, but pleasingly quiet too.