The hotel that makes the Gold Coast a cool destination once again

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The Location

It's hard to believe that this sun-drenched strip of golden sand could be a mere two hours' flight from Melbourne, where it's grey, windy and drizzly, offering a welcome respite from the cold. QT is a thirty minute drive from Gold Coast airport in Coolangatta to the south, Australia's newest international airport, from which you can get Uber or taxi, or a bus which will link you to a brand new train service that runs practically out front of QT.

From the hotel, it's a five minute walk to Surfers Paradise beach and a ten minute walk to Pacific Fair shopping centre. There's a bike path, and a footpath, that runs along the beach, where locals and tourists take advantage of the year-round sunshine to run, skate, and ride all sorts of different manner of vehicle - three wheeled, fat-tyred - to soak up the sun. There's a real lassiz-faire attitude not found in Melbourne - wear a helmet or don't, ride on the footpath; hire a scooter without a motorbike license. Noone's in a hurry; everyone is friendly, making it easy to slip into holiday mode.

The Space

A huge open foyer on the ground level invites guests and visitors to loiter; admittedly I am not too familiar with what's happening at night in Surfers, but you needn't stray to far when you've got everything you need at the hotel.

Embracing a colourful, beachside can-do attitude, staff are dressed casually in blue shorts and tees. There are several communal spaces from which to worship the sun, filled with hip Acapulco chairs or chic, lime-green velvet armchairs and the walls lined with screen prints - imagine modern Japanese art meets Mexico meets Morocco. The different shapes, colours and textures remind me of Jonathan Adler's worship of pop-culture in his outfits of Californian hotels.

'The lawn' is a sun-drenched sunken lounge for chilling, waiting or reading; The Fixx cafe offers a light breakfast or lunch with a very funky-looking high teas. You can serve yourself fresh lemonade, poured into a bottle with old-school stripey paper straws. Outside, a lawn courtyard with a central, leafless tree that burns fiery red at night; and a cute pool, surrounded by blue and white striped deckchairs with a swim up bar. It's small in size and while empty during the week, Saturdays were a different story with people waiting for chairs. Given we're fighting backpackers for a small square of squalid rocky sand in Melbourne, the beach, a five minute walk away, is definitely a viable alternative here if you can handle the lack of service.

At night, the spacious Stingray bay has live music and an inviting dancefloor.

There's a small shop if you fancy taking some QTs quirks home - such as a white cockatoo lamp. And there's four retro bikes in the foyer which are perfect for cruising beside the beach.

The Room

The rooms are huge and spacious, breezy and light, each with their own little balcony. Flairs of mid century modern add colour and quirk. This room's former life a huge holiday apartment overlooking Surfers Paradise is apparent; a funky lamp or pineapple-shaped candle remind you we're at hip QT.

Big city apartment-dwellers would be envious of the size, the light and the views of this well-furnished but roomy suite which has a separate bedroom and additional toilet. There's a colour scheme at play, mimicking the beach - yellow and blue mirrors match the coloured glasses, which match the pillows on the bed.

The bathroom had has the QT trademark - striking black and white tiles, and four circular mirrors instead of one large, a bath, and enormous bench space to spread out your belongings, equipped with Malin and Goetz toiletries. Beach towels, also black and white, are on loan, and you can purchase emergency thongs hanging behind the door for $25.

There's also a kitchenette, with a Delonghi coffee machine and milk frother, full minibar which includes old-school dominos, pick-up sticks and an emergency bow-tie plus a lemonade making kit - just call concierge for the ingredients (the same lemonade is available ready-made downstairs).

The Food

I'm here for the relaunch of QT's signature Japanese restaurant Yamagen, where a 400-person strong party has drawn the likes of Aussie personalities such as a Bachelor and American actress Amber Heard, who's currently filming nearby, so you can rest assured that it's a big deal for the hotel.

The whole restaurant, which has been on the site for 30 years, has had a facelift to include an expanded bar and a yakitori station. The dark hardwood frame of the modern restaurant has been embellished with rope chairs and lights shaded with nets, a throwback to Japanese fishing villages; walls adorned with bright reds and colourful screen prints found in modern pop culture.

The restaurant's executive chef, Adam Lane, whose resume includes restaurants Tetsuya, Nobu and Nahm, brings a modern twist to Izakaya dining, using trending and hard-to-find Japanese ingredients - think sashimi tacos with yuzu avocado and watermelon radish or kushiyaki with haloumi, smoked honey and bonito.

There are three dining experiences to be had at Yamagen; a sushi counter for authentic omakase; Tableseki, where you can have the breadth of the Yamagen experience, and the bar which focusses on their massive whiskey collection. Some of the prices will make your hair stand on end ($4500 a bottle) - but they are aiming to have the biggest range in Queensland. As a self-professed whiskey-loather, a glass of the smokey, mellow mid-range whiskey had me converted.

The hotel chain's other signature restaurant Bazaar hosts breakfast which offers a healthy selection of cereal, yoghurt, homemade beans, omelettes to order and tiny rosti. Smoothies and juices are served in bottles with stripey straws, and for tea lovers, a half-dozen varieties of T2. On the unhealthy side, you can also get soft serve with a variety of toppings to take away in a cup, and saccharine sweet pastries smothered in white icing and dried fruits. Barista made coffee is available at a additional cost.

Stepping Out

The beach is right on your doorstep, and walking or cycling to the nearest hub of Pacific Fair is easy, but I recommend heading to Burleigh Heads where a number of excellent and non-touristy bars and restaurants have opened. Rick Shores, right on the beach, is an excellent high-end Thai restaurant with unparalleled views of the Gold Coast. The Lockwood is a fun, hard-to-find speakeasy bar that serves great cocktails from 6pm, perhaps even better, the nautically-themed Cambus Wallace over at Nobby Beach which specialises in rum. If you want to venture further, Stradbroke Island is easily accessible; to the south, one of the coast's best restaurants, Fleet, in Brunswick Heads and Byron Bay beckons - an hour away.

The Verdict

QT has managed to meld class and comfort to a place so often associated with daggy 80s culture. Huge rooms and a fantastic restaurant should make Melbourne and Sydneysiders reconsider their winter getaway options.

Highlight

The rooms are perfectly sized, the views incredible and the food - from the shoestring fries at Fixx to the high-end sushi at Yamagen - faultless.

Lowlight

Those who are looking for a flop and drop holiday escaping the winter doldrums may be disappointed by the size of the pool, especially on a Saturday when the deck chairs are scarce and the bar isn't open.

The Essentials

7 Staghorn Ave, Gold Coast, Ph (07) 5584 1200; qthotelsandresorts.com/gold-coast. Rates start from $175 per night.

The writer was a guest of QT