Hyatt Place, Essendon Fields
Ostensibly an airport hotel, Hyatt Place is actually located at Essendon Fields, next to Essendon Airport, not at Melbourne International Airport. It's about 10 minutes away by car, taxi or shuttle bus (the hotel provides a complimentary shuttle). The area, which only officially became in 2008, is still under development. Mostly used for commercial buildings, some retail and other sites are starting to open in the area.
Opened in June this year, this is the first hotel under the Hyatt Place brand in Australia and it still looks and feels like it's brand new. Hyatt Place is aimed squarely at business travellers and the Essendon Fields building has all the sleek, minimalist design you would expect from a business hotel. The large lobby of white marble offers a lounge and several meeting places, as well as being where breakfast is served. There are 166 rooms in total, some offering views of the city, while others let you watch the planes come in to land (though you won't hear them through the solid walls and windows). There's also a 24-hour gym.
It's spacious, comfortable and bright, with a queen bed, large corner sofa, long desk and ample storage space. The minibar is empty apart from some milk for those wishing to use the tea and coffee making facilities. A large flatscreen TV is mounted on the wall above the desk. The desk chair is comfortable but being able to adjust its height would be useful. The bathroom is roomy enough, with a large shower (no bath) and as many towels as you could possibly want. One quibble is the lack of soap dish - it's clear from the circular marks on the benchtop that previous guests have also not known what to do with it.
The hotel's restaurant Mr McCracken has just opened, under the supervision of chef and owner Matt Dawson. It aims to strike a balance between corporate and casual, which it achieves through a mix of fine dining dishes and pub grub. The Napoli-style pizzas, featuring slow fermentation, 72-hour dough (resulting in low yeast, lighter crust) are a highlight.
Meals can be also ordered from the Gallery, a small kitchen located in the hotel lobby which serves up a limited menu of sandwiches, pasta, curry and salads. Rather than room service, you order over the phone and then collect your meal yourself. While this means there's little delay (I have experienced some interminably long waits for room service at some hotels) it also can be a little impractical trying to get your meal back up to your room. The hotel may not do room service, but they need to offer trays with lids for guests to transport their food (my pasta was getting cold by the time I got back). Breakfast is complimentary and is a small buffet, including hot bacon, sausages and scrambled eggs, along with continental choices.
While you're quite close to the airport and some distance from town, it's not all that difficult to get into the city. Rather than fight the traffic, take the No. 59 tram (which runs right by the hotel) to Essendon Station and switch to a train. Alternatively there's a free Essendon Fields bus that also takes you to the station. The travel time is about 40 minutes, which in peak hour is just as fast as driving.
Closer to the hotel itself, the vast DFO factory outlet shopping centre is a few minutes' drive away for those looking for bargains. See dfo.com.au/essendon/
If you want to get in a flying mood before heading to the airport, a short walk across the street takes you to the Trans Australia Airlines Museum. Supported by Qantas and located at the airline's training centre, this small museum is dedicated to TAA, the former domestic airline that merged with Qantas in 1992. See taamuseum.org.au
While not located at Melbourne Airport itself, Hyatt Place is a stylish new property for those looking to avoid battling traffic to get a flight. The complimentary shuttle and breakfast are great selling points, along with relatively quick public transport access to the city (something Melbourne Airport doesn't have). Some minor teething problems will likely be sorted quickly.
Rooms at Hyatt Place start from $195 per night. See melbourneessendonfields.place.hyatt.com
Getting to the airport in just 10 minutes for an early morning flight, despite heavy traffic.
Struggling to carry my room service back to my room.
The writer stayed as a guest of Hyatt Place Essendon Fields.