For my first hotel review in over 4 years it's nice to be able to write about a hotel that I look forward to coming back to someday, despite a couple of minor shortcomings.
The Hotel Grand Chancellor (HGC) is not in the centre of town but if you've been to Hobart you'll know that "centre of town" isn't as significant a concept as it is in larger cities. And if you haven't yet, you will. It's located on the edge of the river directly opposite Victoria Dock and Constitution Dock, the ending point for the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race. (Don't expect to easily get a room there while that's on unless you book way, way ahead and are prepared to pay for it. Pay a LOT for it.) It's also near a wide range of very good eateries, some of which I'll review separately. (But special mention needs to be made of The Drunken Admiral for seafood (on the dock right across from the HGC) and The Mill On Morrison tapas bar (call it a 5 to 10 minute walk).) Similarly a number of cruise operators are only a short stroll away, as is the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (though that will be closed for renovations until early 2013) and the visitors' centre is just down the road. Finally it's only a 10 minute walk from the Salamanca Markets on Saturday which I'd encourage you to assign a full day for if possible.
The hotel's reception is located on Davey Street, which runs along the water side and is an extremely busy one way street. Stay in the right lane, as the hotel check-in stopping zone will be on that side. (And just to confuse things, you enter from the second of the two driveways that you come to, not the first.) Here's where the bad start was.
I'm not singling out the HGC for this, but I still find it astonishing that when you check into a hotel after booking your room through an on line agency (as is the fashion in the second decade of the 21st century), you still have to spend time writing, with your hand holding a latter day quill, your address, e-mail address, phone number and so on onto a piece of dead tree. This is of course after you had already entered all of that information when you made the booking. You KNOW that they have that information from the booking web site (they sometimes call or e-mail you about something before you arrive), but you STILL have to waste time and hand cramps manually filling it out when you check in. Memo to hotel managements throughout the country and the HGC's as well: data interfaces, they're not THAT hard to code.
The second negative was that although you check in on Davey Street, the car park entrance is in fact on Macquarie Street which runs behind the hotel. After checking in you need to pull back onto Davey Street, turn right two intersections down onto Argyle Street, then right again into Macquarie Street which is also one way. Again, stay on the right. Bear with me, that's not in itself the problem. When we got there a sign indicated that the car park was "Full". Back to reception we went to ask "what now?", only to be told that it wasn't really full but since it was a public car park as well they had closed it to non-guests. Methinks that a "Hotel Guests Only" sign as an alternative to the "Full" one might be more apt, although as an alternative I'd settle for a telepathic implant to help me tell the difference between "really Full" and "not really Full just signed that way". Back we went and found a parking spot. The car park isn't all that small but nor is it huge. I didn't count the spaces but I had no problem finding a parking space during our stay, however I don't know how it would cope if the hotel was holding a convention or three. The larger issue is that there is no lift (or even a ramp) from the car park to the lobby, much less your room. You therefore have to lug your bags up a flight of stairs back to the lobby. How it was designed this way, I have no idea. The staff do offer to help you if you happen to encounter them down there, but that's not really the point since you won't always find one there anyway. For the mobility-impaired travelling as a couple or group (in fact even if you aren't impaired) I'd suggest that you unload the car in the check-in spot outside the lobby; one of you can stay with the bags while the other parks. The other option is to use valet parking which was $15 per night as opposed to the $8 per night for DIY parking. When you check out remember that you'll need to retain at least one key card to get out of the car park; the card can then be deposited in a box next to the exit.
The reception floor consists of reception itself, an art gallery, a hair stylist's shop, the Tasman restaurant, the Atrium bar (open about 10 until "late"), and some conference facilities. It's attractively laid out.
The rooms are on levels 10 to 20, though "1 to 9" don't exist unless they constitute the floors in the other wing. We had a harbour view room on level 20 (really the 10th or 11th floor, depending on how you count it) which had an excellent view as you can see from the photos. (There is also a foyer area near the lifts which, on our floor at least, also had a set of binoculars which allowed you to scope out the view in detail.) Although being on the side nearest to a main road, there was no issue with noise; you might hear the occasional siren but that's about it. The windows seemed quite thick (and hung with thick curtains to further block out noise if you want).
The rooms on the other side of the building are promoted as Mountain View rooms. There was a difference of about $35 per night in the tariffs so you can decide whether the extra is worth it; for a special trip I was more than happy with my choice. I didn't do a measurement of the room but it was certainly spacious enough for two to stay comfortably. Importantly, the bed is a full king size on a king size base which made it extremely comfortable compared to some other hotels' "kings" which are really two singles pushed together.
As for the rest of the room, going from the entrance inward there were wardrobes with full length mirrors on the right. The wardrobes contained the usual accessories such as an ironing board, extra blankets and pillows, mini-bar and so on. What was missing was a safe, which I was not best pleased about in a hotel of this size especially as even the much smaller lodge resort that we stayed at after leaving the HGC for Port Arthur had one. I'd expect safes as a standard in 4 star and higher these days.
On the left were four unlabelled light switches, two of which operated the light and fan in the bathroom which is also on the left. The other two operate room lights. Just flip them until you figure out which does which. You need to have your access card inserted into a slot just beyond the bathroom to use the air conditioning and some of the lights. Near the slot is a digital control for the air conditioning which I found worked well and was very easy to use, even had full instructions not been included in the guest directory... which they were. (Guest directories are perfunctory in some hotels but the HGC's was nice and extensive. Sometimes it's the little things that count, like the directory, the well-designed reading lights over the bed, and the mints that the HGC also leave for you.) About the only thing that I didn't find that easy to use was the alarm in the clock-radio-telephone, and I'd guess that the previous guest didn't either since the power to the alarm clock component of it was unplugged.
The bathroom had a combined bath/shower. The bath was comfortable enough for one, but rather narrow for two (er, I would assume, not that I'd KNOW you understand) and the showerhead was a rather unusual flat plate design directly over the bath. The bath's water nozzle is located at the far end of the bath (meaning that you can't sit with your back against that end) and has an unusual flattened rectangle design, with the taps for both shower and bath being combined into a single control above that. This involves the usual fiddling around to work out how to switch between bath and shower water flow, though it's reasonably intuitive. There's a small but adequate soap rack, and a fairly sturdy shower rail for anyone who's a bit unsteady on their feet. The basin is built into a substantial shelf which provides plenty of storage space for toiletries. Unfortunately the basin itself is built more for aesthetics than practicality. It's relatively flat on the bottom so it looks good but doesn't drain well. You end up with a layer of shaving bristles at the bottom of it each morning if you don't take some extra time to rinse them out. Minor, but irritating. On the other hand the towel racks (for there are many rails in the rack) are very well thought out. Overall the bathroom is very clean, very stylish (mostly a marble-look surface), more than spacious enough, and gets a thumbs up.
The main room was painted white with tasteful canvas-printed artwork, with dark wood furniture. There's a standard low table for placing your suitcases on, alongside which was a wide desk which also holds the medium-sized flat screen television (but still leaves plenty of room to work). The dining room-style chair in front of that desk also has a dark wood frame; I hesitate to make a guess at what the fabric is but I found it comfortable enough to sit on. The same fabric will be found in a single seater armchair and double seater lounge (both comfortable) which were to the side of the bed, with a small glass-topped coffee table nearby.
There was a further dedicated work desk in front of the window, with the centre section of it being some kind of glass (but not the clear kind that merely serves to absorb finger marks); it's practical and good to look at. The desk also had a telephone and desk lamp. The chair in this case was a leather-look work chair, which was also comfortable and certainly a better option than the dining chair for doing extensive work.
The large desk contained some drawers, and more can be found in the two bedside tables. When combined with the main wardrobe, you shouldn't want for storage space for a typical stay. Similarly there were at least half a dozen power points that could be found around the room so you should be able to find a place to charge notebooks, smartphones and the like.
I didn't check whether there was an additional charge for wireless internet in the room, since it wasn't available anyway; there was a note on the work desk saying that it would be available "soon", so it was academic. The note did mention that there is complimentary WiFi in the lobby. (I rarely use hotel WiFi anyway since I have a USB dongle modem and distrust some hotels' WiFi security, though I've no reason to suspect any issue with the HGC's. I was therefore less bothered by this than some may be.) Interestingly the web site did indicate that there were charges for both the room and lobby WiFi; whether that's out of date or whether it was only complementary because it wasn't available in the room isn't clear.
The hotel's Tasman Restaurant, located on the ground floor and overlooking the harbour, was a mixed bag. On the first night they didn't have our booking when we arrived, but they did manage to "squeeze" us in. (Another couple arrived a while after us and were told that there would be no openings until 8:45. I looked around at the less than a dozen occupied tables and the vast collection of empty ones and thought "Yes, I can see that".) The service was friendly, enthusiastic... and very, very hit and miss. We ordered focaccia and dips ($5) and goats cheese marshmallow with green asparagus and roast hazelnuts ($17) as shared entrees. The focaccia sat there for 5 to 10 minutes before the other dish rocked up and it was realised that some share plates, or indeed plates of any description, may be somewhat useful. On more than one occasion we were promised that something (water, dessert menu, etc) would be delivered "straight away" when in fact it turned up 5 to 10 minutes later, or not at all until a second request was made. However the food was very good; we had plate grilled herb and parmesan fish ($26) as the main, and found it to be made of fresh, tasty ingredients (being right across the road from a fishing fleet probably helps), nicely prepared, and decently sized. Dessert was chocolate panna cotta with spiced cherries ($12) which was more than fine as well. Most entrees are in the $17-$21 range, most mains in the $29-$34 range (ours was the lowest aside from the Risotto, and steaks are up to $38), most desserts are $9 to $12 (cheese plates were either $18 or $26) and sides were $7. So no, it's not budget dining but you're probably staying here for a treat rather than a backpacking experience.
We also went there for breakfast; full buffet on the first morning ($28.50pp) and continental ($21.50pp) on the later two. (Not because of dissatisfaction with the full one, simply because we'd been pushing the kilojoule intake a bit and were winding it back.) The full includes the usual fare for such a breakfast but also has an egg cook to prepare your eggs any way you like them. (And I like them poached, which can be hard to get. They were well done here.) The continental buffet was as extensive as you'd expect, with a good range of cereals and bakery items including some very fine croissants which I'd recommend trying with the local jams. The coffee was a rather odd arrangement; there is no urn or pots, instead you have to find a free staff member and ask them for it. They bring you a coffee plunger which has enough for two cups.
The view from the Tasman is good rather than great. Bear in mind that it's on the ground floor and you're looking across Davey street. It's is at the bottom left of my shot of the hotel building unless it was cropped out during the upload. (The thumbnails look like they may have been cropped, but it's been a while since I've done this so I can't be sure.) I do recommend a seat away from the window if you're having breakfast since the glare can get a little overpowering otherwise.
In some past reviews I've complained about the trend toward outsourcing hotel gym and pool facilities to supposed "fitness clubs" which open limited hours, and generally hours which are not "hotel guest-friendly". No such complaints here. There is an indoor pool (see photograph) which runs from 1.2 metres to 1.7metres deep (the latter depth I'm not keen on), and which is housed in a glassy atrium which allows sunlight in. (See photo.) There was also a decent sized gym which unfortunately I couldn't get a shot of since there was always at least one person in there using it. The gym had a couple of cross trainers and other types of aerobic machines (treadmills, etc) as well as fixed weight machines and free weights. I would have loved to have used it but alas we were on too tight a time line. It's open from 05:00 to 22:00 (10pm) which are the kind of hours that a hotel gym SHOULD be open, if some of the hotels that I've reviewed previously could please take note.
I'm a little torn because I do like to try different hotels while away which is why, when we returned to Hobart from Port Arthur, I booked in at a different one. That one (Hotel Collins, there, you pried it out of me) was a good enough hotel but truth be told, I wish now that I'd come back to the HGC. And similarly the next time we go to Hobart, much as I'd like to see how another of the many Hobart hotels fare, I can't imagine any of them being a better base than the HGC. The location is good, the views (on the harbour side at least) are great, the restaurant isn't cheap and the service is variable but the food is very good and it's worth trying, the gym and pool are excellent, the rooms are spotless and modern, the beds extremely comfortable, the parking garage and absence of in-room safes are... not so great, and do check to confirm what the current situation is with the WiFi if that's important to you. Finally it's not budget accommodation; some other city hotels will be cheaper, but it's not outrageously expensive either.
I'd happily recommend the HGC, and do plan to return.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- When it comes to staying in Hobart the only place to be is on the waterfront at Hotel Grand Chancellor Hobart, featuring some of the best views in the city. Overlooking the River Derwent and Constitution Dock, this Tasmanian hotel is just minutes away from popular attractions like Salamanca Place, Battery Point and the Central Business District, but intimate enough to ensure a perfectly relaxing experience. Enjoy the comfort, space and facilities of one of Hobart’s largest hotels. Work out in our state-of-the-art fitness centre or enjoy a rejuvenating swim in the heated indoor pool. Meet for drinks in The Atrium Lounge or reserve a table at the popular Restaurant Tasman, where magnificent harbour views meet contemporary cuisine. For meetings and special events, the hotel offers a range of meeting rooms from intimate boardrooms and meeting spaces right up to major convention facilities. Uncover the best of Hobart at Hotel Grand Chancellor, which brings the perfect measure of style and substance to accommodation on the waterfront. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Hobart Grand Chancellor
- Grand Chancellor Hobart
- Grand Chancellor Hotel Hobart Tasmania