What does it take to breathe life again into buildings that have lain dormant for the past 20 years? An AUS$110 million kiss in restoration works, it seems, holds the key to awakening this sleeping beauty. Under the masterful hand of Kerry Hill Architects, what was once a historic post office, land titles office, and treasury building, has morphed into one of the most sought-after addresses for the well-heeled traveller passing through Perth. COMO The Treasury is barely two months old, but it has already raced ahead of 74 other properties to emerge as TripAdvisor's top hotel in Perth.
The hotel also heralds the first venture on Australian soil for homegrown hospitality brand COMO Hotels & Resorts. Perth, with a population of no more than two million, might seem like an unorthodox location to debut a brand. Why not plant a flag in Melbourne or Sydney? Well, dig a little deeper and you'll find tectonic shifts underway. 13 city-wide projects, ranging from rejuvenating forgotten beaches to converting an old power plant into a waterfront locale, will help the city shed its image as a sleepy destination. Qantas, Australia's national carrier, is also set to ply its new Boeing 787-9 between London and Perth — a 19-hour direct flight covering over 14,000 kilometres. Closer to home, Perth continues to be the nearest Australian city to Singapore, bridged only by a five-hour flight, while the Margaret River region — a three-hour drive from Perth — continues to draw gourmands the world over.
An architectural feat
When the developers first explored the building, they found offices that remained in situ, unmolested by time. Boxes of documents, thick with dust, lay next to forgotten papers fanned out across the floor. After surveying the buildings, Kerry Hill Architects wasted no time in restoring the space to its former 19th century glory. Cantilevered balconies channeling a neo-Renaissance style sit alongside dormer windows and Victorian roofs laced with copper trimmings. While over 95% of the original building remains, the use of steel frames and glass introduce a modern refrain to the property, lending it a stately yet contemporary air.
Over a period of five years, the architects undertook the monumental task of conjoining the three Victorian stone and brick buildings, reworking stately offices into spacious, modern rooms. Today, the hotel's 48 rooms stretch across four flours, each moulded to the framework of the building, thus playing out in a variety of unique configurations. The rooms, however, share a common trait — they are some of the most spacious you'll find in Perth. Room sizes here begin at 55 square metres for a City room and go up to 120 square metres for the COMO Suite, the hotel's most luxurious offering.
A contemporary cocoon
The idea of heritage buildings might call to mind creaky floorboards and odd-sized fixtures, but here's where COMO's brand of understated luxury comes into play. Every element in the room has been installed with the traveller's comfort in mind. A soothing Muji-esque colour palette of muted neutrals and soft pastels is played up only by the magnificent amount of light that comes through the windows.
You won't find any art in the rooms. The windows in each room frame the surroundings beyond, be it the colourful Stirling Garden or historic St George's Cathedral. The windows can be opened as well should you wish to let in some Spring air. When the temperature falls, your toes will thank the heated tiles in the bathroom.
Playing with scale and light, the spacious bedroom is surpassed only by the equally vast bathrooms. Honeycomb tiles set the stage for rain showers and free-standing bathtubs. As with other COMO properties around the world, expect nothing less than COMO Shambhala amenities that invigorate with touches of eucalyptus, geranium, and lavender.
In-room technology is as smart as you need it to be. Built-in USB ports (which should really be mandatory for all hotels) sit conveniently by the bedside so that you can charge your phone while you sleep, while Bluetooth-enabled Tivoli speakers stream your favourite tunes from any device. Sheer and black-out blinds unfurl at the push of a button while readily available HDMI cables allow you to sync your laptop to the television. What I didn't expect to find was complimentary access to Press Reader, a digital news portal which opened up a whole world of over 4,000 newspapers and magazines — right from my laptop and handphone.
Taste the land
From rich, smooth honeycakes to hand-crafted chocolate truffles, The welcome and turn-down treats are sourced from local producers that have been invited to set up their stores within the building itself. This unshakeable sense of place carries through to mini bar, which stocks local craft beers and bottle juices on a complimentary basis.
This celebration of Australia produce is a motif that runs through the property. Over at Post, the hotel's all-day dining restaurant, seasonal produce from the land and sea works its way into modern Aussie fare and healthful COMO Shambhala cuisine.
Wildflower, the exquisite roof-top restaurant helmed by Executive Chef Jed Gerrard serves as the perfect canvas for West Australian ingredients. You'll find beetroot cooked in Jarrah ash and juicy scampi from Point Sampson grilled to perfection.
Elsewhere in the building, Petition Kitchen serves up playful sharing plates that underscore the flavours of the land. Think raw kingfish brightened with a drizzle of ginger vinaigrette and rich, flavourful heirloom tomatoes tossed with salsa verde.
The only restaurant departing from the Aussie refrain is David Thompson's Long Chim. As with his Singapore outpost, Thompson continues to bring his brand of Thai street food to the foodies in Perth. His fiery larb (minced meat salad) might scorch the Australian palate, but judging by how the joint is continually packed to the rafters, this Aussie chef's homecoming is certainly a long time coming.