Checking in: Sofitel Wellington
A touch of luxury
Life is certainly magnifique in Wellington and it helps if you're staying at the capital city's newest hotel, its first international luxury accommodation to open in 15 years. Located at the bottom of a very steep Bolton Street, just off The Terrace, Sofitel Wellington is a stone's throw from Wellington landmark, the Beehive that houses the executive wing of the New Zealand Parliament, as well as the Botanic Gardens, which the hotel pays homage to in its décor.
Designed by award-winning New Zealand design firm Space Studios, in collaboration with AccorHotels Director of Interior Design for Asia Pacific, Stephane Lombard, the hotel's botanic theme links local and French heritage by merging inspiration from both Wellington's Botanic Gardens and the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris.
The theme is most evident at Sofitel's signature restaurant, the Jardin Grill, where oversized painterly florals cover the walls and ceiling. A pleasure for all senses, the restaurant also features a statement open plan copper kitchen, headed up by executive chef Grant Dicker, who was most recently at the much-lauded Mint Dining Room in Nelson, New Zealand.
Botanic touches continue up to the guest rooms, where feature walls showcase framed butterfly displays alongside botanical art and illustrations. Rooms are done up in rich earthy tones, further complemented by metallic gold and bronze finishes, which extended to the bathrooms, courtesy of a Lee Broom crystal bulb. Soft down-filled pillows ensure a good night's sleep but if you're fussy about the type of pillows you sleep on, a pillow menu is available, where feather, foam, microfiber or ergonomic pillows are available upon request.
While the hotel might look somewhat compact from the outside, it manages to fit 129 rooms and suites, the Jardin Grill restaurant, a lounge and bar called The Green Room, a So Fit gym and three meeting and event venues across its 14 floors.
Ideally located in the CBD, Sofitel Wellington makes the perfect base to explore New Zealand's capital city.
Sofitel Wellington, 11 Bolton Street, Wellington, New Zealand.
What to do:
Visit New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa, which houses the only colossal squid on display in the world. Currently showing: Gallipoli: The scale of our war, which features life-like large-scale sculptures created by Weta Workshop, the prop company made famous by Peter Jackson's The Lord of The Rings trilogy.
Where to eat:
Ortega Fish Shack and Bar for the freshest seafood, although our waiter also highly recommended the beef fillet. Oysters are a must-have, and make sure to leave space for dessert - it's a tough choice between the Catalan Crêpes and Pear Soufflé. Also try Ti Kouka Café, where brothers Jesse Simpson and Shepherd Elliott place heavy emphasis is on using local, sustainable and organic produce. Try the jerk chicken burger or the sticky BBQ brisket burger, and don't leave without taking a few salted caramel cookies to go (from Leeds Street Bakery, which the brothers also own).
Where to drink:
Billed as Wellington's best kept secret, Hawthorn Lounge is a cosy speakeasy done up like a gentleman's club with leather armchairs and a fireplace has attentive bartenders who will mix up a cocktail, or three, to suit your tastes.
Where to shop:
Popular local fashion designer Karen Walker's flagship store on Wakefield street carries ready-to-wear, accessories and eyewear. Workshop at the Old Bank Arcade is a multi-label store that carries hot labels like Acne, Isabel Marant and Alexander Wang. Or head to Cuba Street for an eclectic mix of vintage shops, bars and novelty shops.