Businesslike in Brisbane: A Review of The Westin Hotel
A hotel boom has hit Brisbane in the last few months. Among the properties to open were the colorful W Brisbane, a new incarnation of the Emporium Hotel in the South Bank district, the rockstar-themed Ovolo The Valley and the luxurious, resort-style Calile Hotel on James Street. So you might have missed the moment in November when the Westin Brisbane quietly opened its doors. However, the hotel, with 260 guest rooms and 39 suites, is a solid points option in the central business district.
I just needed a hotel for a single night in Brisbane at the beginning of December, a few weeks after the Westin opened. For the date I was looking at, room rates were $181 for standard room with a king bed. Interestingly enough, that rate was a special opening offer that would allow me to cancel up to 48 hours before my stay and included a AU$40 AUD ($30) food-and-beverage credit.
A nonrefundable prepaid rate that would normally be the cheapest was actually $8 more expensive, and a prepaid rate with breakfast was $26 more expensive. The hotel was a Marriott Category 4 property that required 25,000 points per award night.
I just booked the special paid rate, since it was within my budget, and used my Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay and earn 3x points per dollar. I also earned 12.5x points per dollar as a Marriott Gold elite.
The Westin Brisbane was in the heart of the city’s CBD, or central business district, on one of the main roads, Mary Street. It was two blocks from the beautiful Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, and just a few blocks from the riverfront. It took about 10 to 15 minutes to walk to the museums along South Bank, and took me about 20 minutes to walk to the restaurants and bars of Fortitude Valley to the northeast.
I flew into Brisbane on the afternoon of my stay and took the Brisbane Airtrain to the city’s central station. The ride took 20 minutes and cost AU$18.50 ($13). An Uber fare from the airport to the city would have been about $AU40 ($30), so that saved me some money.
The walk to the hotel from the station took less than 10 minutes and was mostly downhill. All told, it took me an hour from the time I deplaned to the time I checked in.
The entrance to the hotel was odd. There was a sort of hidden entrance off Mary Street. Next to that was the hotel’s lobby bar. Then the main driveway and door was on the other side of this. To get there, though, you could either take an elevator from the street up half a level or just walk up a short set of stairs. That’s what I did, and that’s where the bell desk was.
I thought it should have been in front of the stairs, instead, so that the bellmen could help you with your luggage sooner. When they saw me lugging my bag up the stairs, they offered to help, but I was already wheeling it past them and into the lobby. The lobby was small, and most of this level was taken up by a cocktail bar called The Charles’, named after aviator Charles Kingsford Smith. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Sydney’s airport (SYD) is also named after him.
The reception area included a series of high-backed velvet benches built into the wall.
There were two counters that served as the reception desks, and no one else was checking in when I arrived, so two agents ended up helping me. The whole space was characterized by curved lines and an open floor plan.
The desk agents told me about the hotel’s facilities, thanked me for my Gold status and gave me my room key. I had not been given an upgrade, but I didn’t really care. I did, however, get my 500-point welcome bonus and a guaranteed late checkout.
I walked over to the bank of elevators and headed up to my room on the 12th floor. Guest rooms were on the fourth through 16th floors.
The hallways zigzagged, which I found cut down on noise from other guests.
The hotel site said guest rooms were 366 square feet, and that felt about right.
The main room contained the Westin Heavenly bed, dressed as usual in white Heavenly bedding linens.
I got a good night’s sleep, though the pillows were very firm, probably because they were still new.
To either side of the bed were nightstands with small lamps, power ports and USB ports.
Hotels in Australia don’t tend to have international outlets, but if you don’t have your own adapter, you can borrow the one from the minibar. Just be sure not to leave it. so you don’t get charged!
There was a packet with a tube of lavender balm that you could sprinkle on your skin or the pillows to set a sense of calm before bed.
Between the bed and windows was a small desk with more outlets and a colorful contemporary painting mounted on the wall.
An armchair, ottoman, standing lamp and side table were laid out along this wall, which made it a good place to work if you didn’t want to sit at the desk.
I liked that the room had floor-to-ceiling windows, which took advantage of the natural light. However, it would have been nicer if the curtains had been automated. As it was, it was hard to close them all the way. since I had to maneuver around the furniture on this side of the room.
The view was OK. I could just make out the river between other buildings.
The 55-inch television was mounted in a frame on the wall opposite the bed and offered Chromecast, though I didn’t connect.
Back toward the door, there was a built-in set of shelves. There was a Nespresso machine on the counter, and pods of coffee and sugar in one of the cabinets, plus creamer in the refrigerator.
The fridge was a pullout model near the floor and contained beer, wine, soda and water.
The nonperishable goods included regionally produced snacks and premixed cocktails created by the Everleigh Bottling Co.
Next to that was the closet, with plenty of room for hanging clothes, a few drawers and a built-in safe
What did I find most interesting? A packet of children’s games and toys in case you needed something like this in a pinch.
The bathroom was spacious. The floors and walls were done in a concrete-like laminate, while the sink counter was marble.
There were two bottles of water and various Westin Heavenly-branded white-tea aloe products.
The toilet was in a separate chamber with a frosted-glass door.
There was no bathtub. The shower was half enclosed with a glass wall and had overhead and handheld shower heads. There was also a loofah in there.
I thought the room was nice, in a standardized, Westin kind of way. I did give it points for the distinctive minibar items, though, and also the artwork. Plus, the Wi-Fi was speedy, which I appreciated.
Food and Beverage
The hotel’s main restaurant was called Eden’s Table and was on the first floor, one floor up from the street.
It was open most of the day, with short breaks between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner.
The first part of the dining room had a huge wall of windows overlooking the street and an open kitchen where the breakfast buffet was set up in the morning.
Around the corner was another dining room for spillover. I liked this one better since it was quieter and there was a huge sculpture on the wall titled River’s Embrace by artist Elysha Rei that was meant to be a visual narrative of the Brisbane River’s historic floods and changing topography.
The lunch and dinner menus were mostly of a contemporary chophouse sensibility. There were seafood platters, including one with Moreton Bay bugs (my favorite), various fish crudo and tartare, roasted fish and poultry dishes and an array of cuts from a premium beef brand called Yardstick.
I came here for breakfast the morning of my stay so I could put my credit to use. As I mentioned, it was for AU$40, and the breakfast buffet cost … AU$42. I thought that was a bit maddening. Instead, I ordered a cappuccino and a Benedict of spanner-crabcakes, avocado, poached eggs and lemon-myrtle hollandaise over brioche. It was good but very, very rich, and a lot of food. My total came to AU$30 ($22).
Down at The Charles,’ you could get a light breakfast, with a variety of pastries, juices and egg dishes. During the day, the menu switched over to fast-casual, with dishes like Caesar salad, a smoked-turkey BLT and salad bowls. In the evening, there were shareable plates like beef tartare, oyster platters, pâté, antipasti and bread with a variety of dips.
The cocktails were all around AU$20 (around $15) and included choices like a Cumulus with Absolut vodka, Cointreau, cranberry, macadamia bitters, honey and lime; and the Final Call with Buffalo Trace bourbon, yellow chartreuse, peach essence and lemon. There was also a sparkling-wine trolley from which you could order glasses of bubbly.
I skipped eating here, though it looked like it was mostly a place for upscale after-work drinks, and was pretty quiet at other times of day.
After dropping my stuff in the room, I decided to explore the hotel a little. My first stop was down on the third floor, where the Heavenly Spa by Westin was down a nondescript hallway.
The reception area was small but tranquil, and guests could relax with a cup of tea.
The spa director was actually there, so she took me to have a look at some of the facilities, including this futuristic steam room, which had individual seats. Though there were separate changing rooms for men and women, the other facilities were coed.
There was a 75-minute Heavenly Spa opening offer for AU$150 ($110) that included a calming ritual, an energizing massage, an organic aromatherapy facial and a rejuvenating eye treatment. Otherwise, the menu included treatments like a 60-minute magnesium massage for AU$155 ($110), and soothing after-sun facial for AU$160 ($115). I thought the facilities were nice, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to book a treatment there.
The Westin Club was also up on this level, but I didn’t go in.
Down one level, on the second floor, the gym contained the usual assortment of weights and cardio and weight machines.
Westin has placed more and more of an emphasis on fitness and health offerings, and here you could even borrow gym clothes and shoes.
There were also free fitness classes, mostly in the mornings, including Pilates, poolside yoga and a group run with a specialized concierge staffer.
The pool deck was around the corner and was mostly shaded, thanks to an enormous overhang. There were loungers in the water and cabanas on the side of the deck toward the back of the building and around the corner on the other side of the gym.
The hotel was also home to Brisbane’s first swim-up bar, though it was closed Mondays and Tuesdays, so I didn’t get the chance to see it in action. It was open 3pm onwards on Wednesday through Friday and from 11am until late on weekends. There was also a bit of construction going on in one corner the morning of my stay, so I didn't spend time out here.
Was my stay at the Westin Brisbane truly memorable? No. However, the hotel suited my needs for this particular stay very well. The room rates were reasonable and included a handy credit for food and beverages, which I was able to put toward a free breakfast. The fitness and spa facilities as well as the restaurants and bars were nice, if not remarkable. The room was spacious, comfortable and had all the brand-new tech touches I wanted. Though I didn’t interact with a ton of personnel, those I did talk to at reception, the spa and at Eden’s Table were all enthusiastic, friendly and helpful, which made my stay that much nicer.
Though you might want to check out some of Brisbane’s other interesting new hotels first if you’re planning a visit to the city, the Westin Brisbane is still a welcome addition to the scene and a handy property to earn and redeem points at in Queensland’s capital.