From the water, Crystalbrook Vincent makes a bold statement – its gold geometric facade mirroring the chiselled rock face of the cliff it’s been carved into beneath Brisbane’s Story Bridge. This area sat in disrepair for decades, but the past few years have seen a revitalisation of Howard Smith Wharves and Vincent is one of its best-looking stars.
It’s the seventh property opened by Crystalbrook Collection in as little as three years – the group claiming ownership over what was previously The Fantauzzo from July 1 this year. I was here soon after the hotel’s initial opening in 2018 and I’m pleased, and relieved, to enter through the smoky glass entrance doors to find Vincent Fantauzzo’s artworks displayed just as they were.
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Asher Keddie is here, too. The actor wife of the artist is responsible for curating the collection of 180 original artworks and 500 giclee prints that hang in the corridors and 166 rooms – a who’s who of Australia with award-winning portraits of Heath Ledger, Baz Luhrmann and Keddie herself.
What’s changed is the hotel’s commitment to sustainability; it’s been supercharged. A recycled timber key grants entry to our River Master room on level four of the six-storey building, where Fantauzzo’s striking portrait of his son, Luca, hangs above the kingsize bed. The keys are one of several updates that include 100 per cent waste-free bathrooms – with refillable amenities, biodegradable razors and combs, toothbrushes made from cornstarch, and menus that feature Crystalbrook’s own beef, farmed in North Queensland.
The emerald velvet couches, gold tables, and crystal glassware I remember are all here, punctuated by new splashes of colour on bed coverings and cushions. Printed cotton bathrobes hang on recycled-paper coathangers. The coffee pods are recyclable, water comes in cardboard cartons, and complimentary Lekker bikes are available for exploring.
In a city that’s increasingly turning heads for its slew of stylish new hotels, the wharves remain my favourite spot to sleep. As well as hosting an oversized riverfront brewery (Felons), Anna Spiro-styled cocktail bar (Mr Percival’s), and myriad other restaurants and pop-ups, the precinct links to the New Farm Riverwalk – an 870m boardwalk that hovers above the river.
But for all the lures beyond the door, the pull of Fiume is stronger. Named after the Italian word for river, it may not be the highest rooftop bar in Brisbane, but it has arguably the most enviable position, with sun lounges and stools clustered around a sleek black-tiled pool. When cocktail hour calls, start with a Native Negroni spiked with quandong liqueur or Native Martini with eucalyptus vodka, featuring ingredients from nearby Tamborine Mountain Distillery.
Downstairs in the on-site restaurant, Polpetta, there’s some menu crossover with the addition of a neat edit of mocktails made with Lyre’s non-alcoholic spirits. Standouts on the food front include burrata with cherry tomatoes and eggplant caponata, and perfectly al dente house-made casarecce with braised beef ragu.
One of Crystalbrook’s brand pillars is that 80 per cent of produce is sourced within a 300km radius, evidenced in the Noosa mushroom arancini, Moreton Bay calamari, and the Bee One Third honey (from nearby rooftops) granola I spot on the breakfast menu the next morning.
But with this position, luxurious rooms and that rooftop pool, the radius of our stay remains neatly within hotel bounds.
Rooms start at $240 a night.
The writer was a guest of Crystalbrook Vincent.
Unbeatable if you like to explore on foot – the spoils of the CBD, Valley and South Brisbane are within easy reach. Construction of a ferry terminal is also expected to be completed late this year.
Spacious with just the right amount of mood, and killer views of the cityscape and river. Windows that open, a pillow menu, and on-loan yoga mats and hair straighteners clinch the deal.
Polpetta kicks all the goals for dinner, even if the atmosphere doesn’t quite reach the same levels as some of the dining destinations on the hotel’s doorstep.
Crystalbrook Vincent is a cracking spot to stay if you want to experience Brisbane like a local, and if you appreciate efforts made to minimise its carbon footprint.
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