New hotel a spectacular work in progress

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REGISTRATION

Bendigo Regional Art Gallery has made a name for hosting successful exhibitions. Just down the street is the new Hotel Ernest, which has already earned a solid reputation, though mostly unfinished. Its convenient proximity to the main living area of ​​the city (when a major exhibition is held at the gallery or the adjacent Rosalind Park hosts a festival, that is) has of course made it popular.

But there is more than convenience.

The Victorian Goldfields town of Bendigo is rich in architectural history. Inhabiting the oldest bank building in Bendigo, dating from 1864, Hotel Ernest owners David Cook-Doulton and Martin Shew have worked on the belief that visitors want to be steeped in history rather than just looking at it. To this end, the space at street level that was the ticket hall has been stripped away to reveal the original stone walls, and the cavernous old vault is now a unique place to sit and converse. .

The Ernest Hotel, named after Cook-Doulton’s grandfather, is just a few minutes’ walk from the gallery and many other attractions, including the adjacent Rosalind Park – and it’s been busy ever since. opening, largely thanks to the Elvis exhibit.

THE LOOK

Enter Hotel Ernest through its high and original double entrance doors to be enveloped in an elegant yet sublimely comfortable lounge. Huge arched windows let in the dappled green light of the park and the moody grays and greens on the upholstery invite you to rest for a while, as does the owner’s charismatic Airedale terrier, often seen rest on the furniture. But the hero is indeed the atmospheric expanse of the stone wall, bearing bullet holes believed to be from a Gold Rush-era heist.

It’s no secret that Hotel Ernest is a work in progress. In 2023, this space will house a restaurant and a remarkable staircase leading to the original vaults of the bank will become the entrance to an ambitious bar.

Throughout the property, including the ten bedrooms, as well as the grand staircases, a spectacular art collection, acquired by owner Cook-Doulton over the decades, and thoughtful ceramics and plants add interest to every street corner.

BEDROOM

No two rooms are the same, but each is spacious. Comfortable lounges, coffee tables, a dining table for four, a credenza welcoming upscale coffee, tea, and arty crockery accompany a cozy king bed dressed in crinkle sheets, plenty of throw pillows, and a nap rug. The suspended space is an open and sculptural medium, the carpet is thick, the art incredible. This is the New York studio for your flight, only in Bendigo.

A small disappointment for me was the bathroom, which was original from the previous incarnation of the accommodation. Everything is marble, and while fully functional, the fittings are dated, as is the large triangular spa tub with rainfall showerhead. There are plans to update the faucets in the immediate future. Great tech, including Netflix, is a bonus.

FOOD + DRINK

While waiting for the restaurant to be set up, light continental breakfasts are provided by the popular Harvest restaurant nearby.

The on-site restaurant opens in 2023 with chef Derek Boath at the helm. Boath is moving his sub-bar restaurant to Ernest’s soon-to-open sister Ballarat property, the Hotel Vera (named after Cook-Doulton’s grandmother).

Guests are asked about their interests prior to arrival, suggestions made and reservations secured through the hotel for fabulous Bendigo restaurants such as Masons, Ms Batterhams and The Dispensary.

OUTSIDE + ABOUT

There is so much more to Bendigo than the gallery. Sure, come for the next big exhibit, but explore further afield. Chancery Lane is a trendy microcosm of Bendigo. The nearby vineyards are world class. And little gems, like the Golden Dragon Museum, dedicated to the history of Chinese Australians and home to Dai Gum Loong, a 125-metre ceremonial dragon, are worth a visit.

THE VERDICT

If this is such a good work in progress, Hotel Ernest will be spectacular – and perhaps a destination in itself – when the restaurant and bar are installed.

THE ESSENTIALS

Rooms from $269 per night.

Ernest Hotel, 10/12 View Street, Bendigo, Victoria. Telephone: 0447 242 987. See hotelbendigo.com.au

THE SCORE OUT OF FIVE

★★★★

Julietta Jameson stayed with Bendigo Regional Tourism.


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