You could never accuse George Bagios of being a slapdash sort of a fella. Everything in the hotelier’s newest venture, Coppersmith, has been overseen by him, from the designer furniture to the pine skirting boards.
Formerly the Cricket Club Hotel – which Bagios has run as a old-style boozer since 2006 – the building was gutted 14 months ago, with just the turret and the front and side facades of the 1880s pub remaining intact, and rebuilt as a 15-room boutique hotel. This was a mammoth undertaking in such a short time period, overseen by architects HASSELL (best known for hi-tech projects such as Adelaide Zoo and the forthcoming Flinders Street Station rehaul) and executed by builders the Project Group. Chances are, if you were walking past the South Melbourne site during that period, you didn’t even notice anything unusual was going on, as the walls were propped from the inside.
Bagios has been in the hospitality game since his teens, starting off in his father’s deli, then running a Perth pub and a handful of motels. Coppersmith, however, is his dream project – the one he’s been gearing up to all his life.
Walking in, there’s still a pub for locals, with the shape of the old fittings traced out by newer, sleeker lines. (Similarly, the outside back wall pays homage to the old building by bearing its outline.) The central bar glows amber with bottles of whisky (the Japanese list alone is lengthy), but don’t avoid the 18 beers on tap, or the hefty wine list. There’s a plush restaurant area off to the rear if you fancy something more formal, and accordingly, the menu – from chef Daniel Southern, fresh from Comme – is split into bar snacks and pub grub, and French bistro fare. In the coming months, the wine cellar will be open for intimate bookings, as will the breakfast bar – open to guests and passing interlopers alike.
The rooms (starting at $220) are designed to feel special, from the terrariums and blooms provided by a neighbouring florist, to the mini bar of top-end snacks and the Nespresso machine. The walls are paneled, the showers powerful, the tiling exquisite… and there are lots of nice little touches, like the iron board sliding away silently under the bed, and the GHDs and vanity box available at request. (Rest assured, the wheelchair-access rooms are not spared any of this primp.)
Lone travellers will find the bar downstairs a home away from home, but for a special experience, be sure to hit the rooftop terrace, where you can watch the sun go down over the city or the sea (your choice on which direction you point), and watch it come up again with a latte. The Coppersmith affords the traveller easy access to the city, Albert Park, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and St Kilda, without feeling as though they'll be flattened by foot traffic the moment they leave the front door.