Atura, the hip, industrial and design-driven mid-market hotel brand from the creators of QT, has made its long-awaited debut in the New South Wales border town of Albury.
Housed in the former Rydges Albury, the hotel was opened as a Travelodge in 1973 by then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, and now the Atura is a far cry from some of the property’s incarnations over the years.
The 140-room hotel, located in the heart of town on Dean Street, underwent a complete makeover by owners Amalgamated Holdings Limited (AHL), owners and operators of the Rydges, QT, Art Series and Atura brands alongside Thredbo Mountain Resort, Event Cinemas and Moonlight Cinemas, and it has brought the hotel up to a standard rarely seen in mid-market regional hotels.
Leading the charge has been AHL’s managing director, David Seargeant, the brains and creativity behind Atura Hotels (properties can also be found in Blacktown outside Sydney and Dandenong near Melbourne) and big sister QT Hotels and Resorts.
What Seargeant helped create with QT Hotels and Resorts – a hip, cool, lifestyle offering targeting the modern stylish traveller – are also hallmarks of Atura, yet at a more affordable price point and created for city fringe and regional areas.
As is the case with the QT properties across Australia – you’ll find them in Sydney, the Gold Coast, Port Douglas, Falls Creek and Canberra – there’s a strong emphasis on design, and bar and restaurant offerings.
The interior design of the property was in the hands of Nic Graham, one of Australia’s creative stars who has been responsible for creating the stylish spaces found at the QT and Atura hotels across the nation as well as several international properties including W Hong Kong. He’s also worked with Diane von Furstenberg and Christian Louboutin on retail spaces and is known for bespoke furniture design.
AHL tasked Graham with a brief to create “urban, high-energy and art-inspired public spaces” and that’s exactly what you get the moment you walk into Atura Albury.
The classic lobby has been transformed into an urban industrial playground – including a lifted ceiling that shows exposed pipework – with a front desk that’s been replaced with a plywood welcome pod, complete with an eclectic ‘grab and go’ outlet that sells snacks, quick meals, hygiene essentials, quirky travel items and more.
The other side of the lobby morphs into the Roadhouse Bar and Grill, with couches, bespoke pieces of furniture and a pool table taking centre stage. The bar serves mainstream and craft beers, top shelf spirits, local wines and signature cocktails.
Expect talented, well-trained bar staff that know their classics – such as Martinis, Mojitos, Mint Juleps and Daiquiris – and are also happy to come up with a creation to suit all tastes. In fact, the cocktails here are as good as you’d expect in a top cocktail lounge in Sydney or Melbourne and the same could be said in the Roadhouse restaurant.
The Roadhouse, open from 6:30am until late every day, features an open window to the kitchen and has an emphasis on locally-sourced produce. At breakfast, expect a buffet loaded with morning goodies.
For lunch and dinner, find an American-inspired roadhouse menu with dishes such as: fried chicken, popcorn prawns and salt and pepper squid to start; a ‘classic roadhouse’ list of Angus burger with bacon, sticky onions, jack cheddar cheese and pickles on brioche with homemade barbecue sauce and chips, buffalo wings, nachos and a pulled pork brisket and slaw burger; and a range of seafood and meat offerings, including fish and chips, a 500-gram Angus T-bone, a 300-gram pork chop and housemade lasagne.
Make sure you save room for dessert though, with stars of the show being the Roadhouse Sundae featuring local Gundowring Dairy ice cream, and a warm chocolate fudge brownie.
Off to the side of the Roadhouse is the pool, the ideal place to relax with a cocktail after a drive from Sydney or Melbourne. On the other side of reception is a meeting room that can be booked for conferences, events and weddings - something the hotel has been notoriously good at since it first opened in ’73.
Upstairs, the hotel’s 140 rooms are modern, comfortable, spacious and feature the latest technology, something you’d expect here given Atura’s policy of free wi-fi for everyone. The bathrooms feature art-inspired wallpaper and showers with great water pressure and Malin and Goetz amenities (also found in Qantas International Business Class), while there’s a king-sized signature Atura bed as well as a double sofa bed.
In the rooms you'll also find complimentary water, a coffee machine with complimentary pods, Foxtel and digital channels on a wall-mounted flatscreen TV, and a mini-bar loaded up with goodies to eat and drink.
What’s also impressive is the hotel’s location. Around the corner are the botanical gardens, the Albury Art Gallery (which is reopening in mid-2015 after a $10.5 million renovation - expect some of the finest permanent collections and travelling shows ever seen in an Australian regional town) and a number of heritage buildings that history buffs will spend hours exploring.
Close by, don’t miss the Yindyamarra Sculptural Trail, which features a number of stunning indigenous art installations designed and crafted by local artists, and the nearby wine regions of Rutherglen and Milawa.
Get there: QantasLink, Rex and Virgin Australia operate flights to Albury.