I was running ten minutes late for a conference. I had overslept and the weather was unusually inclement for this time of year - Brisbane is supposed to be sunny. In any case, I was on the slightly flustered side. But from the moment I stepped inside the boutique Spicers Balfour Hotel situated in the trendy suburb of New Farm, all previous anxiety immediately dissipated. I was presented with warm hues, soothing ambient music and tasteful appointments.
After opening my umbrella to dry, Marissa, a staff member approached me with a beaming smile and asked if I'd like tea or coffee. I said that I'd prefer a freshly squeezed juice and she recommended the 'chef's special blend.' Within moments a strawberry and orange mix was on the boardroom table in front of me. Throughout the day, nothing was too much trouble the Balfour team, who were always on hand to assist without being obtrusive or overwhelming.
Spicers Balfour is part of the Spicers Group - a selection of hotels that focus on presenting a personalised, intimate accommodation experience. The Brisbane property, which opened its doors in September 2010 under the Spicers banner, is the only one in the Group located in a metropolitan city - the other six properties are situated in picturesque rural areas including the Hunter Valley, Queensland's Scenic Rim and the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
Matthew Simpson, the General Manager of Balfour tells me that his focus is to create a comfortable home-away-from-home experience for business travellers. This is a quiet oasis that allows corporate guests the chance to unwind after a busy day of meetings. Alternatively, travellers have the option of working on-site surrounded by essential amenities and facilities.
"There are many little nooks and crannies, where guests can do their work in peace. There's complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the building and we have a laptop for guests to use. The laptop can be taken to any area of the property including the guest rooms. There's a comfortable lounge area and a really cute alcove which is perfect for a meeting over coffee," said Matthew.
The nine suites have all been triple-lined to ensure absolute serenity. The Courtyard Room, which I was shown, opens to a charming courtyard that's lined with bamboo. There's a little table within the courtyard that could easily hold a notebook that would provide a really beautiful place to work. This is also a kettle-free zone, with every room fitted with a Billi system for on-tap boiling and chilled water. The Nespresso coffee machine I'm sure is appreciated, while the Society Italian bed linens ensure a good night's sleep.
After an intensive morning of strategising, the conference delegates moved onto the property's spacious verandah for a delicious lunch. I have quite a few dietary issues - and yet the chef effortlessly created a meal that tasted great. For guests and visitors, the verandah also serves as the focal point for breakfast, which is served daily.
The property itself was converted from a traditional Queenslander that was originally built in 1901 and once housed returned World War II servicemen. In 2010, the structure was developed by the Brisbane-based designers Coop Creative, who specialise in bespoke residential and commercial interiors.
Rowena Cornwell is a Coop Creative Director.
"Externally Balfour draws its inspiration from the historic and grand Queenslanders for which New Farm is known, however the interior reveals an unexpected contemporary European design which is eclectic, quirky and comforting," said Ms Cornwell.
"The owners recognised that travellers commute between cities on a regular, even daily, basis these days, so their vision was to create a destination with the comfort and welcoming feel of home, but the class and character of a luxury international hotel you would find in London or New York City."
Interestingly, the international community have taken note of the restoration process by feting Balfour with a significant award. The property was recently recognised by the International Hotel & Property Awards in London by winning the Best Hotel Under 50 Rooms category. These awards recognise the best in hospitality interior design and architecture.
"We were so delighted to be recognised in these prestigious awards amongst the world's best," said the Balfour General Manager Matthew Simpson.
"We aimed to create an inner-city oasis which would provide guests with all the comfort and privacy of a luxury home, but with an artistic, contemporary edge, all set within the heart of New Farm's thriving art and culture scene."
Needless to say, the conference was highly productive and following the formalities - there's a rooftop bar, which isn't open to the general public. The bar has terrific views of the iconic Story Bridge and Brisbane's skyline. It works on an honour system where guests can help themselves to their preferred drink.