Review: Intercontinental Adelaide – much to like, but well past its prime
I should say that this is a kind of omnibus review not based on just one stay, but on many – in different room types.
I visit Adelaide, South Australia to catch up with family about once a month, nearly always on Qantas, and usually staying at an IHG property, either the Intercontinental Adelaide or the Crown Plaza Adelaide. The Crown Plaza (now the Pullman Adelaide) is the more modern hotel, but you can end up with a car-park view. The Intercontinental is older and formerly a Hyatt, but as a Gold Ambassador, I always get:
- Guaranteed upgrade
- Water in Room, daily
- Welcome amenity (nearly always a bottle of decent shiraz and a fruit platter)
- Late checkout up to 4 pm
- Free pay TV-film per stay
- Free internet
- Free daily newspaper, and
- Instant checkout
Plus you can get a free drink at the bar, or 400 points credited to your account. I always go for the points.
Sometimes the upgrade is just from a City View room to a River View room, which is a bit meh. Sometimes the upgrade is questionable, and the room might be a bit shabby – with mismatched bedside tables, and a substitute minibar, from the ‘built-in’ one. It seems if you have a later afternoon or evening arrival (may just be co-incidental) you get an upgrade to a suite. Often I do the trip alone, in which case a suite upgrade is a bit wasted, but when I travel with my partner, a suite upgrade is very much appreciated.
As a paid-up Gold Ambassador, I used to get a call a day or so before my stay from the duty manager, asking what time I would be arriving. I used to love this. Such a little thing, but it made you think they cared. For my last two stays, this has not happened. Feels like a policy change. Indeed, last time I checked in, the reception staff varied from the usual script. I got thanked for my Ambassador membership, but not for returning to the hotel. Outrageous! Oddly, it did make me feel unappreciated. It’s amazing how quickly those service touchpoints can become a burden for the brand. It wasn’t helped by the slightly ‘past its prime’ room I was allocated. But anyway enough of sour grapes – back to the review.
I can’t stand the cranes against my window, bringing back sweet memories – (apologies to Anne Peebles) – view from a River view room
The then Hyatt Regency Hotel opened officially in September 1988 as part of the Adelaide Station and Environs Redevelopment (ASER) project, including the Adelaide Railway Station, the Casino, and the Convention centre. The intent is to provide accommodation for those three other facilities and other amenities in close proximity like the Adelaide Festival Centre, the Adelaide Cricket Ground, Art Gallery and Museum.
In September 2009, the hotel transferred management after the sale of the building and became the Intercontinental Adelaide. It is a standout 20 story building with 367 guest rooms. Unfortunately other than a lick of paint – the new owners don’t seem to have invested much in infrastructure, and the hotel is way overdue for a major refit of rooms, food and beverage offerings and public areas.
Location and Arrival
The hotel has a 1980’s steel tube and glass port cochere off a semicircular driveway that itself runs off North Terrace in the cultural hub of Adelaide. In 90% of cases, you are met by a bellman, and your car door opened, and any luggage extracted from the boot. This is also where you leave your vehicle for valet or short stay parking.
The reception is to the right of the entrance and has a separate counter for Ambassador Club membership. This is no-nonsense check-in – quick and efficient. As I said earlier, you usually get acknowledged as an ambassador member, welcomed as a returning guest, advised of your upgrade, and asked whether you would like a complimentary drink at the bar, or 400 IHG points.
When the hotel changed hands – all the rooms seem to have had a refresh – new window treatments, a repaint, some updates to furniture, new carpet, but not a lot else. Most of the public spaces feel basically the same – if in some ways a little downgraded. There are some remnant gilded/brassed tubular rails around the bare area, that just scream 1980’s – mind you the service does as well.
Because of the octagonal design of the hotel units, some of the furniture was particularly bespoke – for instance, the bar fridges had to fit into a roughly triangular shape, as did most of the bedside tables. In my many stays here, it seems like the updating is inconsistent. If a bar-fridge died, it seems it was not replaced, but the bar fridge rehoused in an armoire in the bedroom, and the old fridge space blocked off.
Again the octagonal nature of the rooms makes for some odd angles and a confusion of shuttered doors around the bathroom and wardrobe which actually function OK, but look like they are going to confuse each other.
The rooms have their own air conditioning, but in these times of the digital, these controls which have no temperatures on them seem positively antediluvian.
The other major leftover from the 1980’s in the rooms are the bathrooms . . .
Except on the club floors – and I think they changed which floors are classified as ‘club’ – so also in some non-club rooms – the tiles are pink marble – the kindest description would be ‘rust’.
On the club floors and in the suites – they are a darker brown colour, which is much less offensive and has not dated as much.
All bathrooms seem to have baths, and I love a bath. The rooms have great water pressure, so the showers are fantastic, and well sized, without being oversized. Different rooms have slightly different arrangements of bathrooms given the octagonal shape.
The suites even have a sort of dressing cum anti-bathroom with a sink. Shower stalls are glass, but not frameless – reflecting their age. The bathrooms are all well sized, but with single basins.
The only fault I can think of is that they lack a night light.
The bedding is great, as are the padded bedheads. Bedside tables range from that dinosaur built in ‘clock radio’ seen at the top of this post and other custom made side tables, through to slightly ill-fitting replacements.
Other furniture includes a glass round occasional table, and usually two ‘dining’ chairs – one at the desk, and one against the wall, along with a small not very deep cloth covered lounge or sofa, with a couple of domestic grade cushions. Rooms come with a good sized desk (see below) and an armoire. The armoires come in a few different editions, some with shelves and multiple doors, and some just with two doors and a space occupied by a minibar fridge.
The armoire is topped by a large size TV, with a selection of free to air and cable channels and pay per view movies. Ambassador members get one movie per stay free. Adjacent to the TV is a tray of tempting high calorie sweet and savoury temptations, and by temptations I mean Pringles chips, and chocolate chip cookies, chocolate coated macadamia nuts and overpriced water amongst others.
Lighting includes side table lights, and reading lights – in some rooms fixed, and in other flexible – and if my memory serves me correctly sometimes ceiling mounted. Next to the sofa in the bedrooms is a standard lamp on one side, and a side table on the other. Annoyingly neither the table light nor the standard lamp can be controlled centrally.
The wardrobes are well sized and shuttered with bi-fold doors, that triggers an internal light when opened. Inside the wardrobe is a safe, ironing board and iron, umbrella, hair dryer, and the usual laundry bag, shoe shine and a long handled shoe horn. In my younger days, I thought a shoehorn was a redundant item. As I age, I find these long handled versions more and more useful. Take that as an aide memoire for the young!
View from suite bathroom into dressing/basin room, and bedroom beyond. Note alien design bathrobe, or low quality and inadequate size.
Usually found adjacent to the entrance, under a triangular bench and cupboard, these are stocked with a standard array of soft drinks, beers, sparking and still white wine, plus UHT milk. In some rooms, the minibar fridge is located in the armoire. As in many hotels, there is not a lot of room left for placing your own supplies in the fridge.
The usual minibar snacks are housed on a tray on the armoire, next to the TV, along with some wine and water purchasable options.
I like these desks. They are large in the standard and club rooms, with a glass top, and a front drawer, large enough to hide all that hotel promotion and handbook guff. They face the window in the standard and club rooms and are right angles to the window of the lounge area in the suites. The table lamp is dimmable and LED. There is a corded internet cable (less and less useful these days in the times of WiFi), and most useful, a desktop array of plugs. For me, that means I can recharge my laptop, phone, and tablet without any trouble.
The desk is big enough to house your laptop and a meal tray with space to spare. This is a desk that means business. The only downside with the desk – is the glass top. Glass tops, and optical computer mice, do not go together. The light in the mouse gets confused about what it should reflect off and basically doesn’t work. Shove a standard piece of A4 paper under the mouse – and the problem is solved. I actually have a pain black, kidney shaped mouse map that sits in a pocket of my overnight bag, which serves essentially the same purpose.
Suite Living Rooms
The suites are basically two of the octagonal pods put together with a door inbetween. The bedrooms of suites have a chaise lounge, and the lounge area houses a desk and two chairs, a lounge suite, coffee table, side table lamp and bucket chair. The TV in the room is mounted on a low slung sideboard
Food and Beverage
This is not one of the strong points of the hotel. It has a Riverside Restaurant in the lobby, where the breakfast buffet is served. The buffet is fairly standard 5-star fare and makes nothing of its location or its proclaimed (in room publications) pride in Adelaide and South Australian food and wine. I have had one of the worst eggs benedict I have had in a long time there – which seemed to have catering grade, gelatined, hollandaise poured over an under-poached egg.
The Bar has a spectacular view of the Torrens River and the Adelaide Oval. It has the potential for a fabulous outdoor bar in summer. No-one has had the thought or been allowed to take advantage of that potential. Service is mostly bad verging on the abysmal, although on my last visit with a party of 8 on a Saturday night – service had improved. You can order small plates of food, but these are fairly unimaginative. Comfort and noise level are its advantages. Its hard to find a quiet place to have a drink these days. Occasionally they have some music performers in the foyer, and that makes the bar even nicer.
I think what makes me cranky is to see the potential of this bar unrealised.
Located in the ‘basement’, it is well equipped and serviceable. Nothing sensational, but perfectly acceptable with cross trainers, walk/running machines, free weights, and some machines. It also has a reasonable area for floor work. The gym is unattended.
What I didn’t see
I have not dined at the hotels signature Japanese restaurant: Shiki. I have been in the pool, but not since it was a Hyatt. I don’t remember it as particularly noteworthy, although I do remember it being mainly in shade, and gaining an ear infection for which I hold it responsible (medical evidence lacking).
This is definitely a faded property now. It is attractive because it has all the facilities of a chain 5-star hotel, including pool, gym, signature restaurant, and 24-hour room service, not to mention the ability to acquire points, and take advantage other aspects of the IHG loyalty scheme.
On the other hand, its rooms and decor are no longer competitive, and in this respect, the Mayfair beats it hands down. On the other hand, the rooms and outlook are far nicer than the Hilton, and its position is better (adjacent to Adelaide’s cultural and commercial centre) than the Hilton, despite being next door to the sensational Central Markets.
In order of cost – even in dynamic pricing it usually sits between the Mayfair (most expensive) and the Hilton. So – in that sense, I would agree with the market. It’s Adelaide’s 2nd best hotel.
On the question of food and beverage, I would say the Mayfair is still ahead, with a better restaurant (despite its lunchtime carvery), serving a better breakfast, and a better burger. Its bar areas have caught up with the contemporary movement of artisanal spirits, natural wines, and craft beers – which the Intercontinental merely nods to.
However – on balance, it is my preferred Adelaide accommodation, although – if my wallet had no limits, I would be at the Majestic most of the time.
Summary This is a faded property. It is attractive because it has all the facilities of a chain 5-star hotel, including pool, gym, signature restaurant, and 24-hour room service, not to mention the ability to acquire points, and take advantage other aspects of the IHG loyalty scheme. On the other hand, its rooms and decor are no longer competitive.