HOTEL REVIEW: QT Wellington – designed by a teenager with ADHD – quirky, close to Te Papa Museum
Series: Trip: New Zealand 2022
- TRIP REPORT: Heading to New Zealand
- TRIP REPORT: Qantas First Class Lounge, Sydney, July 2022
- TRIP REPORT: Qantas 737 Business Class from Sydney to Wellington, New Zealand
- HOTEL REVIEW: QT Wellington – designed by a teenager with ADHD – quirky, close to Te Papa Museum
Content of this Post:
Ok, Ok, I know more is more, but do they really need that many stuffed peacocks in the bar?
The eccentricity doesn’t stop there. This hotel – originally built in 1987 and named the Museum Art Hotel was originally on the site where the Te Papa national museum now stands. In 1993 the entire hotel fully furnished (but without the hotel linens) was moved 40 metres up, and across the road.
Booking & Price
Stay: 1 to 3 July 2022
Room: Executive Harbour View Studio
Size: 35 sqm (377 sqf)
Per Night Average: ~AU$380
Address: 90 Cable Street, Wellington, 6011
Phone: +64 4 802 8900
This hotel has history, including moving the original building across the road from its original site, but more about that later. The hotel comprises two buildings, one with standard hotel rooms, bar and dining facilities, and the other taller, larger building, with serviced apartment-style rooms. They have sinks, ovens, hotplates, dishwashers and washing machines/driers.
Location & Arrival
Arriving from the airport, we turned right into Cable Street, with a driveway entrance to the hotel further to the right. In fact, it’s an L-shaped drive-through, with some parking spaces for valet parking.
There is not a great sense of arrival, although an attempt has been made. You do drive past a glassed ‘gallery’ containing a motorbike amongst other artworks. It’s a great idea, but somehow, the hotel doesn’t quite pull it off.
The QT doesn’t have a long history but is quite eventful. Built in 1987 and first named the Michael Fowler Hotel, it actually occupied a space on the other side of Cable Street, where the fantastic Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa now stands. In 1993, the hotel all 3500 tones of it was moved across the road – well at least the main building was, not the tower behind.
We arrived a little after 4:30 pm on a Friday evening. The bar was already pumping.
It’s not immediately clear if that desk inside the entrance is reception or just a valet and bellhop station. Turns out, it’s not reception – that is further inside. So you have that weird thing where you hand over your car keys without knowing what room you’re staying in – and guessing which of our names it has been booked under. Not a big issue, but annoying given my usual discombobulation after an international fight and navigating for my husband from the airport.
Turning left from the entrance, you head past a long table and seating area on the left, with the lift entrance, reception and the bar to the right before you hit the bar proper at the end.
Check-in went well, although the receptionist was not wearing a mask, as mandated for New Zealand hospitality staff. All other staff were, and compliance with this mandate was almost universally observed during our several weeks on the North Island.
The hotels ground floor is chocka-block with attention-grabbing art which was a little overwhelming on our arrival. Finding our room involved moving from the front building to the tower behind through a number of corridors and public spaces, and finding the 2nd set of lifts. Although this was all obvious the next day, the dark walls, low lighting made it potentially confusing on our arrival. Mind you, there were delights to that confusion.
QT’s design style is often redolent of a teenager with ADHD, or in more polite interior designer terms, ‘eclectic’.
The room is a good size, but sometimes style wins over substance.
The winning attributes for us was the mini-kitchen and laundry – both extremely practical, appreciated and used. The downside was a slightly weirdly arranged bathroom. However, this weird arrangement did allow for the incorporation of a bath, without doing a shower over (one of my pet hates), so plaudits for that.
As you enter the room there is a galley mini-kitchen and wardrobe to the left, and the entrance to the bathroom on the right.
There is a little too much going on in this room for my taste, and a little bit of mismatching. I’m talking about that desk, which looks like a leftover from the previous design. From the photo above, your get the impression of a balcony. There isn’t one – that’s just the roof of the front building of the hotel.
Laundry and mini-Kitchen
We stayed in Wellington for only 3 nights, but still that washer/dryer came in handy, readying us for the rest of our tour around the North Island of New Zealand. Instructions were clear and signage good, despite the profusion of ‘Dont’s’. We didn’t make use of the oven or stove, but the microwave and sink came in handy.
Surfaces were a little worn, and tended on a clean-lines early 2000s modernism look, compared to the retro 80’s splash of glitz over kill of the rest of the furnishings. Basically, I think the redesign didn’t go as far as rebuilding the cabinetry of the kitchenette and laundry. Design dissonance, but not unacceptable.
And a dishwasher is always appreciated.
Having a kitchenette, meant we could prepare our own gin & tonics, and make up a cheese board of snacks, and lets face it New Zealand has some fine fermented milk products worthy of a Carr’s water cracker!
Next to the Kitchenette and minibar was a small but perfectly adequate wardrobe including hanging space, safe, iron and ironing board with one full-length mirrored wardrobe door. Compact and an efficient use of space.
The drawers and shelves contained teas, coffee pods, a kettle base, a milk frother for the Nespresso coffee machine, along with some bottled spirits and various sweet and savoury snacks. Supplies were replenished daily, although we stayed away from the snacks and alcohol, preferring to make use of our own Duty-Free gin and limes purchased from the local supermarket close by.
Now, this is where there are some real faults. I can see what they were trying to do by including a bath, shower, toilet and basin, but it’s a little impractical, or at the very least inelegant. However, it does mean that there is no shower over bath, one of my pet hates, so top marks for that.
The compromise is that the shower cubicle is pretty tight in terms of floor area, and the bath, although deep and perfectly adequate, can feel a little claustrophobic. Having damned them, the faint praise is that I value a bath highly, since they offer an opportunity to relax which I relish. Aside for the tight shoulder fit in the shower, they both worked efficiently.
The single basin was fine, but the console lacked storage space, and given two queens, we have a deal of product to store!
This range of amenities was very pleasant to use with a vaguely Asian scent given the notes of ginger and lemongrass. It’s a relief from the everpresent frangipani and coconut fragrances of the pacific. Kawakawa is a native plant ingredient and has anti-inflammatory properties and a peppery quality.
Public Areas – Bars, Restaurants & Gyms
The QT Wellington had two eat and drink venues back in early 2022 during my visit. Downstairs on ground level, effectively part of the reception area is the Lobby Lounge. It’s open from morning to late night, and sure seemed popular especially in the evening. As well as coffee, tea and alcoholic beverages, it also has, what I would call bar food including everything from a Salmon bowl, through to dtditional BLT sandwiches, cheeseburgers, fried chicken, and of course potato and Kumara Chups. To further the impression that New Zealand is a bit like your old granny, you can also get a cheese scone.
We didn’t savour the specific pleasures of this space, preferring to extinguish our duty free gin back in our room, with tonic purchased from the supermarket handily located a stone’s throw away.
Hippopotomus is a show pony, or perhaps more precisely, show peacock of a venue. It’s a place where more means more. More plush, more gilt, more mirrors, more chandeliers, in fact more everything. In terms of a breakfast venue, it was a little too much, and staff seemed a little inexperienced. It was sometimes difficult to attract attention, although once gained, service was good. The breakfast spread with perfectly adequate, although unlike the space, it wasn’t pretentious.
For inexplicable reasons, I have no images of the breakfast spread.
The gym and pool were located in the ‘apartment’ building at the back of the property on the First Floor, along with showers and a sauna. As usual, the pool was popular with the kids, but the gym on the two occasions we visited seemed to be empty.
The gym had a basis range of free weights, a combo machine, and some treadmills. It was on the small side, but good enough to keep up at least some of your fitness regime. We chose to have a holiday from ours.
OK, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I felt about this hotel. When we first arrived, I thought it was completely over the top and not really my taste, with some practical difficulties. By the time I left, I still had some problems with the decor, but loved the utility of much of the room. What it missed was a good lounge to relax on. A differently configured bathroom would have been great, but difficult to achieve in the shell of an existing building.
What I did love, more and more during our stay was the extraordinary, and massive number of artworks everwhere from the downstairs public spaces through to even the lift foyers, which each hosted distinctive furniture, all worthy of collection.
Would I stay here again? The answer is yes. For our short stay, the room’s facilities were excellent. If you were staying a week – having a washer/dryer, mini kitchen, and dishwasher would be mandatory. If you intend to visit Te Papa, then it is extraordinarily convenient. The hotel felt slightly understaffed, which I put down to COVID, and the lack of international travellers that usually help staff hotels in New Zealand as they do in Australia. Cleaning was not daily unless on request – also a product of COVID.
To finish up, here are some more shots of the extraordinary artworks on display . . .