Crown Metropol, Melbourne

Carol West

What is it? Melbourne's newest hotel is a conundrum. It looks and feels like an uber-chic boutique hotel, with an eclectic US$1 million art collection, creative carpets, witty sculptures and subtle mood lighting. Yet, concealed off 'organically constructed' corridors are a whopping 658 colour-calibrated rooms. From the outside, the building's S-shape resembles a giant black wave washing across the business end of town, with a steel-framed modernist box boldly sculpted to the front. Inside, a voluptuously curved ribbon staircase links the reception to Gordon Ramsay's Maze and Maze Grill restaurants on the first level. A skywalk takes guests past luxury boutiques into the entertainment 'precinct'. Meanwhile, up on the 27th floor, guests recline poolside on Miami-bright sun loungers, cosy up on rattan daybeds or float over the city in a dazzling turquoise, 25-metre waterfall-edge indoor pool.

What are the rooms like? Manhattan-style loft rooms, studios (below), spa suites, regular rooms and an apartment-style residence all boast city and bay views. The sophisticated colour palette affects subtle changes across the hotel's 18 levels and decor in all of the rooms conveys a glossy, streamlined designer edge. Floor-to-ceiling windows add dimension and space, and shoji-inspired privacy screens slide between bathroom and bedroom. In-room toys include an iPod docking station, an LCD television with 53 free-to-air channels, including some in Chinese, and wireless internet. Guests sleep under original artwork - on both walls and bed linen - soothed into unconsciousness by fruit smoothies from the fridge.

What about dining? In Maze and Maze Grill, screens shield diners as they graze under Foscarini's oversized beacon lights on Ramsay's French cuisine with an Australian twist. Led by Michelin-star chef de cuisine Josh Emett, Maze has become the hottest meal ticket in town. It also creates the hotel's in-room fare. For an additional A$110 (HK$700) a room, guests can enjoy member privileges at 28, an intimate, sky-high lounge where an expansive breakfast is served, an expert barista is on hand and a complimentary cocktail hour neatly rounds out the day.

Is there a spa? The luxuriously soulful Isika day spa has treatments to suit all schedules, including a 15-minute express manicure, one-hour treatments and four-day wellness retreats. Adjacent to the pool deck and a hi-tech gymnasium, it has 10 treatment rooms with steam showers, rose-petal-strewn baths and massage tables.

What's the bottom line? Luxe rooms are available from A$249 a night, spa accommodation begins at A$449 and The Apartment is A$5,000 a night.

Crown Metropol is at 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, Melbourne, Australia, tel: 61 3 9292 8888;