(aka, Ed heads to Melbourne)
The Smith Luxury Travel Blog team are feeling smug. For the first time in recorded history, Mr & Mrs Smith’s intrepid financial director, Ed Orr, has volunteered to contribute to our blog. (Perhaps he finally noticed the awards on our shelf and wanted in on the action). Ed recently paid a visit to the Smith offices in Melbourne, to fossick through Team Oz‘s ledgers, back-slap everyone involved with the publication of our Hotel Collection: Australia/New Zealand, and have a snoop around the most stylish city down under…
You’ve been to visit the Smith team in Oz. How are things down there?
Rocking – great team, great office, the new Australia/NZ book has recently hit the shops and there is a lot of press coverage down there at the moment.
Do they have a nicer office than we do?
In all honesty, yes! It is more a trendy loft apartment than an office – in fact I could probably live there quite happily.
Was Melbourne all glamour and elegance? Was the Villa Donati every bit the chic boutique? Did it offer any really personal touches?
Australia glamorous and elegant!? Which hemisphere are you from? Melbourne was certainly cooler and sexier than it was the last time I was there in late 80s though… and Villa Donati was lovely – an Italianate façade on a Victorian (state) Victorian (period) inner city terraced house with only four bedrooms and a good mix of traditional elements and modern comfort on the inside – more of a Smith-class B&B than a venue for a rock ‘n’ roll weekend of champagne and room service, but breakfasts are fantastic – really fresh fruit, muesli, juices etc – plus the option of bacon and eggs and delicious toast on top… Yes, the breakfasts were definitely more glamorous and elegant than their English equivalent!
Aussies are renowned for their sunny dispositions and warm welcomes. How did you rate the antipodean charm?
To be honest, I had forgotten that Melbournians are even more obsessed about the weather than the Brits are! I think every bit of small talk was about the weather – ‘It’s going to be really hot today and even hotter tomorrow’, ‘the Change is coming…it’ll drop 10 degrees in 10 minutes’, ‘bush fires in New South Wales’, ‘we had two inches of rain this weekend whilst you were away!’
Chef Matthew Wilkinson has been awarded two hats, the Aussie equivalent of Michelin stars, for the culinary marvels he performs at Circa. What was the highlight of the menu?
The garden snails from South Australia…or something like that; I was quite jet lagged!
You lived in Melbourne for four months as a teenager. Has it changed dramatically in 20 years? Did you revisit any of the old haunts?
I was 18…is that still a teenager? I think I was trying to grow up into a man…and probably failing dismally. It definitely felt a lot cooler and sexier than I remember – much more boutique-y and connected with global trends. That might just reflect the part of town (Fiztroy) where our office is, but it is close to the house where I rented a room with two students and no furniture for four months, 22 years ago, which my taxi happened to drive right past on my final day there.
The city’s known for its buzzing nightlife. What was your best evening out on the town?
FDs don’t go out on the town…we have to keep up appearances (I think some of the team were quite surprised by some of my old Melbourne stories, especially the one about being thrown through a kebab shop window).
The flight to Oz is no joke. Once you’d shaken your legs free of thrombosis, gorged yourself on complimentary peanuts and played ‘I spy… air stewardesses’ grins wearing thin’ for 10 hours, how did you fill the mammoth travelling time? What do you recommend to while away the hours in transit?
I had a particularly awful journey out with an aborted take-off in Hong Kong resulting in spending two consecutive nights trying to sleep in the back of the plane. However, compared to being at home with three children under six, it still felt like a holiday. Seriously, when you are used to combing running companies with small children, being trapped at 12,000ft for 12 hours with no phone, no email, no-one making demands on you and only small bottles of cheap Aussie wine and the in-flight entertainment to worry about is absolute heaven.
Did you stumble across any hidden gems? Any hip bars or chilled, Zen gardens? Anything unmissable but off the beaten track?
Are you seriously expecting the FD to find anything hip? It was a very productive week full of important business meetings and spreadsheets! Though once we’d packed the AsiaPac MD off to Hong Kong, the team did take me to a great bring-your-own Greek restaurant…but you’d have to ask Rod the name.
When in Rome… A man shouldn’t go to Dublin without trying a Guinness liquid lunch, or Tokyo without taking his life into his hands with a spot of fugu. Some travellers to Oz say the same of a Victoria Bitter. Did you manage to get your hands on one?
A tinny of VB and two souvlakis…if you ever find yourself in Melbourne, you have to have a souvlaki…they are the Greek equivalent (Melbourne is the second largest Greek city in the world) of the UK’s beloved Turkish import – the doner kebab – but with garlic sauce instead chili sauce and much better quality lamb.
Is there anything else you want to tell us?
I don’t recommend the smoked kangaroo prosciutto.
Finally, since you’re our financial director, can we please have a hot tub in the office?
Sure…so long as it improves your productivity…now get back to some proper work you dilettante editorial slackers!