Accommodation 5/5Food 4/5
Would I return 5/5
A few weeks back my wife and I decided to indulge in a great European hotel. We wanted style, history, ambience, and refined luxury. Fortunately, instead of having to hurtle across the other side of the world in a metal tube, it was a short drive to the Gold Coast to discover what was once the Palazzo Versace hotel, now re-badged The Imperial Gold Coast after the owners and Versace could not agree on a licence renewal. Twenty-two years ago, Palazzo Versace opened as the world’s first fully fashion-branded hotel at a cost of over $200 million - huge money in those days. There was opulence in every nook and cranny from the two Rolls Royce Phantoms parked in the stunning hand-crafted driveway, to the enormous 750-kilogram antique crystal chandelier imported by Versace from Italy, and the stunning furniture and rooms all overseen by Versace. It was the Versace dream to build an entire chain of opulent accommodations worldwide. Today the world has moved in a different direction, and there is only one Versace hotel left in the world in Dubai.
The Versace licence may be gone but the style and opulence remain at The Imperial. The owners have tweaked and toned it down a tad to reflect the style of today whilst retaining the design and ambience of the original. This is a hotel that you want to spend time in, and you need to take this time to let your eye wander. Whether it be the beautiful hand-crafted Italian tiles and stunning pieces of furniture, couches and chairs in the grand lobby or the beautiful table lamps and decorations, designer plates and flatware in the restaurant, or even the lions heads gently lined up and spaying water into the ponds around the pool, there is much to feast your eyes upon. There are hidden gems everywhere, from the small pieces to the stunning gilded giant ballroom.
Step outside the lobby area and indulge in a massive 63 metre pool with its own sandy beach in the middle and surrounded by wonderful personal cabanas. Bliss.
The Imperial is a great location for people watching. During our stay there were numerous fashion shoots happening in the lobby with beautiful young ladies pouting whilst dressed in their finery. Tourists and locals alike come to the entrance and strike a pose alongside the Rolls Royce’s for Instagram, or have a snap taken under the giant chandelier. The hotel staff ensure this all happens with great discretion. We spotted one lady who had lived in one of the apartments for over 20 years - every afternoon she heads to the lobby at her reserved table to enjoy a slice of chocolate cake and coffee. We chatted to numerous guests who had been giving themselves a treat for years by taking a few days off at the Versace - now The Imperial. Their only concern for the future was that the owners do not change it beyond a tasteful refresh whilst maintaining its style, history and quiet opulence.
This is a big hotel with some 200 guest rooms adjoined by 72 condominiums. Most of the condos are owner-occupied but a number of two and three bedroom apartments are attached to The Imperial. There are five room types ranging from rooms to suites. We stayed in a deluxe suite. At 80sqm it provides a serene oasis. The first thing you notice is that the room is so quiet and peaceful. Again, this was factored into the construction with lots of heavy glass, glazing and thick walls to shelter you from the outside world. The room consisted of a large bedroom with a super comfortable king size bed with luxury linens, and a separate living area with a Juliet balcony. There is a huge bathroom with a tub big enough for two, separate shower and toilet in addition to a second bathroom/toilet and a walk-in closet and storage area.
Just like the lobby, your eye instantly falls upon the attention to detail within the room. With beautiful parquetry floor, hand crafted cornices, marble finishes in the bathroom and exquisite cushions and lounges, this is one classy room. While the hotel re-establishes itself as The Imperial there are some great rates with rooms starting around $450 including breakfast and suites starting at $550 including breakfast. In the Versace days these same rooms were probably double or more what you are paying in this transition period for the hotel. So, if you want luxury at a great rate I would book sooner rather than later.
The new Imperial is going through some changes in this department. In the Versace days, Vanitas was the main drawcard with its spectacular contemporary cooking and rich Italian flavours: the nine course degustation menu being a highlight. This is sadly gone at the moment, but the hotel says, ‘watch this space’.
Retained is the Il Barocco restaurant which offers a more relaxed contemporary dining experience for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu and wine list are adequate but not huge. The food is comforting and well presented. The breakfast buffet is a delight and for dinner we dined on some fabulous oysters which were fresh and complimented by a champagne mignonette and finger lime followed by a very tasty linguini with king prawns, Moreton Bay bugs, fermented chilli and sourdough crumb. My wife enjoyed the pumpkin risotto with saffron, gorgonzola, goat cheese stuffed zucchini flowers, macadamia and pistachio crumble - yum.
Between both restaurants is La Jardin for cocktails and a fabbo high tea. We recently partook of high tea at The Langham Gold Coast. Worldwide it’s been a signature event for the Langham but I think the high tea at The Imperial leaves it for dead. Beautifully crafted sandwiches, sweet and savoury items, freshly baked scones and homemade jams make this a ‘must do’ at The Imperial. My wife loved that everything on the high tea menu was available as gluten free. Hats off to the high tea chefs.
The Imperial is classy. I think it is my favorite hotel on the Gold Coast at the moment. Go for the style and luxury and treat yourself for a few days off. But do take the time to let your eye wander and soak up the amazing detail and craftsmanship that went into the construction of this hotel. It’s a one off. Enjoy.
For more information visit: theimperialgc.com.au
Author stayed as a guest of the hotel.