In Melbourne’s South Yarra – a vibrant, upscale suburb boasting art-deco styled apartments along with a sociable strip of nightlife and culture – lies Ovolo: lavish accommodation and dining “where retro chic and pop-art collide”. A love note to Melbourne’s cosmopolitan hub.
Flying in from Sydney to Melbourne (which was once considered – and perhaps even still considered – an absurd fantasy) we arrived at Ovolo, situated in the heart of Melbourne's affluent inner-city suburb. With already high expectations for a spectacularly quirky weekend due to pre-holiday research on Ovolo’s hotel aesthetic and accommodation perks, we still found ourselves in utter astonishment within seconds of our arrival.
As you float through the front entrance towards reception, you catch a warm glimpse of Lona Misa to your right-hand-side: a Latin-inspired dining affair sporting an edgy fusion of past and present elements. As we checked in at around 1pm, there was already a warm and welcoming vibe swarming Lona Misa; patrons enjoying a deluxe lunch, business partners shaking hands over eccentric cocktails. It was undoubtedly a certified vibe.
The reception area towards the back is a high-ceiling, open-plan extravaganza hosting 70s rockstar art, disco artifacts, and a neon fire-place; a combination of colourful ingredients one would never find at their usual hotel chain. It’s anything but under the radar! The staff at reception – a bubbly and genuine crew with your best interests at heart – checked us in to our room: the ‘Groovy’ room, “designed with a sense of vintage” and class “for those who want to relive the golden era of Studio 54”.
The 30 sqm room flaunting accents of chrome and colour complimented pop culture and urban philosophy with its layout of facilities. Our personal bar area offered a collection of surprises: a mini fridge filled with complimentary drinks, coffee and tea making machines, a loot bag filled with edible goodies, and a layered display of records and cacti.
The king size bed (offering a gorgeous night’s sleep) was spacious and well-rounded. With the full-size window boasting city views, it was the most fabulous way to wake up with the morning sun creeping in subtly through the light, transparent curtains.
The sultry bathroom with its commodious shower, warm and layered lighting, and ‘OMG’ facilities was the perfect space for getting ready before a night out on the town. With two large bathroom mirrors plus a LED makeup mirror paired with our personalised beats using the room’s bluetooth speaker, my guest and I felt like celebrities. It was such a fun experience doing our make-up in there – something I usually find is an enduring ‘task’ that can often feel like a chore.
At the end of our bed was a 55” 4K UHD Smart TV. Initially, we didn’t believe we’d turn it on at all, however we actually put on a movie after our first night out (we watched The Women – an absolute fan-favourite of ours) paired with our loot bag for a midnight snack. Connecting my Netflix account from my phone was a smooth process (isn’t it just the worst when you can’t hook up streaming apps to a TV!?), so we felt that was a huge bonus.
Exploring other parts of the hotel, we found a host of excitement in the underground space, just one floor below reception and Lona Misa. Think: a colourful common area filled with pop art and a vintage pool table, sexy bathroom facilities, a NYC-inspired bar, and private rooms for functions and special events. This sizable social basement has design cues from the days of disco, rock gods and retro glamour. A truly well-thought out and ultimately attractive setting. There’s also a 24-hour gym which is accessible to all guests (and I wish I could say I used the gym, but I am probably the least fit holidayer you’ll ever meet! I loved that the offer was there though).
On our first evening, we dined at Lona Misa: “A rebellious renaissance from root to stem.”. Offering high-end vegan cuisine inspired by Latin loved persuasions, it was already expected to provide something different (I don’t know about you, but I feel Japanese and Italian joints seem to be the general go-to’s in Sydney and Melbourne).
“Unlike the original, Lona Misa reveals its charismatic charm and endearing idiosyncrasies upon first visit.” The vibrant bistro is “artfully combined, rich in history, unchartered in territory and designed by award-winning agency, Luchetti Krelle… Bringing Lona Misa to life are hospitality legends, and renowned Melbourne chefs Shannon Martinez of Smith & Daughters and Ian Curley of French Saloon, Kirk’s Wine Bar.”
Agreeing to dine in accordance with the spring 2021 tasting menu paired with matching wines ($130 pp), no thinking was required and our dining affair was in the hands of Lona Misa. And with their thrilling performance of palatable dishes, selected wines and magnetic hospitality, they did not disappoint.
We began with the oyster mushroom ceviche (shredded oyster mushrooms, coconut, fermented poblano and pineapple) and the roasted padron and manchego croquettas (crispy bechamel croquettas filled with roasted spicy padrons and manchego cheese, served with aioli). These were paired with the Dal Zotto prosecco from King Valley, VIC. Disguised in vegan nourishment, the oyster mushroom resembled the taste of seafood ceviche – one of my go-to entrees to order when dining out. It was incredible how well they did this. The croquettas embodied the spirit of quintessential Latin soul food – a warm, wholesome interior with a beautifully crisp exterior. The prosecco went beautifully with these starters, especially with the ceviche, balancing the ‘seafood’ aromas. It was off to a great start.
Next, we sampled the smoked watermelon tostada (smoked watermelon, refried black beans, pickled cucumber, guajillo crema) and the tortilla (traditional spanish potato omelette served with aioli) which was paired with a glass each of the Dog Point sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, NZ. Our best-loved of the two was the tostada – a charismatic dish with a surprising and sensual fusion of ingredients. It was utterly flavoursome. Also, the sav blanc served with these plates was our personal favourite of the selected wines.
To follow, we tried the moqueca (Brazillian seafood stew cooked in a spicy coconut, tomato and lime broth, served over rice) with the patatas bravas (fried potatoes, dressed in aioli and a smoked tomato and fermented chili sauce). This was paired with the Tarrawarra Estate chardonnay from Yarra Valley, VIC. Honestly at first I didn’t think I’d be a fan of the stew (which our host revealed was his personal favourite), however its fish-like elements with the spicy coconut aromas was just magnificent. Really well done.
The last of the savoury plates were the peri peri chicken (fire roasted chicken, basted in a fermented peri peri sauce and served with a spicy chimichurri) and the Tijuana caesar salad (baby cos, traditional caesar dressing, parmesan and croutons) paired with the Fat Bastard malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. The salad and wine married beautifully. The croutons were larger and crunchier to what I’m used to, but it was a welcoming change. The faux-chicken was slightly burnt for us, however it still amazed us with how well it mirrored genuine peri peri chicken.
To end the evening on a sweet note, we had the flan as well as the spiced chocolate cake paired with a glass each of the Pedro Ximenez sherry. These weren’t our favoured dishes – we believe Lona Misa showed off their strengths within the savoury palette. The sherry did pair nicely with these dessert flavours though, and from the two desserts we both preferred the flan. On that note, they are alternating desserts selected by the pastry chef, so they change throughout the season.
Walking distance from Ovolo is Temperance Hotel on Chapel street – a lively locale that’s great for an afternoon drink in the spring breeze or a late night boogie. In the CBD, just a short tram or Uber ride from South Yarra, is the South Melbourne Market, which I highly recommend. From butchers and lolly shops to handmade home products and vintage clothing, it has something for everyone. A beautiful lunch spot in the CBD for a casual yet plush experience is Marameo: an Instagram-worthy Italian dining joint serving aesthetically-pleasing plates and electric beverages.
We absolutely adored our stay with Ovolo South Yarra, as well as our eccentric dining affair at Lona Misa. When I next visit Melbourne – in hopefully the not-too-distant future – I will without a doubt return to the retro-glam of Ovolo. If you’re after bold, creative, unconventional accommodation on the outskirts of Melbourne’s bustling CBD, look no further.
We believe Ovolo South Yarra is perfect for:
Season: winter, autumn
Company: a best friend or significant other
Type of getaway: a business trip or weekend getaway