Albert Einstein said, ‘things should be made simpler, but not simple’. The new owners of the historic Hotel DeBrett have taken Einstein’s wise words and applied them to this revamped art deco haven in downtown Auckland’s glitziest shopping quarter.
I’m immediately struck by a stripy custom-made carpet that is as colourful as a candy bar, yet is toned down by its minimalist surroundings. A spectacular and inventive chandelier crowning the central atrium is fashioned from vintage light fittings recycled from the DeBrett’s previous incarnations and sums up the hotel’s bold old-meets-new aesthetic.
Climb two flights of stairs, or take the copper-domed lift if you prefer, and the designer touches continue as we’re swiped into room 2.7, as if accessing a safe in a sci-fi movie. As we enter our top-tier Loft Suite it occurs to me that it’s bigger than our former London apartment. I am taken aback by the glamorous wardrobes – his and hers – panelled on four sides with antique glass. Mr Smith, on the other hand, is much more impressed by the two televisions, one in the dining area and the other in the bedroom. All his Christmases have come at once. While the lamp-lit bedroom and its wrinkle-free bed are inviting, hunger takes over and within minutes we change from work to dinner attire with a relieved sigh, as heels convert to flats and the weekend begins.
Cool yet cosy, the Kitchen Restaurant is a winning feature of Hotel DeBrett. Its L-shaped eating area consumes a New York loft-style atrium with a rustic, brick interior, an open kitchen and an inviting fireplace in an adjoining sofa-strewn space (ideal for an apéritif). At an affordable NZ$15, why not start with a glass of Moët on a Friday night? A striking Russian waitress pours our bubbly, before a friendly Spanish waiter interrupts our appreciative murmurs to take our food order. As a vegetarian, usually it’s an uninspiring choice between risotto or ravioli. But the DeBrett’s seasonal menu seduces with shiitake mushroom custard surrounded by lemon gnocchi, artichokes and caramelised chestnuts: a mouth-watering flavour to savour.
Feeling slightly oversized and very much in need of a lie down, our prayers are answered when we discover the guests-only Drawing Room. I laze on a 1970s two-seater, pop an old vinyl LP onto the retro record player, pour a drink from the honesty bar and use the free Apple computer to do some research for tomorrow’s adventures.
The DeBrett boasts an enviable location in the heart of Auckland. You might think that being so central the noise would be chronic but no, sirens outside are merely mute flashing lights. A stone’s throw from the waters of Waitemata Harbour, the theatre is only a minute’s walk away and the hotel nestles among chic cafés, galleries and fashion shops (including Kiwi stars Karen Walker and Kate Sylvester).
So, predictably, tomorrow brings a whole lot of trouble: one too many shopping bags, a few too many flat white coffees, and a whole lot less left in the pocket. ‘What else can a girl do when surrounded by such designer talent?’ I ask Mr Smith, who diplomatically doesn’t attempt an answer. We top off the day with a cocktail in the DeBrett’s intimate, wood-lined Housebar, another spot we love, before Mr Smith and I retire to the bedroom to explore the theory of relativity.