How soon is too soon for your first weekend away with a new belle or beau? When I reveal I’m taking a six-week-old relationship on the road, my friends’ jaws simultaneously head south. However, with me moving overseas in a few months, this is a fast-tracked frisson, love-express if you will, and all normal timeframes are thrown out the window.
So it is that my freshly minted Mr Smith and I make for Brisbane one Friday afternoon. He has a Longchamp sports bag casually slung over his shoulder, while I wrestle with my crammed carry-on, attempting to give that insouciant impression of low maintenance, but secretly seething that I've left a third pair of heels at home.
No matter the age of a relationship, the rules for weekends away are standard: switch your regular mascara for a waterproof version (Courtney Love-style smears are so 1995) and plump for a heavy-duty blow-dry that’ll last a few days so he doesn’t see how long you really spend in the bathroom. (The only downside to this is that you spend those steamy shower sessions desperately trying to keep your head out of the water: shower caps in this scenario are simply not ok.)
As it’s early days I’m still out to impress, so have arranged to have a hat-wearing, sign-bearing chauffeur from Spicers Balfour Hotel greet us at the airport. We bundle out of the sleek BMW 20 minutes later and into our weekend retreat, a 110-year-old Queenslander in the arty New Farm precinct that’s been transformed into a nine-room hotel.
It’s approaching 11pm when Corey swiftly checks us in, pointing out the rooftop bar and escorting us to our Executive Room. Mr Smith and I take in the Rowena Cornwall-designed surrounds, a quirky, well-curated mix of modern-meets-vintage, with plush, sink-your-toes-in carpet, a mammoth bed piled with cushions and antique Sino-chic bedside tables. I also spy a see-through panel at the base of the bathroom door, just a few feet from the bed, immediately wiping out any hope of modesty.
Within minutes of unpacking, which for Mr Smith entails flinging every item in his bag around the room (note to self: if this takes off, we’re going to need a cleaner), he speaks six of the sweetest words I’m ever likely to hear, ‘Babe, can we take a bath?’
For someone who spends hours soaking – and whose previous boyfriends have been of the hop-in-hop-out persuasion – this is pure heaven. We run the bath, splashing in half a bottle of Côté Bastide bubble bath, before realising something’s missing from this blissful scene. With no minibar in the room, we dash upstairs to the rooftop bar to order drinks, then slip back down with a bottle of sparkling wine, just in time to turn the taps off and avert a soggy situation.
Wrinkled and pink, we emerge two hours later and flop onto the king-size bed. Flinging all but two cushions off the bed, I make a half-hearted promise to peruse the pillow menu tomorrow.
A chipper Kiwi called Alex shows us to our linen-topped table for breakfast the next morning on the breezy, deep veranda. As I devour a delicious pumpkin and goat’s cheese omelette and Mr Smith attempts to make a dent in the big breakfast, Alex happily shares tips for the day ahead.
First stop is GOMA, Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art, where we take in a Matisse exhibition and ogle Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s playful displays of polka dots. A short walk along the Brisbane River brings us to bustling South Bank and a lunch of fish and chips at South Bank Surf Club, before we catch a CityCat ferry back to New Farm.
As we’ve booked afternoon tea at the Balfour, the 10-minute walk from the jetty to the hotel turns out to be an appetite-inducing godsend. On the frangipani-fringed veranda, Corey brings us Pimm’s and a tower of treats, brimming with crustless sandwiches and petite cakes.
Barely have we scoffed the last scone when it’s time for sunset canapés on the rooftop terrace. Around a dozen guests are at the open-air bar, perched on stools overlooking the Story Bridge, to enjoy Balfour’s free spread of beetroot tarts, salmon rillettes and prosciutto wraps. While other couples look like they’re settling in with backgammon and a bottle of wine, I knock back a last sip of champagne and hurry Mr Smith along for our imminent dinner reservation. By now, his face is a mixture of bemused and abused. This lady likes to eat, ok?
The force-feeding is forgiven as soon as the first plates land at Ortiga, a buzzy Spanish restaurant just a short hop away. In the edgy, street-level tapas bar, we gorge on golden croquettes, crispy fried prawns, house-cured meats and salty pimientos de Padrón (also known as Russian roulette peppers, as one in 10 is mouth-searingly hot), washed down with cocktails and cava.
Next stop is the Bowery in neighbouring Fortitude Valley, a speakeasy-style bar that’s very Manhattan. After a negroni for me and an apple and cinnamon martini for him (Mr Smith has a knack for ordering the girliest drinks), we stroll back to Balfour, ducking into Ortiga for an espresso martini en route.
By now Mr Smith knows the drill, and is running a bubble bath within seconds of our return. Hours evaporate, pillows are flung and the sleep that follows is deep. So deep, in fact, that when we awake the next morning it’s almost time to check out. A quick call to the ever-helpful Alex buys us an extra couple of hours, and the cheeky aside ‘to have fun until then’. Breakfast, we think sadly, has passed us by… yet Alex impresses once again when he calls to say he’ll keep the kitchen open. Weekends away don’t get better than this.
After a luxurious lie-in and another knockout meal (it’s no wonder the Balfour is a brunch favourite among locals), Alex calls us a cab. It’s just a regular run-of-the-mill taxi this time, but that doesn’t matter – all pretence has been dropped and Mr Smith and I are already plotting our next weekend away. Fast, yes. Fabulous? Absolutely.
Anonymously reviewed by Sarah Lewis (Wandering wordsmith)
Reviews of Spicers Balfour Hotel from Smith members
Whenever you book a stay through us, we’ll invite you to comment when you get back. Read the Guestbook entries below to see what real-life Mr & Mrs Smiths have said about this hotel…
I had a very comfortable room. It's a peaceful neighbourhood but good cafés and shops around the corner. Good food.
Cabs don't always come when they say they will.
Edward, BlackSmith stayed on 20 Nov 2013
Executive rooms are small but well designed, with an excellent bed and pillows. Breakfast is a feature. I will have dinner next time as we had made other arrangements but the menu looked inviting. On a summer evening the terrace bar provides an atmospheric place for drinks. Spicer's Balfour is a small, intimate, well appointed, friendly boutique hotel.
JOHN and CATHERINE, SilverSmith stayed on 26 Oct 2013
This boutique hotel is a delight. The manager and staff are exceptional as was the food at both breakfast and a dinner we had one night. The location is quiet and within walking distance to the river where you can catch a boat into the city. It is also a nice walk along the river into the city and walking distance to local shops and restaurants. I booked a massage, which was heavenly. The room was small and compact, as was the bathroom – they're not for people who want space. I would book the larger suite if we return to Brisbane for an extended period of time. The bed and pillows were comfortable with instant hot and cold water for tea, etc, which was fabulous; I have not seen this in a hotel before. They have a rooftop bar with lovely views at night of the bridge and buildings behind; it's very nice to just sit back with a champagne and enjoy the surroundings. We hired a car and drove to Noosa for the day; the hotel has free parking at the rear of the building which is great.
Wayne, BlackSmith stayed on 16 Oct 2013
This is an amazing little hotel with incredibly helpful and pleasant staff. This is a real hidden gem and the position is good – just outside the main city area. We were able to walk into the city in 20 minutes or so.
Fiona, BlackSmith stayed on 6 Aug 2013
Great place to stay on a business trip to get away from the corporate world and actually enjoy staying away from home. Great service and staff. I'll certainly be back when next in Brisbane.
Ally, BlackSmith stayed on 12 May 2013