Sunday, May 28, 2023

Accommodation Review: Finding a Hidden Jewel in Cuba Street

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Welcome to Capsule Travels, where we bring you stories, reviews and experiences of all the best the world – and New Zealand has to offer! In this series, we get down and gritty with reviews of different types of accommodations, so you can make the best decision possible for your well-deserved travel plans – and we all need to know where NZ’s best hotels are, right!? This week Sarah Lang stayed at Naumi, Wellington

It is a truth universally acknowledged (by us, if not all) that Cuba Street is the best spot to hang out in the capital, with its wine bars, eateries, art galleries, fashion boutiques, thrift stores, and a pedestrianised area where buskers and magicians pop up.

It’s also home to Naumi, which is, as far as I know, the only ‘proper’ hotel on Cuba Street, and the perfect spot to spend a night or weekend away. It could serve either as a sanctuary within the precinct, or as a launchpad for an evening out. My husband and I offloaded our son and brought staycation energy.

Masked by street-facing retail stores, the hotel is situated in two next-door-neighbour buildings, with a lobby, bar and restaurant on the ground floor, and hotel rooms upstairs. Naumi Hotels purchased this pair of properties in 2018, and has done some major refurbishments to both. 

In one building is the 4-star Naumi Studios, opened in 2020. In the other is the 4.5-star Naumi Wellington, opened in 2023. Think of them as sisters who look similar, but have different complexions.

Naumi Studios offers 116 compact rooms, with every amenity you need. Naumi Wellington offers 62 suites that are more like studios than standard hotel rooms. Both have some twin rooms.

Naumi Wellington is the seventh establishment opened by family-owned, Singapore-based brand Naumi Hotels, which has seven properties across Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. Its boutique hotels are known for their prime locations, ‘affordable luxe’ (as in, luxury at a reasonable price), whimsical design, eclectic art, and a bright colour scheme.

In Wellington, the style and design of these hotels was overseen by New Zealand company Material Creative. Part of its brief was ‘no white’. Good luck finding anything that’s not colourful here!

Our spacious king room had a couch that created a loungey nook, and amazing sculptural coffee tables and bedside tables designed by Kiwi start-up Made of Tomorrow. By far the most visually striking element is the carpet: it’s diagonally striped in fluorescent colours and reflected in the glass doors of the wardrobe. And are those walls draped in velvet? Why yes they are. Luxe, indeed.

Could the TV be any bigger? Nope. You can access all major streaming services, for those times when your evening (or, hey, your afternoon) involves binge watching and room service. We re-watched the first Star Trek movie, with some mini-bar snacks. Then it was time for a dip in the indoor pool. The fitness centre? Not today!

We headed down to the flawlessly decorated Lola Rouge Bar, in an unexpectedly large atrium-like room. Yet it feels surprisingly cosy, thanks to little nooks created by chairs and small tables, in pops of different colours. In the centre, low-hanging lights and barstools flank an eye-catching bar where cocktails are mixed. Nab one of the couches closest to the bar; from here you can see a TV playing classic films like Amelie on silent. It’s strangely mesmerising!

The drinks menu includes boutique wines, local craft beer, and 10 carefully chosen cocktails. My pick is the Mister Negroni – tip the liquid from a bottle into the glass, and it releases a small cloud of steam. Finally,  a science experiment that ends well!

The bar area flows into The Parlour, which is styled after light-filled Parisian conservatories. With its green walls, plants, and floral sculptures by New Zealand artist Judy Darragh, it feels like a very fancy greenhouse. By day, this is high-tea central.

Our next stop, through a door from the bar, is the Lola Rouge restaurant, in a room that couldn’t be any more red, with plush seats more often found in lounges than restaurants. It’s a celebration of South-East Asia cuisine curated by award-winning executive chef Kiran Ghate. My husband highly recommends the Kurobuta Pork Belly. I was stoked to find there were more than one or two vegetarian options; the Yaki Udon was delicious and just the right portion size.

The sights of Cuba Street are mere metres away but, heck, you might not even want to leave the building.

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