“Let’s change the face of Perth." These ambitious words were uttered by Adrian Fini, Australian property developer extraordinaire, as he gazed upon the city’s derelict post office. Little could Fini have guessed just how much ambition – and dogged tenacity – he’d require in realising his grand vision.
Thanks to the mining boom, Perth boasts the highest number (per capita) of self-made millionaires in the world. Its unexpected affluence, however, hasn’t found equal representation in the city’s soporific urban scene, which until recently has been characterised mainly by its dearth of vibrant lifestyle and swish accommodation options. Visitors to Western Australia’s capital typically don’t stay long, using it mainly as a gateway to more interesting destinations such as neighbouring Margaret Valley, Sydney or Melbourne.
They now have a new reason to linger, thanks to Fini, who together with his business partners has kickstarted a massive rejuvenation of the city’s heart. The star of the A$110-million project is Como the Treasury, which is housed in the 140-year-old former treasury building, with restaurants and boutiques in the connected State Buildings.
The first Australian property for Singapore-based Como Hotels and Resorts group, the hotel’s discreet entrance off Cathedral Avenue opens up into a 16,000-sqm site. Perth-born architect Kerry Hill’s touch is evident throughout. The decor is designed to tastefully recede, with its soothing palette of muted earth tones, blond woods, burnished mirrors and pared-down lines. In deference to the building’s historic sensibility, each of the 48 rooms (spread out over four floors) features a different size, layout and views. Averaging 75sqm, the rooms are huge, with enormous Egyptian-cotton dressed beds and complimentary in-room bars. Bathrooms are equally spacious, with heated travertine floors, freestanding baths and three-head rain showers. There’s no art in the rooms, points out Anneke Brown, general manager, Como the Treasury. “It’s Kerry Hill’s signature that the art is outside the window," she says, referencing the verdant views of Cathedral Square, courtyard or gardens.
In fact, the windows themselves are worthy of mention. The property overhaul involved the restoration of about 150 dormer windows, as well as the original Victorian roofs with copper trimmings. Other intriguing features salvaged from the past include original document vaults (with their accompanying heavy steel doors), a majestic concrete staircase and a beautiful bronzed stainless steel cage that pierces the hotel’s centre. The project is said to have returned 95 per cent of the buildings to their 19th-century origins, no mean feat when you consider that it has been 20 years in the making. The project is an ode to perseverance, finally coming to fruition after two changes in government, a global financial crisis and a change in partners (from Aman Resorts to Como).
Como The Treasury also hosts intimate communal spaces. The sleek yet cosy Treasury Lounge and Bar is where you’ll find most guests in the evenings, when champagne and canapes are served. “We wanted the hotel to feel like an elegant home in the heart of the city," says Brown, and this rings especially true in the Lounge, where ample, plush seats and illustrations of Australian flora and fauna by local artists Philippa and Alex Nikulinsky will tempt you to stay a while, glass of Victorian rose in hand.
And because this is a Como property, wellness remains a foremost priority, with Como Shambala’s speciality massage and facial techniques. Or head up to the 20m-lap pool on the third floor. Bathed in slatted light from tall louvred-glass windows, midweek escapes don’t come more stylish than this. Como’s ‘clean-living’ sensibility extends throughout the hotel – motion sensors cut power when rooms are not in use, while in-house bottled water eliminates the need for plastic bottles.
TASTE OF PERTH
Some of the city’s brightest native sons have been lured back home by the new hotel. Kim Brennan runs a sophisticated kitchen in Post, named for the letter franking room in the State Buildings. Within its olive tree-decorated surrounds, he serves a global menu highlighting the season’s best local produce, such as Shark Bay prawns and Arkady lamb. It’s here too that you can enjoy Como’s signature Shambhala cuisine – a health-focused menu that shouldn’t look and taste as good as it does. Fine dining outlet Wildflower, meanwhile, is helmed by Balingup-born Jed Gerrard, who has previously worked with Tetsuya Wakuda. Perched in a steel and glass box (the only modern addition to the Treasury building), Wildflower serves sophisticated European-style cuisine with local produce such as beetroots cooked in Jarrah-wood ash, marron and smoked kangaroo with Geraldton wax (a flowering plant endemic to Western Australia).
Petition Kitchen (and its boozy sibling Petition Wine Bar & Merchant) are loud, buzzy and hugely popular with the locals, particularly with drinks that keep pouring past midnight. In the basement, David Thompson has found an appreciative audience for his particular brand of Thai street food. As we dine there on a Monday night, the joint is packed with local foodies, all keen to test their tolerance for spice in fiery dishes such as Chiang Mai Chicken Larp and Sour Orange Fish Curry. Finally, Halford Bar (accessed off the street) is a speakeasy-style set-up with locally inflected cocktails and gourmet jaffles (toasted sandwiches).
Plenty of other local attractions await Como guests. Grab a locally roasted milk blend at Telegram Coffee, then have a wander around the hotel’s in-house florist, Flowers by Aneura. Indigenous blooms of every colour and size spill out into the hallway, guarded cheerfully by Ginger, the store’s furry mascot. The sparkly, beaded gowns by Western Australian designer Aurelio Costarella have found an adoring clientele here, as have the gourmet creations of Sue Lewis Chocolatier, who makes fresh, handmade chocolates using fine couverture in tandem with local, often organic produce.
While Como the Treasury has attracted travellers from Europe and Asia, it’s clearly found a ready and enthusiastic fan base at home. The hotel recently hosted the 43rd wedding anniversary of a couple who first met in the buildings and is currently compiling the stories of the many locals whose paths have intersected with the original property. “People in Perth are personally invested in the project," says Brown. And with even more key redevelopments set to launch in the immediate neighbourhood including a city library and Mirvac office towers, it would seem Como has found yet another winning venture.