Words by and photography by: Andrew Davidson & Megan Evetts
There’s something superior and indulgent about staying in a hotel in your home city, particularly when you don’t have a long commute or the need to flee from children, annoying family members or crazy housemates. In fact, we live around the corner from The Cullen so when the opportunity to stay came up we were immediately envisaging a decadent getaway. Happily, The Cullen didn’t disappoint!
When it comes to hospitality, we tend to do our homework. We’re talking scrawling through tripadvisor, urbanspoon, blogs, and newspaper articles – the lot. Inevitably, this leads to information overload and indecisiveness but nevertheless it has been known to provide a gleam of what to expect.
For instance, the staff at The Cullen clearly prides themselves on customer service. With social media now an unavoidable obstacle in hospitality, it’s interesting to see the various approaches being taken. Some have kept their heads firmly in the sand, occasionally coming up to bemoan the fact that the most recent bad review was undoubtedly given by their competitor down the road or the group of teenagers who (legitimately) lost their bond. Others have embraced it, realising that the service now continues long after the customer has departed. The Cullen is in the latter category and it was nice to see that both the (rare) negative and the (numerous) positive reviews were followed with a comprehensive and constructive note from The Cullen staff.
From our research it also appears that The Cullen is a hotel that people stay at for both business and pleasure and inevitably return to. After our stay, we could understand why.
The hotel itself, like the artist, strives to encourage a bit of rebellion and attitude from its guests. Not only are the hallways filled with his artwork, the hotel has endeavored to add a touch of Adam Cullen in every possible way. From the door key wallet branded “Your key to our hood” (which conveniently unfolds into a local map – possibly the only one that would feature the club 161 as a venue to visit) through to match boxes branded with Cullen’s imagery. These are some of the many minor touches that make The Cullen experience so unique.
Our suite was boldly designed with bright colors that leap out at you upon entry. The modern furniture was well presented and compliments the Adam Cullen prints, which feature prominently in the room. Frosted glass adorned with one of the subjects of Cullen’s pieces (in our case an image of Ned Kelly), neatly separates the bathroom from the living area and leaves an impression of great space. Like Cullen, few things conform. Even the bookshelf is slanted.
The other key features of the rooms include a full kitchenette that don’t skimp on the cooking facilities/utensils with plenty of storage space for those intending to stay for a longer stint (research revealed that there are a number of permanent residents staying at The Cullen long-term). We understand that some of the suites have balconies, which would be a welcome addition in summer, but even in winter guests may wish to crack a window in the evening, as the room did get a bit stuffy during the night.
If you are prepared to leave the confines of the hotel (although with American-style diner Gramercy offering 24-hour room service we’d forgive you for choosing not to) there’s a gym (with a fantastic mural for added inspiration), bespoke bicycles and Art Series smart cars for hire. In addition to the Gramercy Bar & Bistro downstairs, the infamous Hutong Peking Duck & Dumpling restaurant also sit within the hotel building (although they don’t offer room service). The Prahran Market is located directly opposite should you wish to give the kitchenette a trial run. All in all, there is nothing left wanting in this exciting hotel and the extremely helpful and knowledgeable staff will ensure that you get a lot more than the bare minimum.
The hotel has been described as dramatic and daring. There is no doubt that when you wake to Ned Kelly’s revolver pointing straight at you or lady luck gesturing provocatively, you would have to agree – there is no way that you could ever be accused of being trapped in “loserville” when staying at The Cullen. Rather, you are part of the experience that is living fearlessly in this boutique art hotel.