The Le Méridien brand is back Down Under, marking its return with the opening of Le Méridien Melbourne in March. General Manager Peter Minatsis discusses the latest iteration of the brand and what makes this particular hotel special.

As a new iteration of the Le Méridien brand in Australia, what do you think makes this a special and unique offering in this segment?

Peter Minatsis

There are two things specific to this hotel – the real authentic history that has been tied through the guests experience and design, and that the brand itself fits so well within Melbourne. It’s all about coffee, culture and art and that’s exactly what the brand is. It’s about the master barista, the partnership we have with Axil Coffee Roasters, the art concept in the hotel – it’s a really good fit.

It’s about trying to transpose people back to that glamorous era of travel where they can sit and relax and slow down for a minute. When I sign my cards I say, ‘Savor the moment’, because everyone’s moving so fast, we want to encourage guests to slow down.

The hotel celebrates the history of this site as the much-loved Palace Theatre and its place within the local community over the decades. Are you seeing a positive response from locals since opening?

There were a lot of passionate people who wanted the property to remain as the Palace Theatre and the construction timeline was drawn out because of that. We decided that we would not shy away from that and really embrace it, because it’s what makes this hotel quite special. And that has influenced much of the design throughout.

Back in its days as The Metro, it was the nightclub to rival all nightclubs. And they created this Metro medallion, for regulars or insiders, that allowed them to skip the queue. In honour of that, we created a Le Méridien medallion for our VIP guests that entitles them to a free upgrade anytime they stay with us.

We thought, let’s use some of those things from the past to enhance the stay and make it a bit more interesting than just staying at any hotel.

What is on offer in terms of food and beverage?

We have Intermission – a venue inspired by the espresso bars of the 1950s – on the ground level. That is a cafe by day and wine bar by night, serving croissants and pastries in the morning, baguettes at lunchtime, and antipasto and wine in the evenings. In the restaurant downstairs, we offer breakfast in the morning, then that space turns into Dolly at night – where nostalgic dining comes to life. Think Beef Wellington, Bombe Alaska – flamed tableside to tie in that theatre aspect to the guest experiences. It’s the same with those artful cocktails, there’s a little bit of a show to lean into that entertainment piece.

Tell us about some of the sustainability initiatives that are in place at the hotel.

We don’t have bottled water in any of our meeting rooms. All of the equipment and technology is brand new so it’s as efficient as you can get – we have sensors in almost every area to turn lights on and off. We use LED lighting throughout the whole hotel and have a water tank reservoirs downstairs.

How has the hotel been performing since opening? Are you seeing many international travellers?

We were happy to get a couple of operational weeks under our belt before we hit 100% occupancy over Formula One, and we had some pretty high rates as well. Through these big events, the hotel rooms are filling up so it’s exciting for us.

Our international guests are mainly coming from Europe and the US. We’re seeing a little bit out of India, but China and Southeast Asia have been slower to come back.