“Life is uncertain, so eat dessert first.” The Adelphi Hotel’s motto is literally shouted from its sweet corner on Flinder’s Lane in Melbourne. This is, after all, the world’s first hotel where the dessert theme prevails as the main focus in its restaurant, minibar, and its bar (liquid desserts, anyone?). Managing Director Dion Chandler admits to having a rather sweet tooth, which is why when designer Fady Hachem brought the idea to him, he was all for it. “Hachem’s wife came up with a dessert bar concept for the hotel and we sort of grew organically from there,” explains Chandler. “We wanted it to be a sensorial experience so we have cushions that resemble sweets, while specially created scents in the lobby give you the feeling of entering a patisserie.”
It’s no surprise that Chandler went for something so daring after procuring this property, the first hotel that he can truly call his own. True, he’d been in the hotel business for quite a while, but as part of large chains. With Adelphi, however, he could finally implement ideas that targeted the creative few and not the largest number of people possible. After finishing his degree at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School, the Sydneysider came up against a lot of rules in chain hotels that suppressed his enthusiasm for creating “wow” moments for guests.
The Adelphi is his ode—and antidote—to those frustrations: “We do personal messages for guests on the mirrors at the hotel and they love it,” he says. “It wasn’t a welcome idea at my previous job. I also always found the idea of getting a fruit plate for your 10th stay really boring. Instead, why not get concert tickets on your 6th stay or something equivalent. Recently I got a Sydney Swans football t-shirt for a regular guest’s son, signed by Adam Goods. He wears it all the time. Its about paying attention to detail.”
“Everything had to have texture to it. Thus the chairs are really fluffy; the leather tables in the restaurant are tactile, and so on. Then we thought about how we’d bring taste to the spaces. We have a specialized dessert drinks wagon and offer custom desserts with the turn down service,” explains Chandler.
Also a stickler for detail, Fady Hachem had a tall order to convert the iconic Adelphi Hotel into something unique while retaining its original industrial element. “In 1993, Australian hospitality was big on minimalism. So the original hotel was cold,” he explains. “We wanted to do something special. So we experimented with new things.”
The prolific designer leads one of Australia’s most progressive studios. In fact Hachem’s career in this field began rather accidentally while he was at university. “At 19, I had the chance to work on my first bar, Drew, which belonged to my cousin and me. It was a great success. After that I worked on a real commercial project, the award-winning Bond Lounge Bar. It involved interior design, branding, and graphic design…quite a big project for someone so inexperienced.” But thanks to Hachem’s natural talent, the bar won a national award and was voted among the world’s best bars. In fact, the story has come full circle with the Melbourne native assigned yet again to revamp the bar.
As far as the Adelphi is concerned, the happy collaborators have a big project ahead of them: redoing Melbourne’s most famous pool (it rests eight story’s up and juts out over the city). Whatever the final result looks like it will no doubt be a sweet addition.