Christchurch’s The George shows why shouldn’t judge a hotel by its exterior

The place The George is a five-star boutique hotel on the banks of the Avon

The place

The George is a five-star boutique hotel on the banks of the Avon River with a peaceful view into Hagley Park. While the exterior of this middle-aged building is, to be cruelly candid, unremarkable, inside it’s elegantly comfortable, spacious and decorated with an impressive collection of New Zealand artworks by the likes of Ralph Hotere and Bill Hammond. The 53 rooms range from smart Executive right up to the roomy and luxurious Park Suites, equipped with Bose and Nespresso and with wide views over the park. Next door to the main hotel is the three-bedroom 1950s-era Residence villa, meticulously refurbished and set in its own garden.

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The lobby features original New-Zealand art.

Brook Serene

The lobby features original New-Zealand art.

Location

Currently, The George is emphasising its physical distance from the Covid-19 quarantine hotels in the city. More positively, it’s close to the Arts Centre, Art Gallery, Museum and Botanic Gardens, with Cathedral Square not much further away. Hagley Park’s 165 hectares of trees, sports fields, golf course and grassy spaces lie just the other side of the Avon across Park Terrace, a road which is rarely busy. This is Christchurch, so there are no hills, making all of this within the reach of an easy stroll.

The George teddy bear makes everyone feel welcome.

Brook Serene

The George teddy bear makes everyone feel welcome.

The space

Space is the word: treated to a Premium Executive Room, I would say that, there all by myself, I rattled around in it, except that it was much too comfortable for that sort of thing. The décor was tastefully muted, there were armchairs and a table in a bow window looking out through the trees across the Avon to the green of the park beyond, as well as a terrace outside with more seating. The bed was huge and soft, with pure cotton sheets and a pillow menu to choose from, there was underfloor heating and even the mirrors in the sparkling bathroom had demisters.

A nice touch is that the amenities in there are made locally and packaged in recycled containers. They, and the recycling bin in the room, are evidence of The George’s overall mission to be as sustainable and environmentally-friendly as possible, reducing waste, energy consumption and emissions. Amongst other initiatives, the hotel runs an employee charity volunteer scheme and helps with the conservation of the endangered orange-fronted kākāriki.

The view into Hagley Park is agreeably restful.

Pamela Wade

The view into Hagley Park is agreeably restful.

Stepping out

Many of the city’s charms are easily accessible, but the hotel has bikes available if you want to go further under your own steam. The Botanic Gardens always reward a stroll and, at the Antigua Boat Sheds, you can be taken for a literal punt, or rent a canoe for a pootle along the Avon. There’s the Canterbury Museum to explore, where Fred and Myrtle’s Paua House will make you appreciate The George’s more subtle décor. The Arts Centre is just across the road from there and the Art Gallery a couple of blocks away. You can catch the tram for a circuit of the inner-city, including cute New Regent Street. Quake City is an interactive exhibition about earthquakes, and you can also visit the Earthquake Memorial wall near the Bridge of Remembrance. The Isaac Theatre Royal’s listings are worth checking out and, wherever you go, there are heaps of shops, cafés, bars and restaurants – and all this is within walking distance of The George.

The food

While the hotel’s award-winning Pescatore was closed last year, the equally successful 50 Bistro is still in active operation under executive chef Chanaka Jayabahu, serving meals from breakfast right up till late. There are so many tempting options on the breakfast menu that the decision-making could ruin your day before it has properly begun, so to save you that dilemma, take it from me: you won’t regret the brioche French toast with brûlée banana. But elevenses, lunch, high tea, bar snacks, dinner – they all bring the same difficulties, whatever your dining restrictions and preferences. There’s even a children’s menu, so they can learn early about the weighty responsibility of food selection.

Chef Chanaka Jayabahu is behind the delights at 50 Bistro.

Brook Serene

Chef Chanaka Jayabahu is behind the delights at 50 Bistro.

Highlight

While the facilities – room, restaurants, bar, free WiFi – were all great, the best bit was the friendly staff. The 1:1 staff to guest ratio obviously enables personal attention that is professional, efficient and eager to ensure that everything is perfect, but they were at the same time welcoming, cheerful and relaxed. That some of them have been working there for 30 years says a lot for the environment; and two of the concierge team have been awarded membership of the international Les Clef d’Or professional association. I was especially delighted that the girl doing the bedtime turn-down generously left me five, count them, five chocolates, as well as a cute and cuddly little teddy bear called, of course, George.

Lowlight

Scraping here: Possibly that gym junkies have to go next door to the Montreal Hotel to use the facilities there?

The Premium Executive room is spacious and comfortable.

Brook Serene

The Premium Executive room is spacious and comfortable.

Essentials

The bed and breakfast package for this Premium Executive Room costs from $293 a night for two people. The slightly less luxurious Executive Room costs from $233 – alternatively, you could push the boat out and pay from $1141 for the award-winning separate Residence villa at the end of a covered walkway: 1950s character refurbished to include essential modern touches like electronic bidet toilets. Or stay in the building and swan around in a roomy Park Suite for from $495.

The writer was hosted at the George.

thegeorge.com

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