Reviews

Review: Pullman Auckland

Overall Rating

By John Walton, May 26 2011
Pullman Auckland
Country

New Zealand

City

Auckland

Hotel

Pullman

Rating

5-star

Room

1125

Notes
The Good
  • spacious, well-appointed rooms
  • top-notch hotel restaurant
The Bad
  • NZ$29/day for wifi
  • hidden light switches
X-Factor
  • best wine list we've seen in ages
  • fast, video-conf capable wifi
Location
Rooms
Meals
Overall

Introduction

The Pullman Auckland is one of the largest corporate venues in New Zealand. Previously the Hyatt Regency until a big rebranding this January (and the InterContinental when it opened in 1968), the hotel is an excellent upmarket business hotel choice.

With 267 rooms, it's slightly off the main drag on Waterloo Quadrant at Princes Street, but within a 20-minute walk of most of Auckland's CBD office buildings.

We stayed in the main Pullman hotel tower, but the adjoining Residences tower, opened in 2003 -- with a kitchenette, balcony and more extensive living room and bathroom facilities -- is part of the same complex.

Location & Impressions

Like most people in Auckland, we arrived by car. The Pullman is an unusually easy reach from the main Southern Motorway (SR1) on the Symonds St exit. A 25-minute lunchtime taxi to the airport cost us NZ$75 (A$57).

Bear in mind that Google Maps still thinks the hotel is the Hyatt Regency Auckland, so if you're using an iPhone, iPad or other Google Maps device, search for that hotel instead for the near future.

It was dark when we got there, but from part of the full-width window in the room Auckland's iconic Sky Tower was visible. (The other side of the hotel looks out over the chic new apartment buildings by the working container ship port -- far enough that there's no noise and the goings-on seem like a giant set of models.)

Our room faced out over beautiful Albert Park, which contains much of the colonial history of Auckland and a good part of the older bits of Auckland University. With autumn just starting to arrive, the golden leaves made it a picture-perfect view.

Room

Our Executive Suite King on the 11th floor (of 14) was remarkably spacious for an older hotel. A small entry-way with a "landing strip" table (for keys and things) led into a living and working area the size of a regular room in the hotel. (Which is, of course, exactly how big it is.) 

The living and working area featured a desk and chair (classic and ornamental rather than ergonomic, but it wasn't uncomfortable to use), plus a long L-shaped sofa with ottoman, a glass table at just the right height to use for a laptop, and a separate armchair. 

A large flatscreen TV sat on top of the cabinet hiding the minibar and tea/coffee arrangements -- which were instant rather than a Nespresso machine, slightly disappointingly given New Zealand's coffee culture.

In the bedroom, a king-sized bed with a wonderful firm mattress, duvet and ample pillows faced another armchair with ottoman and an equally large flatscreen TV. 

The bathroom (off the bedroom rather than connecting to the living room) had a deep half-bath (good for soaking muscles rather than relaxing in) with a superb shower over. However, the temperature adjustments were by separate hot & cold taps rather than a single swing lever, which was a little fiddly.

With a fair bit of luggage on this trip, we were pleased by the large closet and luggage rack that easily took our oversized suitcase. Proper coathangers -- in wood and fabric -- were a pleasant, classy extra.

The one odd issue with the suite was the location of the lightswitches, which weren't by the doors leading from one room to another. It may sound like a little thing -- and, compared with the otherwise excellent standard of the hotel, it was -- but we were glad for the torch the Pullman provides in the cupboard in the middle of the night when trying to navigate the room.

Work

In an executive suite, there are two good options for working: in the working/living area within the suite or in the 14th floor executive lounge.

In the suite, the desk isn't really set up for a full eight-hour shift with your laptop. However, the sofa + glass coffee-table is at the right height to allow you to alternate between the two. Handy power points (Australia/New Zealand/China angled flat pin socket) are convenient for both the desk and the sofa.

Consider also using the executive lounge on the 14th floor, with both table-and-chair and sofa options. The view over Albert Park is great for staring at while thinking, and the excellent wine offering (with two fantastic wines from Wairarapa boutique winery Johner) during canapé hour will get your creative jucies flowing.

The one downside to using the hotel for work is the cost for wireless Internet -- NZ$29 (A$21) for a 24-hour period. However, the wifi has excellent speed and signal strength, and remembers your device no matter where you are in the hotel. So if you've brought your laptop up to the executive lounge or your iPad down to the lobby, you're able to just pick up where you left off instead of having to go through a tedious log-in process.

There's no data cap, and the speed (4Mbps up and down for most of our stay) was fast enough for Skype videoconferencing and live-streaming TV. In New Zealand -- which generally has awfully slow and ridiculously expensive Internet -- the Pullman offering was, in comparison, well above average.

But paying for it, especially when travelling on some corporate accounts that don't allow for incidentals like Internet access, is always frustrating.

Eat

Canapé hour in the executive lounge on the 14th floor is well-stocked, and a continental breakfast is also served in the mornings.

Arriving late and having eaten a large lunch, we made it up to the executive lounge for the canapé hour, which was substantial enough to make for a good light dinner, with bread, cheese, antipasto, salami, amuse-gueules, and a variety of interesting crackers. 

Breakfast in the executive lounge was continental in style (though with delicious frittata as well), with a fantastic view over the city.

Downstairs in the main restaurant the breakfast was extensive and fully cooked, with an egg chef, the usual hot options (bacon, sausages, baked beans, mushrooms, tomatoes) and a particularly wide continental breakfast selection with an entire honeycomb plus honey dispenser as the centrepiece.

We had dinner in the hotel one night, and it was absolutely excellent. To start, three perfectly-sized mud crab cakes with a pea purée went with a delicious Waipara Pinot Gris, followed by an perfectly-cooked piece of venison with a Pinot Noir. 

We finished with a delicious piece of NZ cheese (with accompaniments that included two tiny walnut meringues) and a Johner Noble Pinot Noir dessert wine. All in all, a top-flight meal, with excellent service: there's barely any need to leave the hotel to eat on a short trip.

Relax

Pullman uses the "check in, chill out" slogan, and it's appropriate. The sofas and chairs in the room were remarkably comfortable for an evening's relaxation, and the bath (short, but deep) was surprisingly good.

The Pullman also has a spa downstairs by the pool, whirlpool spa and gym area, which offers upmarket chill-out massages and other assorted treatments amid elegant and relaxing spa surroundings -- for an equally upmarket price. 

If the weather's good, the outside deck area with lounge chairs beyond the pool is the perfect spot for a bit of sun-worshipping -- even in late May in Auckland's warm climate.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.


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