Photo op with the lot

Effortless...contemporary design melds with retro touches in the rooms (above) and lobby (below).
Effortless...contemporary design melds with retro touches in the rooms (above) and lobby (below).

An eye-catching hipster haunt has Jacqueline Maley reaching for her camera.

The weekend I visited the East Hotel I had just joined Instagram, the photo-blogging social media site that showcases life as a hipster daydream. It is full of aesthetically pleasing people doing aesthetically pleasing things. Models post artfully casual shots of their outfits, and foodies photograph their fashionable suppers. Designers share snaps of arty buildings shot in elegantly stark profile. Everything is infused with mellow light.

So it's serendipitous that the East Hotel, a small hipster corner nestled in the inner-Canberra suburb of Kingston, is full of highly photogenic decor and food.

The gallery-style lobby gives a sense of space and, instead of having plain old art on the long, high walls, photographic images are projected on to them. Two fixed-wheel vintage-style bicycles reside in the lobby for the guests' use; a bank of computers sits next to reception and near the low couches and long, curved standing lamp in the lobby; and guests can help themselves to Alessi jars full of lollies.

My companion and I take photos and upload them before grabbing several handfuls of Jaffas and heading to our third-floor "luxury apartment", which is beautifully decorated in a Mad Men-meets-Danish-design aesthetic. The palette is mostly grey but with pops of colour, including a mustard armchair in the bedroom and a handsome blue recliner with a footstool in the living room.

The kitchen has a DeLonghi coffee machine and is set up with a cooktop and small laundry for business guests. There are televisions in both rooms and the bathroom is large and luxurious.

The view through the bedroom's panoramic windows is of the Brindabellas, with a church steeple in the foreground. Beautiful. On Sunday morning, we hear the pealing of bells.

And then we ate The hotel houses an atmospheric restaurant and bar called Ox, where long, curved wooden panelling forms booths for tables of two or four. Ox's Mad Men design aesthetic has been carried over from the rest of the hotel, with soul music playing softly and the lights low. The vibe is so relaxed and elegant, it's disappointing that the food is, well, disappointing.

The restaurant's self-proclaimed speciality is its French rotisserie, which anchors the room and smells delicious. But when we order the banquet of a mix of dishes, the rotisserie meats aren't great. The beef is salty and smothered in a grassy salsa verde. The chicken is also salty and just average.

The roast vegetables and tiny, poorly dressed salad that come with the banquet are not worthy of the meal's price tag, but there is at least plenty of food and the wine list and service are excellent. Some of the entrees - including the grilled haloumi with honey and lemon, and the jamon and parmesan croquettes - are good.

The deal maker The hotel has been lovingly designed and curated with a wonderful eye. The whole place is just crying out to be uploaded to a trendy photo-blogging website. The contemporary style of the rooms is beautifully offset with the retro furniture and lamps, all put together with a relaxed ease that makes you feel like no one is trying too hard - in a good way. The rooms are spacious, light and very comfortable, with the bed being a special treat.

Stepping out The hotel is a short walk from the Kingston shops, which include a few good restaurants and cafes. We visit the National Portrait Gallery next to the National Gallery of Australia, the High Court and Questacon.

If you borrow the hotel's bikes, the cultural precinct is just a short, glorious cycle away.


East Hotel

Address 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston, ACT. Phone 6295 6925, or see

Price Studios from $200, luxury studios from $220, apartments from $270.

The verdict Stylish and well located, with excellent service.

Perfect for A luxurious adult stay with cultural highlights.

Wheelchair access Yes.

While you're there Visit the National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery of Australia, cycle to the lake, pop into the Gasworks markets on the Kingston foreshore, browse boutiques at nearby Manuka.

Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.

This story Photo op with the lot first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.