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Grand Mercure Wellington has undergone a $12 million refurbishment, delivering a new sense of style and elegance to The Terrace. Our recent stay was an interesting one for me as I had visited this hotel eight years previously. Back then, the Mercure had a lot going for it but it was looking rather tired. Yet, surprisingly, it was still my favourite hotel on that New Zealand trip. I couldn’t wait to see what the (now Grand) Mercure Wellington looked like after its Hollywood-worthy makeover.

With capital city hotels, location is everything. First impressions of the Grand Mercure Wellington might have you feeling as if the hotel is a little out of the way. However, rest assured this is the perfect location to either work, rest or play. Overlooking the city from its elevated position, the Grand Mercure offers sweeping views of the CBD and pretty Rimutaka hills. Its position makes it feel as if you are in a trendy residential part of the city rather than the bustling CBD, something which is also a benefit for light sleepers.

Grand Mercure Superior Room

It is an easy 10 minute walk to the central business district and the harbour where you will find many of Wellington’s major attractions.  If you want to avoid a climb up the hill to The Terrace after you’ve been exploring, there is a lift which takes you back up to reception via the back of the hotel. You will find this ‘secret lift’ tucked away near the entrance of FORAGE Kitchen + Bar, the hotel restaurant. It’s easiest to take the lift down first so you know where to find it on the way back up the hill as the rear hotel entrance isn’t well signed.

When our family entered the plush lobby area, it felt as if we had arrived at a stylish boutique hotel rather than a modest four star. My favourite accommodation option was virtually unrecognisable after its extensive renovation. Decor was modern and discreet with a mix of black, cream and burnished gold furnishings and a contemporary fireplace had been added to create a cosy lobby lounge. Complimentary tea was available for those who wanted to enjoy a refreshment.

Grand Mercure Wellington entrance on The Terrace
Lobby lounge with a contemporary fireplace
Complimentary tea is available in the lobby

Our Deluxe King room had an attractive view, with a king size bed (twin rooms are also available), stylish décor and a matching sofa and reading chair. Bathing pleasure came in the form of a rain shower and a directional shower wand with accompanying Manuka honey bath products and loads of fluffy towels. The only thing we weren’t keen on was the frosted bathroom/toilet door which didn’t hide as much as it could have, although this wouldn’t be an issue unless you were sharing the room with a friend or colleague. Other in-room amenities included an impressively large smart TV, minibar, coffee pod machine, a Bose stereo system and bathrobes with slippers to get you into that getaway mood. Extra touches abounded at the hotel, such as the complimentary tea in the lobby and a ‘welcome back to the hotel’ chocolate plate we found waiting for us in the room. It tasted as good as it looked and disappeared in about two seconds.

‘Welcome back to the hotel’ amenity
Grand Mercure Wellington renovated bathroom
Room entrance and in-room coffee machine

Dining and drinks are available at FORAGE Kitchen + Bar which is located on the reception level of the hotel. You will find this restaurant on Level 3 rather than the ground floor due to the hotel’s hillside location. Just outside the restaurant there is a room with a long, communal bench and a handful of stand alone seats and tables where you can enjoy a drink. FORAGE Kitchen + Bar is not your normal hotel eatery specialising in boring burgers and chips.

Enjoy a drink before dinner at FORAGE Kitchen + Bar

This is a standout dining venue featuring sophisticated dishes such as pan seared Whangamata scallops with Otaki cauliflower couscous and not-to-be-missed Riverland eye fillet served with extra creamy mashed potatoes, mushroom puree and a choice of sauces. Make sure you leave room for the Waikane lemon tart for dessert. The ambiance is casual and friendly with attentive staff and a number of romantic window tables offering stunning views of the sparkling cityscape below. When it comes to dinner, this restaurant is definitely worth staying in for. We were surprised FORAGE Kitchen + Bar wasn’t busier as it certainly deserved to be. My husband and I enjoyed one of the best meals of our trip here.

Art on a plate at FORAGE Kitchen + Bar
FORAGE Kitchen + Bar
Riverland eye fillet with a view
Waikane lemon tart

In-house guests can also have breakfast at FORAGE Kitchen + Bar. Maybe our expectations were too high after our stunning dinner the night before, but breakfast was a bit of a letdown. Not because it wasn’t in keeping with what we had experienced at similarly rated hotels but because everything else about the Grand Mercure Wellington is way, way above what you would expect to find at a typical 4 star. However, any disappointment was our fault rather than the hotel’s.

For me, returning to the Grand Mercure Wellington was akin to running into an old friend you haven’t seen in years and being amazed by how fabulous they look. However, my husband was impressed from the moment we pulled up outside. His initial comment sums up this hotel perfectly: “Are you SURE this is only a four star?”  With rooms starting at AU$170 per night and suites with a separate bedroom and sitting area available from $AU260, the Grand Mercure Wellington offers upmarket accommodation at a bargain price.

Disclosure: The writer stayed as a guest of Grand Mercure Wellington. She would gladly return to the hotel at her own expense on her next trip to Wellington. 

While we were in Wellington we also stayed at the QT Wellington, went on a Seal Safari, and spent the night at the nearby wine region of Martinborough.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.