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NEXT Hotel Brisbane was once known as Lennons, a local icon that opened in the 70s and was the place to come for a night on the town. Local sophisticates sipped brandy crusta cocktails before adjourning to the upmarket restaurant for a carpetbag steak and a glass or two of moselle. Taking your special lady for a night out here was sure to impress, especially if you booked one of the hotel’s classy rooms. However, like brightly coloured flares, the once glamorous Lennons had not been considered stylish for many years and was bought by SilverNeedle Hospitality for a song.

After an extensive $100 million refurbishment, Lennons emerged as NEXT Hotel Brisbane. With its high-tech amenities, this new hotel would probably have guests from the 70s scratching their heads in disbelief. It might have you scratching your head too if you’re not accustomed to dealing with modern technology as NEXT Hotel Brisbane is billed as one of the most technologically advanced hotels in Australia. There are computer terminals in the lobby which allow you to check-in and check-out at the touch of a button and an in-room Samsung Galaxy phone controls the air-conditioning, lights and television.

NEXT Hotel Brisbane bedroom
NEXT Hotel Brisbane bedroom

You can also use the phone to order room service or – surprise, surprise – even make a phone call. Local calls from the Samsung are free as is the in-room wi-fi which can be used on any device. Fortunately there is also plenty of great ‘old school’ service on offer from the keen, young staff. Watching one of the guys on reception explain how to use the Samsung to an older couple was a delight. His patience and genuine enthusiasm and the couple’s willingness to ‘give it a red hot go’ made me smile.

NEXT is officially billed as a business hotel but my husband and I agreed that its sleek design focus and prime shopping location makes it an equally good choice for a romantic urban getaway, particularly if you like to indulge in a little retail therapy. Our room was located on a high floor and had lovely views of Brisbane City Hall and King George Square. Its ‘flow through’ design, with a bathroom that is open to the sleeping area, is one of the latest hotel design trends.

Flow through design (thankfully with sliding wooden privacy doors)
Flow through design (thankfully with sliding wooden privacy doors)

Fortunately, NEXT Hotel has sliding doors which can be used to close off the bathroom section of the room. I love this open design if I’m travelling solo but the doors are welcome if you are sharing the room with a partner or (even more embarrassing) a friend. Once you’ve closed the bathroom doors, you will discover swank Gilchrist & Soames toiletries in the large shower cubicle and plenty of room to move without clipping your elbows on the bathroom sink. Four free in-room mini-bar items are included in the room rate each day as well.

These high end toiletries smell divine and are equally good for men or women
These high end toiletries smell divine and are equally good for men or women

My only disappointment was the fact the mini-bar didn’t include a mini bottle of wine. If you don’t drink cider or beer, you will either have to stick to the soft stuff or head downstairs for a glass of wine. Not that heading downstairs is such a bad thing. In fact, we would highly recommend it. NEXT has a hip drinking and dining scene that rivals the Lennons of old.

Head down to the pool terrace for a drink
Head down to the pool terrace for a drink

While the 70s discotheque Pacesetters might be long gone, the nostalgically named Lennons Pool Terrace & Bar on the fourth floor of the hotel has an equally trendy ‘people come here to see and be seen’ vibe. We settled down at a table for two overlooking the Queen Street Mall for a spot of people watching and a glass of Petaluma Chardonnay which is offered on-tap at close-to-70s prices.

There is also a high-end red wine available either by the glass or in a 500ml or 1 litre carafe. Don’t miss these two fine wine options, they’re both excellent drops and offer exceptional value in the on-tap format. On the same floor as the pool bar you will also find the NEXT Club Lounge where guests can have a snooze in a high-tech Sleep Pod or meet with colleagues at one of the large boardroom-style tables. There are also computers which can be used to get on-line or catch up on some last minute paperwork if you aren’t travelling with a laptop.

Have a snooze in a high tech sleeping pod
Have a snooze in a high tech sleeping pod
Catch up with colleagues at one of the meeting tables
Catch up with colleagues at one of the meeting tables

The hotel restaurant, Lennons Restaurant & Bar, is on the same floor as the lobby and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Decor is cosy yet contemporary with an open kitchen, wooden tables and floor to ceiling windows. Lennons overlooks the Queen Street Mall and Queen Street’s historic shopfronts which remain hidden from shoppers below. It is an equally good choice for couples or solo diners thanks to the lively atmosphere and great people watching in the mall. The well-priced menu changes with the seasons and focuses on modern comfort food with dishes such as perfectly cooked steaks, confit duck leg with beetroot puree, pickled beetroot and beetroot meringue, or pork belly served with braised red cabbage, fried speck and apple cider jus.

Steak at Lennons Restaurant & Bar
Perfectly cooked steak at Lennons Restaurant & Bar
Potato gnocchi with pumpkin cream, fetta, sage, and walnuts
Potato gnocchi with pumpkin cream, fetta, sage, and walnuts

We shared potato gnocchi with pumpkin cream, fetta, sage, and walnuts to start, followed by two perfectly cooked steaks that rivalled some of Brisbane’s best steak restaurants. The only misstep was a slightly stodgy steamed plum pudding for dessert. We’ll skip dessert in favour of one starter each next time as there were duelling forks when we shared the excellent gnocchi.

Steamed plum pudding with crème anglaise and more-ish rum and raisin compote
Steamed plum pudding with crème anglaise and more-ish rum and raisin compote

If you’re in the city for lunch, there’s a ‘Lennons $25 Lunch’ which includes a choice of mains and a glass of house wine or a soft drink. For an extra $8, you can order two-courses with a glass of house wine or soft drink. Breakfast is also available here each morning for in-house guests. An adjacent deli counter serves up coffee and a selection of light breakfast and lunch options to go such as muffins, fruit salad and croissants.

Breakfast buffet at Lennons Restaurant on Level 2
Breakfast buffet at Lennons Restaurant on Level 2

We liked the way guests were given the option of ordering something lighter. If you have been travelling for a while, sometimes you don’t want a full buffet breakfast every morning. NEXT Hotel Brisbane offers guests a stylish stay with genuine enthusiasm that money does not always buy. Much has changed in Brisbane over the past 40 plus years but one thing remains the same. Treating your special lady (or man) to a night here is still sure to impress.

Disclosure: The writers stayed and dined as guests of NEXT Hotel Brisbane.

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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.