View From The Concierge Desk
“For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.” ― Simon Van Booy, Everything Beautiful Began After
They are the ‘whisperers of the hotel trade, speaking the language of the city like few others, and able to tell a hotel guest what they need often before they themselves speak it. The Concierge is a gracious, charming and insightful host, and is the first face you see on arrival for your city weekend away, overnight Melbourne staycation or business trip.
We sat down with our Chief Concierge James Ridenour, one of the leading Concierge’s in Australia for his view of Melbourne and his tips for how guests can discover the new, notable and whatever you want to do next….
Chef Concierge of Next Hotel Melbourne James Ridenour lives and breathes hotels and the city of Melbourne. He’s been a concierge in award-winning luxury properties most of his career, initially in Vancouver, and for the last 15 years in Melbourne. He’s also a member of the prestigious international hotel concierge society Les Clefs d’Or since 2008 and many times awarded as at the top of his trade in his own right, including the BRW list of Top 10 Concierges in Australia and New Zealand for his time in Melbourne Hotels.
What’s your favourite thing about working at Next Hotel Melbourne?
Without a doubt it’s the team.
Everyone is focused on one thing and that is guest service. The guest is forefront in all we do. There’s a commitment from the management to support and empower each and every team member to do whatever it takes to make our guests stay amazing. This is truly special and is reflected in our Trip Advisor Top 3 Melbourne Hotels ranking in guest satisfaction after just three months of opening.
If there’s one thing you don’t want to miss when you stay at Next Hotel Melbourne it is….
It’s the concierge of course! Many guests aren’t that familiar with concierge services. It’s our job to help you to find whatever you need in order to make the most of your stay. We can help with everyday things like the best coffee in Melbourne to the extraordinary like a marriage proposal, the perfect Melbourne restaurant, a picnic in the park or where to find the best shopping in town.
What’s your favourite spot in the hotel and why?
La Madonna Restaurant and Bar. Hotel food and beverage offerings are usually quite standard. Danny and Adrian and their team have created something extraordinary. It’s a destination in its own right and it is so amazing to hear all the excellent feedback from their patrons and hotel guests. It’s going to become a truly special place for Melbourne’s dining scene.
What cocktail would you recommend in La Madonna’s bar?
Anything Phil and the team make is very good and depends on your tastes, but I love to put the barperson to the test. Ask them to make a drink based on a description and see what you get. Here are some ideas; bitter and twisted, smooth as silk, a cloudy day, or a salty dog. Be inventive and have fun with the creations the bartenders at La Madonna can come up with anything based on your idea.
What are your top three things you’d recommend for a memorable city staycation?
That’s a personal thing. Everyone is different and I always try to focus on what Melbourne is famous for. Some of my personal favourites are:
- Patricia Coffee – the best coffee in Melbourne. It’s standing room only; make sure you look up when you go.
- The NGV Australia in Federation Square – the best gallery in Melbourne housing only Australian art. Not only is the collection amazing, but the architecture of the building is worth a visit in its own right
- Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens – the gardens are the best in the city and are an oasis from the hustle of city life. They’re an easy walk from the hotel too. The historic features in and around the gardens are also a big draw with Government House, The Shrine of Remembrance (make sure you go to the balcony up to for the best view of the city) and the neighbourhood of South Yarra close by (great for cafes and beautiful homes built in Victorian architectural style). Don’t miss a stroll along the river as well for some of the best views of the city.
What’s been the most requested item or help you’ve been asked for by guests staying at Next… so far?
- Tell me where to get Melbourne’s best coffee – this request wins, hands down.
Name the most difficult, crazy or near impossible request you’ve helped a guest with …
There’s a never-ending list and of course, nothing is impossible but some of the more memorable are:
- Finding a long-lost schoolmate
- Arranging a Ferrari to drive on the Philip Island racetrack and a helicopter to get there!
- Hiring ‘frozen people’ street performers for a meeting on short notice
- Hunting down auto parts for a vintage car
As one of the country’s leading Concierges, you have to keep your finger on the pulse. How do you keep up to date with everything that’s happening in our fair city?
I consider myself a bit of a current events junkie – I like keeping at the forefront of what is happening in Melbourne, it’s such a wonderfully dynamic city. Without giving away any trade secrets, I have about 100 Melbourne people I follow on social media across fashion, art, restaurants, bars, politics, sports, writers, museums and architects. I have a pretty broad network which comes in handy sometimes as well!
What three things do you love most about Melbourne?
For one, the old and new architecture – like Federation Square and historic Flinders Street Station or Docklands with its brand new towers and Victorian warehouses.
Melbourne is a great city to explore on foot and I love the green spaces within the city such as the Treasury and Fitzroy Gardens. Further afield along the bay from Port Melbourne to Sandringham, The Main Yarra Trail on the Yarra River is an excellent place for a walk or a cycle.
The food scene here is brilliant. Some of my favourite Melbourne restaurants – aside from the new La Madonna Restaurant & Bar here at Next Hotel of course – are:
- Epocha – Southern European cuisine with some of the best service in town located in a Victorian Terrace in Carlton
- Donovan’s – right on the beach in St Kilda with beach views. It’s a Melbourne institution.
- Maha – modern Middle Eastern in the CBD – sublime
- Lupino – relaxed classic Italian pasta and pizza just up the road from the hotel
- Bowery To Williamsburg – A casual NY style diner serving all-day breakfast, bagels and sandwiches. A short stroll from Next.