Thursday, September 16, 2010

Secret Stay - De Russie Suites...ok not that secret

For the best sleep in Orange proper, you can’t go past De Russie Suites. I first stayed here soon after it first opened, on my initial voyage across the mountains. I recently refreshed my memory of it with a little ‘stay-cation’ over one weekend.  Little had changed, its still on a side street off the end of the main drag (Summer St.), it looks swish from the get go, even though the architect might have been inspired by Stalin’s concrete look for the USSR.  Weekend rates for a basic room start at a little over $150, this apparently includes breakfast - but I’ll get to that. The ‘apartment suites’, is not a hotel, although it is named after the ‘De Russie Hotel’ in Rome, as the receptionist told me. I prefer Venice myself, but a quick inquiry to an Italian friend lets me know that the De Russie Hotel is the epitome of luxury in Rome. These ‘Apartment Suites’ have a lot to live up to. 

The reception was unattended when I arrived and I had to use the phone on the desk to get someone to come down. As it transpires there is only ever one receptionist on duty at any one time, so the desk is often unattended. The receptionist was lovely, friendly and efficient. Checking in guests is obviously something well prepared in advance, as evidenced by the checkin forms, and welcome letters are laid out on the desk for all to see. As I checked in, I noticed that stapled to the back of the form was my reservation slip - which included my credit card number with expiry. I have to admit this did perturb me, and I’m surprised to see it not mentioned on the Trip-Advisor site. While I appreciate the forward planning and efficiency, having my name, address and phone number (as well as all the other guests checking in that day) displayed for all to see on the, unattended, reception desk, was deeply troubling. With reception unattended, and public entry to the lobby, anyone could have walked in and copied down my credit card number, expiry, address, telephone number and my name. All one needs to steal my identity. 

The room was lovely, bigger than the standard hotel room, I had a ‘studio-spa’, so it came with an extra large bathroom and spa bath. The bed was just divine, and its obvious from the decor and the furnishings that a lot of thought has gone into the interior design of every room. In addition to the ‘bed’ you also get ‘breakfast’. On my first stay I will admit that when I asked, I was told that there is no bar or restaurant on site but, “don’t worry breakfast is provided” however I did forget to ask how I actually get breakfast. This led to a rather embarrassing conversation with the receptionist, directing me to ‘open my kitchen’, that is the bifold covered cupboard by the door, and there I found my ‘breakfast’. 
Everyone has a different conception of ‘breakfast’, which would explain why one of the trip-advisor reviews says ‘... a very unique and an interesting take on the standard breakfast is provided by De Russie. Personally, what was provided is not breakfast by my standard. In a brown paper bag I found three rather sad slices of bread (‘brown’, white and ‘raisin’) wrapped up like a christmas present, butter in a foil pack, jams, fruit juice (apricot, which I didn’t even know you could juice) and a pack of coffee. That is not ‘breakfast’ when you’re on a weekend break. That’s not even breakfast at home! But this is a self-confessed gourmet junkie, I do have pretty set views on what ‘good food’ is, toast and jam isn’t it for me.

All in all, I think De Russie is trying to be too many things at once,  it wants to provide the increased space and privacy you get with an ‘apartment suite’ rather than a hotel room, but at the same time it wants to make you feel like your in a hotel by claiming ‘bed and breakfast’. It wants a claim to ‘luxury’ so it made the decor luxurious, but it cut back on the service. Rather than chocolates on the pillow, a turndown service and 24 hour room service (the norm for 4 and 5 star ‘luxury’ hotels), you  get a cookie on your bed the first night, your room cleaned daily and a pitiful excuse of a breakfast that you have to cook yourself. There isn’t actually anything wrong with De Russie, the service isn’t bad its just there isn’t really any. You’re led to believe that this is a luxury stay in the heart of Orange, and while the decor is luxurious thats pretty much where the luxury stops. I dread to think how much money was sunk into the place, and wonder if its made a good return on the investment. But then it does essentially have a monopoly on high quality accommodation in the centre of Orange. 
I would still recommend it - but only because I wouldn’t recommend anywhere else in Orange CBD. I stress that it is a lovely place to stay, but don’t be fooled by the decor - it’s short-stay serviced apartments, bring your own food. 

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