You'd expect some jitters when checking into a brand-new hotel on its opening day, but the young reception staff at the low-cost Tune Hotel are well rehearsed and oh so polite. There's no indication of stage fright from them at all.
If I closed my eyes, I could be checking into one of Melbourne's finest and most seasoned hotels, such is the greeting at the counter.
The place isn't looking too shabby either.
It's a budget property but everything is new and spotless. With brave colours of red and white, modern minimalist furniture and groovy music playing, this could be the deal of the year with an introductory rate of $39 a night, plus extras, almost in the middle of town.
But the question is whether the rooms stack up to the excellent first impression.
The Tune Hotel in Swanston Street, Carlton, is the first in Australia. It opened on October 21 with 225 rooms including twins, doubles and family size.
The Tune Hotel Group is an offshoot of budget airline AirAsia and has a payment model similar to budget airlines.
Hotel guests initially pay a minimal room rate and then add on extras such as towels, toiletries, Wi-Fi and satellite television.
There's a downstairs lounge with sofas, tables and chairs, computers and even expensive fresh flowers neatly arranged in vases.
When Melbourne heats up, there is also a sizeable and inviting courtyard scattered with chairs and tables.
A restaurant and a cafe are scheduled to open.
Car parking is available, but trams conveniently and constantly rattle by the front door into the CBD and there are bike racks close by where you can rent one of the city's blue bicycles (see melbournebikeshare.com.au).
Now, for those rooms. They are small and basic and the bed almost fills the space that I pace out as nine steps by five steps on the vinyl flooring that looks like floorboards.
There's also a small desk with lamp, a red moulded plastic chair, a luggage rack and a safe under the bed.
There's a flat-panel TV on the white wall, a floor-to-ceiling mirror and digitally-controlled air-conditioning and heating.
The bathroom with charcoal floor tiles and white wall tiles is tight but the actual shower space is large.
Do I like it?
Hell yes, this is a great deal even when you consider the exclusions such as no phone, no wardrobe, no drinking glass, no bar fridge, no room service and not even a towel unless you pay an extra $2.50.
It is a case of getting what you pay for and similar to the payment model used by low-cost airlines where you start with a minimal fare, or in this case room rate, and then add on the extras.
The room is cosy and the double-glazed windows block out the traffic noise and muffle the clatter of the trams along Swanston Street.
The bed and the power shower are marketed as "five-star" by Tune Hotels and they live up to the claim.
A cafe serving wraps, sandwiches, pastries and coffee is scheduled to open on October 23 and a restaurant serving buffet breakfasts and Malaysian cuisine is scheduled to open in 6-8 weeks.
Just two blocks away, is Lygon Street with its Italian restaurants, pizzerias, cafes and bars.
The street is book-ended by two Italian institutions - Toto's Pizza House at the city end and Tiamo towards North Carlton. But anywhere in between, there are countless touts willing you to pull up a chair inside or outside under the heaters and umbrellas that line the footpath on both sides of the street.
Toto's, with its classic red-and-white checked tablecloths, was the first pizzeria in Melbourne (opened in 1961) and a large pizza costs about $20. Service great, portions large, but pizza quality could improve.
Others to try include University Cafe and Papa Gino's.
Worth stepping out for
Melbourne's key city attractions - including its bustling lanes, Chinatown, Old Melbourne Gaol, Melbourne Museum, Queen Victoria Market and even the City Baths - are just a few tram stops away.
Doesn't look cheap, doesn't feel cheap, but it is cheap.
How to get there
The hotel is at 609 Swanston Street, Carlton, near the corner of Queensberry Street. The Skybus from Melbourne Airport to Southern Cross Station in the city is approximately $19 one way including free transfer from the station to the hotel (see skybus.com.au).
The introductory promotional room rate of approximately $45 a night ends on October 31 when the price will vary between $75 and $170, depending on demand.Tune says the price will average about $97.
Extras purchased online include: towel and toiletries $2.50; 24-hour Wi-Fi (two devices) $7.50; entertainment package with Foxtel cable TV $5; Early check-in (before 2pm) $25; late check-out (after 11am) $25; storage per bag $2.50; car park per day $17; comfort pack (including Wi-Fi, entertainment pack and towel and toiletries) $12.50.
- Sydney Morning Herald