picture of great burgers served on wooden boards
Lamb burgers with chips and onion rings

Ages ago we saw an ad in the paper for The Portlander at Rydges Wellington  in the paper, and after looking at pictures of their burgers, we headed along there for lunch. The lamb burger was slow-cooked in duck fat, and it was delicious, crispy bits spilling out everywhere. The onion rings were heaven too, second only to Monterey’s (although this commentator disagrees). Needless to say, we were pretty excited when we got invited along to the launch official launch a couple of months ago.

We guzzled Moët like it was Lindauer, and oggled the shiny shiny machine they were using to slice up charcuterie. It was beautiful theatre, and I think they bust it out sometimes during happy hour. I can also tell you that their air-dried waygu beef is delicious.

What was even better though was servers carrying around plates of all the different kinds of steak so we could try them all. One has a bone longer than my arm. Guess which one is my favourite?

Shiny meat machine
Shiny meat machine

Having been for dinner a couple of times now, I can say oh fuck yes, this is the Portlander long bone OP rib, and it is AMAZING. We do recommend sharing it though, because it’s 500 grams. No one needs to eat that much meat by themselves, especially since it’s $46. Without sides. But if you keep reading, I will tell you how you can get it cheaper. But first I want to say that the servers at Portlander are very friendly, but it can be a little hard to flag them down when you need things like butter for your bread – and you will need butter because the three times I’ve tried their bread, it has been disappointingly unfresh (not stale, just not up to the standard that you’d expect).

In the interests of science, we decided to book in for a night at the Rydges to see how it was, which is when I discovered that if you join their priority guest rewards (for free!) not only do you save on hotel room bookings and get a later checkout, but you also save 20% on all food and drinks. That is totally worth giving up your email address for. Also I should point out that it seems you can get rooms cheaper directly through them rather than trying to use something like Wotif or Hotels.com, just so you know (we paid $154 for the room and two breakfasts and a late checkout).

Now, looking back, you might remember as we did a review of The Holiday Inn which has now become the Rydges. It appears that decor-wise, not much has changed.  I especially agree with people’s comments that the aircon was a bit hard to use and also quite noisy. The room my boo and I stayed in was a Superior Double on the sixth floor, and we actually had a bit of a harbour view. It was essentially just big enough to fit the two double beds, but didn’t feel too crowded.  The bath was disappointingly short, but the shower was fantastic. The bathroom walls are still that half-opaque glass, but it wasn’t an issue to leave the blind down. It was curious though, because I’d understand its purpose if the shower was in front of the glass, like, oooh, sexy shower time like the many hotels who have spa pools in the main room, but the thing is the toilet is right in front of the glass, not the shower. Nevermind.

Speaking of getting wet, we went down to the pool for a swim, and were impressed by the stacks and stacks of towels all around, but it was a very skinny pool and not so great for people who wanted to float while others wanted to swim lengths. The spa pool was lovely, surrounded by big windows so we could bask in the sun. I couldn’t comment on the gym, because ha, except that it looked very small (although I read you can get free passes to a bigger gym nearby if you need them).

Room service brought us up cheese and tiramisu pretty speedily, although we would have welcomed chutney instead of plain walnuts with the cheese. We were a little disappointed in the breakfast selections offered on the card hanging on the door though. Our room deal included two breakfasts, but there wasn’t an option for a continental breakfast (and it seemed like a waste to just order ‘toast and spreads’), so we put down that we wanted two big breakfasts. We didn’t see a space to select how we wanted our eggs cooked, but they rang the next morning to ask and then only delivered us one. Sad face. By the time a second breakfast was delivered, we didn’t really want it that much anymore. The eggs were (apparently) cooked perfectly, and the sausage and hash browns were really good, but the toast was kinda bleh. That might have been because the eggs were sitting on them though, and eggs are gross.

So, overall, I love Portlander, and will return there as often as funds and desire to eat large amounts of meat dictate. I would also be pretty comfortable recommending The Rydges as a hotel to stay in too, although I would suggest that it might be a better option to go for the breakfast buffet, or just get breakfast in any number of other cafes around town.

PS – Other hotels: we’d love review you too. Get in touch!