Regardless of whether you buy into Collins Street’s whole Paris end (east) and New York end (west) thing, there’s no doubting Melbourne is still one of Australia’s most cosmopolitan and multicultural cities. As such, it’s the perfect place to visit if you want a slice of international culture on a (relative) budget. Dare I say it’s even a good warm-up trip ahead of the real thing?
Then again Melbourne is the real thing. Even when it’s selling a dream. Let’s take the so-called Paris End of Collins Street. Formerly a kind of Harley Street, most of the doctors have long since moved out and been replaced by high-end retail outlets for Saint Laurent, Dior, Chanel, Moncler, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Hermes and the like.
There are few left of the alfresco cafes which along with the leafy trees and elegant architecture gave this end of Collins Street its name. And it’s not as wide as a Haussmann Boulevard. But especially at this time of year, it does at least have a distinctly European feel.
What edges you towards Paris again — apart from stepping into one of those French fashion stores — is the presence of French luxury hotel brand Sofitel’s impressive Collins Place property, the rooms of which have recently received a $15 million refurbishment including “French inspired photography hung in the traditional French ‘Salon’ style” and new furnishings.
“One of the hero furniture items in the room is the signature armchair and footrest with its striking deep blue colour,” says Tony Leung, Founder of A+ Design Group who oversaw the refurbishment.”
”This not only reflects the colourful streetscape of Melbourne and its laneway artwork but also draws on the French flag with the blue venerating Saint Martin. Its softness, the shape and curves, subtly contrast with the geometry and belie the ‘Frenchness’ of the Sofitel brand and its position within the French Quarter of Melbourne.”
Sofitel Melbourne on Collins has also again partnered with Global Art Projects (GAP), which has created a joint photographic project between Australian photographer, Jon Rendell and Parisian photographer, Claire Ropartz that features more than 2000 artworks celebrating the relationship between Melbourne, and in particular the Paris end of Collins Street, and Paris.
I have to admit that from the first “bonjour” from staff to the last “au revoir” of my recent and exceedingly comfortable stay I could quite easily have imagined myself in Paris again. Especially as I was able to see the National Gallery of Victoria’s stunning new exhibition The Picasso Century, whose nearly 200 works come from the Centre Pompidou and the Musee national Picasso-Paris (on until October 9).
And connect the two by donning a scarf and coat and wandering down very pretty Collins Street . . .
The Picasso Century is the NGV’s Melbourne Winter Masterpieces 2022 exhibition, and features not just paintings and other works by Pablo Picasso but by his contemporaries. It runs until October 9. Admission fees apply. ngv.vic.gov.au
Sofitel Melbourne on Collins is the NVG’s official partner. From July 8 it will be offering a Picasso-inspired winter lunch menu. The launch also celebrates the return of Sofitel Melbourne’s lunch service in No35, which hasn’t been available since the start of the pandemic. The lunch will include the choice of either a two or three-course menu, with two options per course, and each dish will have a link/story to Pablo Picasso. sofitel-melbourne.com.au
Will Yeoman stayed at the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins as a guest of the NGV. They have not seen or approved this story.