Image: Sean Fennessy
Some hotels just have it… I don’t normally write about 5-star hotels, because most don’t have a focus on sustainability – or didn’t have in the past. Happily, this is rapidly changing – which I witnessed on my recent stay at The Calile. (Pronounced Kal-Isle).
The award-winning Calile in Brisbane is at the forefront of Australian hotels incorporating eco features in their construction. The Calile is a new-build hotel which opened in 2019, and sustainability is a core foundation upon which the hotel was designed by Australian architects Richards and Spence. More important for most guests though, the hotel provides first-class service, luxury features and furnishings, understated European-style elegance and sophistication – all with a tropical Brisbane twist.
First Impressions Count!
I notice two things immediately upon entering my room, firstly, no plastic water bottles. Tick! In fact, the mini bar only has glass bottles. A re-fillable glass carafe is provided so you can fill it up with micro-filtered water via water stations in the hallways on each floor. I discover later that the hotel has a Minimal Plastic policy – so a double tick!
Secondly – a real plant!! I have never seen a real plant in a hotel room before. Not only is it aesthetically so beautiful, silhouetted against the blue-sky background of Brisbane’s skyline, but it also means fresh air is being emitted into the room via the plant photosynthesizing, making the air healthier for guests. I am sure this contributed to my peaceful and restful night’s sleep – along with the super-comfy king-size bed and abundant pillows.
Locally Sourced and Sustainable
Small touches around the room show that real thought and care has gone into planning guest’s amenities. This includes locally sourced snacks from James St The Nut Market in the mini bar selection, and Australian Certified Organic tea from Love Tea. Other locally sourced products include Grown Alchemist bathroom amenities, Venroy Linen robes, Capi Soda, Everleigh Bottling Co, and the range of alcoholic beverages offered in the mini bar, are all Australian owned.
The room is elegantly and minimally decorated, with the plant taking pride of place. There are no pictures on the walls, and natural finishes have been used wherever possible – including bare timber and concrete, jute, cotton, linen, granite, stone and cork. These natural finishes tasteful muted colours extend to the public areas of the hotel too. The natural hues and elements in the room make me feel calm, grounded, and relaxed – not only are the natural surfaces beautiful to look at, but they feel beautiful to touch too.
Cork tiles are featured extensively in the hotel, as a floor surface and as a wall finishing. Cork is a natural insulator, creating a softer floor which is kinder to our feet and bodies. Cork also has excellent qualities of low thermal conductivity, absorbs vibrations and noise, resistant to moisture and liquids, is buoyant, elastic, and fire-retardant. And importantly, cork is a very sustainable building product. This is because the cork is stripped from the tree trunks on a regular basis (usually about every nine years) once the trunks are big enough and doesn’t require trees to be cut down. Approximately 61% of global cork forests are in Portugal and Spain. The cork used in the Calile comes from Portugal.
More Eco Initiatives – Waste & Recycling
To help minimise the hotel’s carbon footprint and overhead costs, naturally ventilated hallways and public areas reduce electrical power use, by avoiding air-conditioning units. All rooms feature ‘eco mode’, which means that the rooms (air-conditioning and lights) go to sleep when they are not occupied, to eliminate energy waste.
An extensive garbage sorting area and waste recycling program is in place, including a food and organic-waste program which is sent to the Suez compost processing plant. Used soaps are collected and recycled through the SOAP AID program, which turns them into new soaps to send to developing countries. Bathroom amenities bottles are recycled, and the leftovers collected and delivered to centres in need (e.g. homeless and domestic violence shelters). The hotel’s Return It glass bottle recycling program allocates the 7cents received per bottle back into further sustainability activities.
Bamboo straws are used in the bar and restaurant. And gardens and greenery are a feature of the hotel – including on some of the rooftop areas.
Brisbane’s Suburban Oasis
“The Calile has been designed with the Brisbane climate in mind,” says General Manager Rob Unson. “Walk around and you’ll see natural ventilation, cooling landscaping, and materials that have been ethically sourced where possible. But sustainability doesn’t stop with the design. Hotel rooms feature glass carafes, and we have bamboo straws in the bar – replacing the need for plastic. All of these sustainable steps along with green cleans, recycling, eco-mode on appliances, are as much a part of The Calile experience as our gorgeous rooms and our trademark commitment to service."
As I step out onto the room’s curved balcony, it truly feels like a suburban oasis – a mix reminiscent between a Greek island holiday, complete with white stone finishes and arches, and sunny Miami. I certainly don’t feel like I’m in downtown Brisbane.
People & Food, Glorious Food!
The pool below me is the focal point of the hotel – and the place to people-watch. The Calile is the hip new place to be seen, whether showing off your tan (or tattoos) in the pool, sipping a pinot gris or latte (in your Keep Cup) in the lobby, or enjoying the delectable Greek food for dinner in the hotel’s signature restaurant Hellenika – which is what I did.
For breakfast I ventured down to the Lobby Bar – where I enjoyed the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time: cured salmon with thyme, perfectly cooked poached eggs, sorrel, citrus hollandaise, and potato rosti. Most impressive was that the rosti were cooked as they should be – thin and crunchy! The rosti were that good that I went back for the same breakfast again on the second morning of my stay.
I found all the staff were attentive, but not stuffy or overbearing; naturally polite, very well-groomed, friendly and helpful – many with noticeable European accents. The hotel also now has three new food outlets available for guests, Beaux Rumble for woodfired cuisine, sAme sAme with street-inspired Thai food, and SK Steak and Oyster.
James St & New Farm
The hotel is located in bustling and now uber-chic New Farm. I used to live in this neighbourhood some years ago, it certainly has transformed and now offers a real upmarket urban experience, while still only a short 5-minute drive from Brisbane CBD. The hotel has created a central hub for James St – with easy access (no car required) to glamorous fashion boutiques, trendy cafes, awarding-winning restaurants, and the surrounding New Farm and Newstead dining precincts.
The James St Market, cinemas, New Farm Park and Brisbane Powerhouse are all within walking distance. And the best news – Messina ice cream is right next door! If you haven’t tried Messina’s yet, make sure you do, their creamy and creative ice cream menu is to die for. My favourite: milk choc with choc peanut fudge – very decadent and delicious.
If you’re after 5-star luxury, a fantastic location, and a focus on sustainability and fine food, The Calile ticks all the boxes. And I’ll be back for the rosti and Messina ice cream for sure!
An Hour of Power
Come March 28, The Calile will join people around the world in switching lights and non-essential power off for Earth Hour. Guests will be invited to support the team and GM, Rob Unson, will be hosting candlelit drinks raising glasses and voices in support of sustainability.
About the author: Melanie Grevis James is the editor and publisher of Our Planet Travel. She has travelled extensively throughout Australia since a young child – exploring and camping in many remote places. Her love of nature, photography and travelling continues to this day. Although she won’t say no to an eco 5-star hotel every now & then too! Note: at the time of writing this article, The Calile had been open less than a year, so no year-on-year comparison figures or data is available yet to show the hotel’s power, waste, and recycling calculations.