Best Boutique Corporate Retreat: Spicers Peak Lodge, Maryvale, Qld
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In warm cedar and bluestone, set on a mountain-framed plateau, Spicers Peak Lodge is an improbably gorgeous apparition in Queensland’s Scenic Rim. Its beauty isn’t just skin-deep, however. The intimate 13-room lodge goes the extra mile for a corporate retreat: there’s no extra charge for exclusive use so a group can have the run the 3200-hectare property for team-building hikes and mountain biking – and let’s not forget the tennis court, infinity pool, spa and billiard table. There’s a 16-person boardroom for when serious work needs to be done but the relaxed public areas, including a lounge with an open fire and the exceptional modern Australian restaurant, can be just as conducive to the strategy breakthrough.
Best Large-scale Corporate Retreat: Elements of Byron Bay, NSW
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The vital statistics are compelling – a 22-hectare luxury retreat in one of Australia’s beach meccas with two state-of-the-art theatre pavilions (seating 450 and 130) and various breakout rooms. But this large-scale corporate retreat mixes a five-star veneer (high-flyers can transfer by helicopter from Ballina and Gold Coast airports) with heart and soul. Set directly on beautiful Belongil Beach, it balances the chakras with amenities designed to embrace the great outdoors, whether it’s morning yoga or other wellbeing activities, group dinners, poolside cocktail parties or beach barbecues. And if delegates summon the will to venture out, there are hinterland food tours to join, waves to catch and whales to watch. ￼
Best Business Hotel: Como the Treasury, Perth
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There’s a certain synergy to the former home of the Western Australian government and Treasury becoming Australia’s best hotel for business travellers. Over their 140-plus years, Perth’s State Buildings have been no stranger to the art of the deal and now the 19th-century complex at the city’s heart has been revitalised into the platonic ideal of the corporate traveller’s home away from home. Complete with all the amenities, from excellent dining and drinking options – including the indigenous-ingredient-focused restaurant Wildflower and seasonal “neo-bistro” Post – to an indoor lap pool overlooking the CBD and the indulgent Como Shambhala spa, it’s a place you may never want to leave.
Best Venue for a Breakfast Meeting: Higher Ground, Melbourne
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When Nathan Toleman opened his first café, a humble 40-seater in Alphington, a decade ago, little could he have suspected that he’d one day be known as Melbourne’s café king. Yes, in Melbourne there is such a thing and Higher Ground is the crowning glory for Toleman and his partners, who have transformed a heritage-listed 1890s power station into an architecturally stunning eatery that helps turn breakfast into destination dining. So does the menu – which trends northward of run-of-the-mill café fare with sophisticated Western and Asian options – and the service, which handles the constant buzz with aplomb.
Best Conference Venue: ICC Sydney
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Bigger than Ben-Hur, this state-of-the-art conference centre has all the dazzle sewn up with plenty of razzle. You want a 180-square-metre HD digital screen to wow your guests as they arrive at a theatre presentation? You want Darling Harbour views so your overseas visitors can feast their eyes while they work? Sprawling over three city blocks from the harbour to the edge of Haymarket, the 30,000-capacity International Convention Centre is enormous but its 70 meeting rooms, three tiered theatres, ballroom and exhibition space are all connected via internal walkways – and it’s grounded in the local, from the food and wine to the spotted-gum flooring. The phrase “world class” is bandied about but ICC Sydney truly is.
Best Meeting Room: The Foxtrot Room, The New Inchcolm Hotel & Suites, Brisbane
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Boardrooms don’t come more bijou or boutique than The Foxtrot Room at the reborn Inchcolm Hotel & Suites, just three blocks from the heart of Brisbane. The heritage-listed Art Deco building, given a complete makeover in 2014, drips with jazz-age design, from wainscoted walls to the glass elevator doors. The theme continues with The Foxtrot Room’s herringbone floors, crystal-dripping pendant lights and leather chairs. Just add the mod cons needed for a business meeting circa 2017 – wi-fi, videoconferencing and video-projection equipment and staff who know their stuff – and you have all the makings of a classic.
Best Private Dining Room: Pendolino, Sydney
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Nino Zoccali trained as an economist but a trip to Calabria, Italy, set him straight. A visit to Zoccali’s restaurant, Pendolino – in particular its private dining room, which doubles as the apothecary-like olive oil library – will quickly reveal the obsessions of this glamorous Sydney CBD address on the top floor of the historic Strand Arcade. Pendolino is all about authentic regional Italian cooking bedded in the finest produce. It has corporate-crowd-pleasing élan, to be sure (and the pasta is some of the best on offer) but there are other strings to its bow, from the smartly dressed waiters to the soundproof panels that can be used to reconfigure the private dining room from a boisterous 56 to an intimate eight.
Best Restaurant for a Business Lunch or Dinner: The Bridge Room, Sydney
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Ross Lusted is quite the polymath: a ceramicist, sculptor, painter and designer as well as an award-winning chef whose CBD restaurant sits at the pinnacle of Sydney dining. South African-born Lusted is a classic all-rounder and his artistic bent filters into The Bridge Room, the bespoke nature of which (from the Noma-esque felt placemats to the pale American oak tables and the ceramics he designed himself) takes power dining to a new level of corporate-friendly luxury. Boasting one of the most swoon-worthy cellars in the business, engaging service and Lusted’s vibrant contemporary food, this central haunt has the lot.