In the genteel Auckland suburb of St Marys Bay, Mollies is the most unashamedly romantic hotel I have ever stayed in. I was there on my own and had to constantly fight the urge to propose to one of the staff.
The hotel is named after the current owner’s mother, who ran it first as a guesthouse and then as a motel.
When Frances and her husband, Stephen, took over in 2001, it was in desperate need of modernisation. They pulled up the ’70s-style cream shagpile carpets, tore down the fake mahogany panelling and threw out the burnt orange and avocado furnishings. Eighteen months and a lot of work later, the hotel reopened as Mollies and has been collecting awards worldwide ever since.
Frances tells us this potted history over pre-dinner drinks in the sitting room where guests congregate among a sea of flickering candles and billowing silk drapes.
It is a beautiful room with polished wooden floors, an imposing marble fireplace and an eclectic range of furnishings including Philippe Starck’s famous transparent Louis Ghost chairs. She makes no apologies for the extravagance, saying with a smile: “I like to make every evening a romantic occasion. I love having far too many candles and far too many flowers.”
It’s a wonderfully relaxed and intimate environment and a great opportunity to mingle with other guests.
The best is yet to come, however. Frances is an experienced opera voice coach who has taught all over the world. She introduces us to Morag Atchison, an opera singer with New Zealand’s national opera company, and an expectant hush descends over the room.
Read the rest of this story here.