Anyone who has walked the streets of Sydney in 2017 knows there has been a lot of construction going on. But while most of the focus has been on the roads blocked out for the light-rail development, or the walls constructed around new apartment complexes, people have largely overlooked the sheer number of hotels cropping up around the city.
And there are a lot of them.
Most of them are design-savvy independent offerings that combine good food with sharp aesthetics. There has also been a smattering of established chains – such as the well-known Sofitel brand – supplanting their predictable formulas with locally focused yet lush modern amenities.
We’ve put together a list of all the new openings where visiting friends and family can kick up their heels, don a swimsuit, and enjoy a contemporary take on Sydney hospitality.
Entering Mrs Banks is like time travelling to the early 20th century – an impression amplified by the neighbourhood tree-lined streets and heritage shopfronts.
The Art Deco-style facade of this 1914-built converted bank still has its original curved brickwork and wrought-metal signage, and guests check-in where the ground-floor banking chamber used to be, complete with pressed-metal ceilings and timber windows.
The small collection of rooms is divided into two camps: “standard rooms”, the more contemporary offering; and “heritage rooms”, a more spacious and nostalgic option. For those who can’t go past modern comforts, all rooms come with air-conditioning, wi-fi, coffee machines and rain showers. The heritage rooms have mid-century furniture and other design flourishes.
Soon to open near the development hub of Barangaroo, West Hotel will form part of Hilton’s new global offering, the Curio Collection, which eschews a cookie-cutter formula in favour of smaller, boutique hotels offering a more “authentic” city experience.
Which isn’t to say it will offer less than Hilton levels of luxury. The brand teamed up with top-tier Australian architecture and interiors firm Woods Bagot to create the 182 “designer” rooms – including four suites – and a healthy smattering of communal spaces. The design is a nod to the polished-yet-edgy Australian urban aesthetic: natural stone floors, sculptural lighting features, custom-made artworks and a central open-air atrium that brings garden foliage into the middle of the building.
A similar focus on Australian products can be found in West Hotel’s all-day restaurant, The Dining Room, where locally sourced ingredients will be used to create a menu of sustainable, seasonal dishes drawing from both local and international influences.
A second in-house restaurant, Solander Dining, will be led by French-trained executive chef David Vandenbeele, who has spent two decades working in some of the world’s great restaurants, including both New York and London’s iterations of The Langham.
Although the menu is still in its final stages of preparation, Vandenbeele has shared some of the dishes he plans to feature, which include bleeding heart radish ravioli with cashew cheese and yellow tomato salsa; hazelnut-crusted scallops with oven-roasted Dutch carrots, blood orange and crisp purple potato; and Hunter Valley snail beignet with black garlic and witlof.
A fully equipped gym, in-room bluetooth speakers and complimentary wi-fi round-out the luxury touches guests have long come to associate with Hilton.
Paramount House Hotel
Earlier this year it was announced the team behind Paramount Coffee Project, Reuben Hills, Seven Seeds and Bondi Hall were teaming up with one of Melbourne’s most well-known architecture firms, Breathe Architecture, for a small, sustainable, food-focused hotel in Surry Hills.
Scheduled to open next year, Paramount House Hotel will eventually connect the Paramount Studios film warehouse with Golden Age Cinema and local co-working space, The Office.
Unsurprisingly, considering their backgrounds, Paramount’s Russell Beard, Ping Jin Ng and Mark Dundon have gone for a strong hospitality focus. The hotel will be home to a second Ester restaurant, mini bars will be stocked with local small-batch brews, a beer tap will feature in the lobby, and guests will be treated to service from the lower-level Paramount Coffee.
Each of the 29 rooms will feature a different layout as a result of the oddly shaped site, but all of them will have the same minimalist admixture of heritage detail, and contemporary concrete and timber elements. Most rooms will have access to a plant-filled indoor terrace, and spacious bathrooms will be filled with Aesop products.
Paramount House Hotel is scheduled to open in March 2018 at 80 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills
Talk about a rapid expansion. In the space of two years, Veriu Hotel – a new hotel brand born and bred in Sydney – has opened in four locations around the city. This year alone, they’ve added two locations to their portfolio: one near Central Station, and one in Camperdown.
Speaking to director of operations Caspar Schmidt, Veriu comes across as something between an Airbnb and a boutique hotel. Instead of concierges, Veriu has hosts who are hired from within the local area to direct guests to the non-obvious bars, restaurants, galleries and gigs.
Instead of a line of cabs waiting out the front, Veriu has Dutch-style bicycles, which guests have free access to. Not only can these be used to explore the city, but if you find yourself near another Veriu hotel, as a guest you have access to the lobby, wi-fi and refreshments.
“The idea was to open small hotels in the villages around Sydney, somewhere nice where people could afford to stay,” says Schmidt. “We wanted people to be able to travel around the city and be connected from a brand perspective. Our philosophy is that if you come to Veriu, you’re welcome to travel between all of us.
Schmidt says they will never be a five-star brand, “But we’re about creating value and a local experience. We offer super-fast internet, the bike loans … and in the morning when you come down, you get a barista-made coffee and a pastry. It’s so guests don’t have to worry about the administrative things, like where to go and get breakfast and coffee. All of that’s part of the experience.”
Although none of the Veriu locations have in-house restaurants, that’s where the local hosts come in. Plus in locations such as Central, there are restaurants (The Drawing Room, Nel and Harry’s Dumpling House, in this case) in the same building. Schmidt says Veriu’s relationship with these places means they are usually able to wrangle a last-minute table, even on a busy Saturday night.
Although each hotel is radically different in terms of the rooms on offer and their design (for instance, Central has 112 traditional-style hotel rooms; Broadway has larger, self-contained New York loft-style apartments), comfort is at the heart of all of them.
Schmidt says the beds, which were custom-made for Veriu in collaboration with AH Beard, are so comfortable they’ve decided to sell them, so at the end of a holiday filled with good sleep, guests can buy a mattress for home.
Veriu, multiple locations around the city.
Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour
While Sydney has had an influx of hotels this year, there hasn’t been a five-star hotel built since the 2000 Olympics – a gap Sofitel decided needed filling. Officially opened in October, Sofitel Darling Harbour is head-to-toe indulgence. There’s no better proof of this than its Instagram page, which is filled with social media influencers’ selfies, usually taken from the fourth-level infinity pool – a 20-metre heated pool where you can swim to the edge of views that fall over Darling Harbour and the city skyline.
“Sydney was crying out for a new luxury five-star hotel, and this is the first in 15 years,” says Sofitel general manager, Marie-Cecile Heritage.
“We really wanted a spectacular design, so we engaged architect Richard Francis-Jones. He envisioned a 35-storey hotel built as a modern lighthouse. You’ve got a classic triangle at the top of the tower inspired by a ship’s sail. There are a lot of themes to the design that all come back to the local history – for instance, a big accent on maritime history; lots of wood and concrete and bronze and brass and sandstone colour. There’s a great story behind everything that’s been done.”
The 590 rooms at Sofitel Darling Harbour come in a range of different options. All of the standard rooms are stocked with Lanvin toiletries, and guests have access to the hotel’s (many) high-end communal areas. Guests in any of the 35 suite rooms will additionally be treated to Hermès toiletries, free breakfast, all-day refreshments and gourmet canapés around an open bar each evening. These club breakfasts and champagne evenings all take place to Club Millésime, an exclusive lounge area with panoramic, 35th-floor views over Darling Harbour.
Headed by chef Matt Coates, the in-house restaurant, Atelier, is a French-inspired grill that combines the flavours of the South of France with Australia. There are dishes such as bouillabaisse and a charcoal-grilled tomahawk steak with garlic confit and wilted spinach.
There are no shortage of bar options. “We’ve got a lobby bar, the pool bar and the champagne bar,” says Heritage. “The champagne bar is a pretty spectacular place. We’ve got more than 20 champagnes on our list – from smaller houses like Canard-Duchene and Pol Roger – including a $22,000 bottle, a three-litre special edition of Jeroboam of Cristal Brut. The bottle is encased in 24-carat gold-dipped latticework that was handcrafted by two master goldsmiths over four days. We’re the only hotel in Australia to have this bottle.”
Spicers Potts Point
From the outside, you’d never guess Spicers Potts Point was a hotel. Like Veriu, it’s primed to let guests explore the fringe-lying suburbs you might not catch from a CBD location.
The hotel has just 20 guest rooms in a converted 1880s Victorian terrace house. On the inside, the heritage homes have been redesigned to be a “muted and calming” palette of blues and greens that references Sydney’s maritime history. This colour theme was specifically inspired by the artwork of Martine Emdur, who is known for her abstract portraits of underwater swimmers.
Although there is no in-house restaurant, breakfast is provided, and in the evening there are complimentary cocktails and canapés. The Spicers Potts Point Passport points guests in the direction of the staff’s favourite local restaurants, bars, cafes and entertainment spots.