When I check into Little Albion Guest House in the inner-city suburb of Surry Hills, Sydney, I’m greeted by head host Wendy Norris, who shakes my hand with such warmth it’s as if we’re old acquaintances. Instead of asking for my ID at reception, she asks how I am, before taking me on a tour. Later, in the downstairs Honour Bar, where I mix an Everleigh Bottling Co. Martini in my terrycloth robe, I am greeted by name by another staffer, Ivan, who I’m quickly on friendly terms with.
This ubiquitous, personal service is one of many points of difference at the newly opened guest house. Norris (who opened Spicers Potts Point hotel this time last year) says it’s because the owner, 8Hotels’s founder and CEO Paul Fischmann, wants to do things differently than your average hotel.
For starters, the 35-room guest house is the first hotel bookable on the global accommodation platform Airbnb, Norris claims. The price? $15,000 a night for the whole place. Of course if you aren’t rolling with such a large crew, you can also use the site to book single rooms.
You can also skip the usual check-in process. “I shudder when I hear in most hotels, when most people come to check in, ‘Credit card and ID please’,” says Norris. “We have our guests’ details [from their booking], so when they come in we have a chat [telling them how it works]. It’s more about greeting a friend coming into your home.”
Little Albion also eschews the in-house room service in favour of an Uber Eats account, curated by the staff to reflect Surry Hills’s best offerings. When your food package arrives, it’s transferred to a wooden tray with gold-coloured cutlery, salt, pepper and napkins, and delivered to your room.
And if you want some company at mealtime – or a drink to accompany your meal – the Honour Bar has a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and snacks. When I stop by, one of the hotel staff, a man in loose-fitting white cotton pants and a matching oversized shirt, is cutting up lime to add to gin and tonics, and the whole scene has a casual beachside holiday vibe.
In the morning the set up is different; there’s freshly cut bread, croissants, jams, muesli, orange juice, a fridge full of yoghurt and an industrial-sized coffee machine for guests to help themselves. Meals can be eaten downstairs, taken to your room or to the plant-filled rooftop that offers views over Sydney’s inner east.
The name of the bar explains how it works: you grab what you want, write it down on a piece of paper and it gets charged to your credit card. “It’s saying, ‘There you go, we trust you’,” says Norris.
The entry-level room, or the Crash Pad, has a queen-sized bed, a kitchen and a bathroom. All of the other rooms offer king-sized beds and features that differ room to room, such as pink velvet armchairs, reading nooks, bathtubs and rainfall showerheads (and yes, the water pressure is amazing). At the upper end of the scale is Big Albion, Little Albion’s equivalent of a penthouse. The 55-square-metre room has a four-poster bed, Gothic windows with views over tree-lined streets, a dining area, and an oversized freestanding bathtub in its enormous bathroom.
Archemy’s Connie Alessi and Space Control’s Cressida Kennedy are behind the design. Throughout the hotel is dark-coloured timber, marble surfaces, textural furnishings and brass fittings. The art was mostly chosen by Vogue and GQ alumni Nicholas Samartis, but there’s also portraits of local icons by former Archibald Prize portrait artist Ann Cape.
“Everything we’re doing is to make it feel … like it’s not a hotel at all,” says Norris.
Rooms start from $240 per night.
Little Albion, a Crystalbrook Collection Boutique Hotel
21 Little Albion Street, Surry Hills