As an enthusiastic drinker who thinks a nice hotel room is wasted if left to explore the city, arriving to find a good number of bottled cocktails in the Hotel Harry minibar is good news. The fact they’ve been chosen by Scout’s Matt Whiley is a bonus; he’s the cocktail chemist behind the nearby experimental bar.
Heritage-listed pub Harpoon Harry (originally known as the Macquarie Hotel) in the inner-city Sydney suburb Surry Hills, just on the city fringe, has been pouring schooners and offering visitors a place to rest their heads since 1912. More recently, the rooms of its upstairs lodgings, known as Hotel Harry, have been given a refresh. They’ve been lifted from understated and unremarkable to art-deco chic.
You can tell Hotel Harry has been around for a while – from the pub downstairs you ride one of those mildly terrifying elevators where you push open the door yourself, and using it takes longer than if you took the stairs. But that adds to the charm. Step out onto very plush carpet (no one will hear you coming) and push open a heavy wooden door to find your room.
My suite had deep royal blue carpeting, brass everywhere and each wall was a different pastel shade. The emerald-green bedhead is like that of a mid-century queen, and heavy blue curtains drown out the lights of the busy main road below. The vibe of the thing is art deco, and each suite and double, double-double (two double beds) and single room has been individually styled.
Along with the refreshed rooms, the pub has introduced a room-service menu that means you don’t need to leave your suite (or your bottle of cocktail) to enjoy the pub’s fare. Everything from Scotch fillets to burgers and chicken schnitties can be brought up to you. Don’t fancy what’s in the minibar? You can order a Margarita or glass of fancy wine, too.
If you’re happy mooching around the hotel room and don’t care for picking up the phone, you have the minibar and its room-temperature compatriot, the bookshelf. Along with your bottled cocktails there’s the minibar staple, the Toblerone, along with Berocca (it will help if you happen to drink too many mini bottles of Patron Cafe, which also happen to be in the fridge).
On the bookshelf there’s a variety of crisps, a good-looking bottle of red wine and still more small bottles of spirits. And should you want to shake and stir your own cocktails, there’s a full cocktail kit; you can call for reception to bring up orange rind, lemon, lime, ice and chilled Martini glasses.
Speaking of cocktails, let’s pivot back to those bottled beauties in the minibar. Scout’s Whiley is constantly updating what’s offered with combos from some of the world’s best bartenders. First up are pours from Luke Whearty, who will head up Melbourne’s soon-to-be-opened bar Byrdi. He’s concocted Aussie takes on classics. There’s a wattleseed Negroni; the bee pollen “Re-Fashioned”; a fennel-pollen Sazerac; and a lamington Manhattan that somehow tastes like a jammy, cocoa-packed lamington in liquid form.
Come morning you can head downstairs for breakfast from 10am (checkout isn’t until midday) or stick with the hermit theme and order up to your room. Most breakfasts will only set you back $10 including a coffee – far from the usual hiked prices of hotel room service. Brekkie options are simple but exactly what you need after drinking a minibar of bottled cocktails on a Monday night for research purposes: think haloumi and bacon and egg rolls, cereal, and croissants.
Should you be staying more than one night, or feel like you should be exploring the local area, there’s plenty to do nearby. Harpoon Harry the pub is known for its solid music programming, with different DJs on the decks each weekend. Just around the corner is Asian diner Chin Chin, and a slight stroll away is Poly wine bar. A bunch of boozers, including the Hollywood Hotel, Mexican-inspired bar Tio’s Cerveceria and tiny Irish pub The Wild Rover are all close by. Plus, it’s only a short walk to Central Station and Oxford Street, and jaunts into the city are within walking distance too.