With great excitement, Elisabeth Knowles headed to Sydney’s most luxe hotel to check out its recently revealed multimillion-dollar refurb. Truth be told, it was pretty hard to get her out of there… Spoiler alert: I usually wait until the end of a review to sum up what I think about a place in one sentence, but this can’t wait. Sydney Park Hyatt is the very best luxury hotel experience I’ve ever had. My previous Best Luxury Hotel Experience was at Canada’s Fairmont Banff Springs, which I loved for its Rocky Mountain views, charming service and Scottish-baronial-castle stylings (my suite was located in a surprisingly roomy turret).
Meanwhile, my Best Hotel Experience in Australia was previously Melbourne’s Grand Hyatt, which I rate highly for its comfy rooms, black-marble-tiled bathrooms, fantastic dining options and the Executive Club Lounge on the 31st floor, which offers business travellers free wi-fi, breakfast, pre-dinner drinks and city views, as well as exclusive check-in.
The Grand Hyatt was nearly knocked off its perch with the opening of the Crown Metropol in 2010, which has more female-friendly decor and a knockout sky-high pool area encased in full-glass walls that offer even bigger and better Melbourne city views. But for comfort, sophistication and excellent food, all in the heart of a luxury shopping district, the Grand Hyatt still came up trumps.
But not anymore. Now it’s just my Favourite Hotel in Melbourne.
While it may be a big call to say the Park Hyatt is the best hotel in the world, it couldn’t be far off. It’s a beautiful hotel, in a beautiful location, in a beautiful city, with impeccable service. At 21 years old, the Park Hyatt was ready for a facelift when it closed for renovations in March 2011. While it was due to reopen last November, the undertaking meant a complete reconfiguration of the reception area, restaurant and suites, so it’s no surprise time dragged. It would remain closed for 12 months in all.
I stayed on a Saturday night shortly after it reopened in March, and the hotel made a huge impression on a number of fronts:
• The location: Just incredible. It hugs the Harbour Bridge’s southern pylon, right on the harbour, with nothing but the ferry-heavy waters of Circular Quay between it and the Opera House (where Park Hyatt guests can get 20 per cent off a backstage tour). You can easily roll your suitcase here from Circular Quay train station, and it’s a five-minute stroll along the waterfront to the Wharf Theatre, Quay restaurant, the newly reopened Museum of Contemporary Art and historic pubs in The Rocks. Every room and common area is angled to take in the best views, and The Dining Room’s full-length windows open up like garage doors to let the breeze in on a sunny day.
• The service: Flawless. I must admit I was a bit disappointed that my room wasn’t ready when I arrived at 2.20pm (check-in is at 2pm) but the concierge armed me with a map and a recommendation to check out the weekend Rocks Markets (I pretended I was an out-of-towner), and I was told they’d call me when it was available. When I returned I was escorted to my room and shown how to use everything from the lights to the balcony-door handles (they’re a bit tricky). A couple of hours after I checked in, the doorbell rang and the assistant front desk manager presented me with a bottle of Rolf Binder 2010 Barossa Valley Shiraz to apologise for the delay.
In all situations, the staff were friendly, chatty and genuinely interested – so much so that I felt guilty for lying to them about where I was from and what I was doing in town.
Apparently the Park Hyatt rented a building in the city in order to train up the staff with role-plays for three months before the Hyatt was ready for action. It has paid off.
• The food: If you haven’t experienced silver-service in-room dining, I recommend it (just don’t call it room service). Meals come straight from the restaurant, The Dining Room. (Check out one of chef Andrew McKee’s recipes on page 26.) I ordered the pan-roasted ocean trout with onion puree and crisp potato cake ($36 – delicious!), a side of roasted carrots with Pommery mustard and orange butter ($9 and totally yum) and a selection of petits fours ($16, which included a passionfruit marshmallow square, mango custard cup, chocolate layer cake and an intensely flavoured raspberry profiterole-doughnut hybrid).
• My room: I loved it for its huge bath, expansive views, comfy bed, chic furnishings and great Australian art, which was specially commissioned for the refurb. Above the TV there was a huge black-and-white panorama of the Harbour Bridge by fine-art photographer Robert Billington, and a limited-edition print, Coat of Arms, by Julia Silvester on a floating shelf. You can buy the artworks through the hotel.
Park Hyatt’s rooms are meant to feel like upmarket residential apartments and they really do. And, erm, I should mention the electric toilet, which is kitted out with a heated seat, fragrant deodoriser and customisable bidet (don’t ask) – which may freak out some Aussies but anyone with a Euro background will dig it.
Where Sydney Park Hyatt, 7 Hickson Rd, The Rocks, NSW.
Notes There are four room types at the Park Hyatt: City Harbour King and Twin rooms (with views of the harbour, from $795 per night), and Opera King and Twin rooms (with views of the Opera House, from $895 per night). Elisabeth booked an Awaken Package in an Opera King room for $990 on a Saturday night, which included à la carte breakfast in The Dining Room. For those looking for something even more exceptional, there are six suites ranging in size from 73 to 350 square metres, and all come with round-the-clock butler service. See website for details.
Contact (02) 9256 1234; sydney.park.hyatt.com
THE AT Verdict
Elisabeth Knowles, who paid her own way and visited anonymously, says:
“This was the best hotel experience I’ve had, without exaggeration. My room was luxurious, homely (in a posh way) and beyond comfortable. I loved the rooftop pool, the food was fantastic and the service was outstanding. Even if you live in Sydney, as I do, find an excuse to spend a special occasion here. You’ll fall in love with your city (and whoever you’re with) all over again.”