Sydney’s western suburbs is an unlikely spot for a designer stay, but Atura Hotels has dared to go there, writes Alissa Jenkins
Let’s be honest, for those who aren’t familiar with the area, much of Western Sydney is oft associated with cautionary tales of ‘don’t leave valuables in your car’, not chic accommodation.
Nevertheless, that’s what developers of new hotel chain, Atura, are promising of their first Australian outpost in Sydney’s outer fringes. So it’s with trepidation (and an empty car), that I check in to Atura Blacktown, situated just off the M4 overlooking pockets of bushland, next door to the new Wet’n’Wild water park.
Fittingly, there’s a family-friendly vibe inside – a cloud of laughter and chatter hangs above the Roadhouse Bar and Grill behind reception, and youngsters play freely on a nearby row of iMacs. Although the hotel has only been open for three days, the restaurant is full with hotel guests and dining locals, while staff appear to have perfected the slick-and-smiley service formula.
Geographical stereotypes aside, these first impressions shouldn’t come as a surprise. The 122-room property is owned by Amalgamated Holdings Limited (AHL) – the same group behind beloved Rydges and QT Hotels & Resorts. The Atura brand, however, will be dedicated to CBD fringes, filling a gap in the business and leisure markets for mid-range designer stays, with plans already underway to spread the name.
“The Atura brand is part of a growing global trend towards design-driven hotels offering guests a unique experience,” says AHL managing director, David Seargeant.
And designer it is. The open-plan lobby is an industrial feat with polished concrete floors, exposed beams and plywood finishes, softened by multi-coloured lounge areas. Similarly my Garden Twin Room, much like a pimped out concrete bunker, is awash with grey tones punctuated by splashes of yellow. Complete with manoeuvrable flat-screen television, coffee machine and a fully stocked mini bar (including Atura-branded sunscreen and confectionary), this is a step above your average four-star stay.
But there’s something else at play here. Something uniquely Australian and delightfully kitsch. It begins with black-and-white vintage photography displayed throughout the room, then is reinforced by the bathroom wallpaper – a galah-and-Sturt-Desert-pea print with a 1970s vanity-top decal layered on top. The QT stamp of quirk emerges…
In the hallways hang framed photographs of Australians in all their eccentric glory, from an aproned 1960s housewife pegging her latest load of washing on a Hills Hoist, to a balding middle-aged man with his teddy bear collection. It’s like IKEA meets Muriel’s Wedding.
Even in the restaurant, as retro chart-toppers play overhead, the menu is a contemporary take on old Aussie favourites such as prawn cocktails, chicken wings and Angus beef burgers. I go with ‘Mac and Cheese’, which although simple, is the best I’ve had in a long while with its baked cheese-crust top. The cocktail menu is also worth a nudge.
Outside is an illuminated courtyard pool, but the gym nearby is worth a miss – youngsters (and the young at heart) can get the heart pumping at neighbouring Wet’n’Wild instead. As well as the water park, guests can make use of the recently revived Skyline Drive-In cinema next door, complete with Happy Days-style diner.
It seems Blacktown is going through a renaissance of sorts, which I’m betting will lure its fair share of family holidaymakers from the eastern suburbs over the coming months. Who knew Western Sydney would be associated with wholesome summer fun too?
The verdict: A delightful celebration of Australian kitsch, Atura is conveniently located between the new Wet’n’Wild water park, Featherdale Wildlife Park and Skyline Drive-In cinema to lure families and holiday makers away from Sydney’s beaches this summer.
The score: 16/20; great
We rated: The host of complimentary extras: local phone calls, wi-fi, Apple iMacs, in-room movies and parking. The ‘Grab&Go Pantry’ in the lobby also gets a big tick with light snacks, frozen meals and toiletries that can be easily forgotten when packing – how thoughtful.
We hated: There were a couple of in-room design glitches, such as windows that didn’t open; and the spout on the bathroom sink barely extended past the basin rim, flooding the vanity with every hand wash.
Notes: Rooms from $145 per night, or you can become a ‘Priority Guest Member’ for further discounts.
Where: 32 Cricketers Arms Road, Prospect, NSW
Contact: 02 9421 0000; aturablacktown.com.au