A new boutique hotel in Surry Hills summons the spirit of ’70s NYC to great effect, finds Dan Down.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t around in the ’70s (almost!), but had I been, there’s one place I would’ve headed straight for: Studio 54, New York.
With its iconic logo lighting a typically downbeat Manhattan street, the nightclub was cool before you even started rubbing shoulders with Warhol, Jagger, Calvin Klein and Salvador Dalí.
It’s a wise choice then that the designers of one of Sydney’s newest boutique stays, Hotel 57, drew inspiration from this legendary establishment, situated as it is in Surry Hills, the ever-relevant Victorian warren of trendy shops, cafes and bars.
Bright Studio 54-style signage invites you in from Foveaux Street; it wants to be the coolest weekender in the coolest suburb, and largely it works.
Modern 70S chic
While the only Calvin Klein here is perhaps the receptionist’s perfume, the place certainly achieves wow factor.
The former office block has been lavishly tailored by Lexis Design to give a modern take on the ’70s (no shag-pile rugs or glitter balls here).
Indeed, with disco beats playing as you walk into an opulent, gold-clad foyer with its bold, undulating ceiling, you could be strolling into some exclusive nightclub. It primes you for a night out in Sydney’s happening hood.
This is just as well because after we check in and take our luggage through the equally smart lounge, all black leather and gold and copper detailing with its glass wall offering a surprisingly leafy outlook, we fail to see a cocktail bar or restaurant.
Cool one-night crash pad
This is a late-night, one-night crash pad; a place to flop onto a very comfy bed having enjoyed a heady mix of cocktails in the Hills and awake the next day a little worse for wear. In other words, it’s a lot of fun.
And we intend to do just that, throwing luggage onto the duvet with the intention of changing and hitting the streets as quickly as possible.
But the Dancing Queen (the name of our pad; others are called Disco Double, while the highest standard is The King) has other ideas.
With a rainfall shower, free wi-fi, a huge TV and an iPad with a host of tourist-friendly advice to sift through, it takes us a few hours to leave.
I quickly have the hotel’s signature tunes playing on the iPad, a playlist that encapsulates 57’s ambience with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Daft Punk.
Drama in the foyer
The foyer’s dramatic styling has been toned down for the rooms – to take them from bordello to boudoir – with colourful, carefully picked furnishings and paintings adorning the smallish space.
A bathroom takes up one end, partitioned by glass with a burgundy curtain to preserve one’s modesty, but you won’t need it with the main light off; it’s very dark with just the two bedside lamps for illumination.
And it’s far too bright with it on; didn’t they have dimmers in the ’70s? Curiously, there’s an Eero Aarnio plastic puppy chair in a corner of the bathroom – a playful touch.
Being in Sydney we would have liked a view, preferably of the nearby CBD, but our expectant eyes are met by a pane of frosted glass. However, other rooms do have views of the surrounding ’burbs – so our tip is to request one when booking.
What about the location?
Knowing we wouldn’t have far to walk to collapse into bed after a night of revelry, we eventually coax ourselves out to hit the Surry Hills streets.
Right in the middle of the action and only a five-minute stroll from Central Station, one of the lures of Hotel 57 is its pitch-perfect location.
The next morning, after an evening of eating smoked meats at the fantastic new chophouse, Firedoor, and sampling the delights of an ‘absinthe salon’, we head down to the lounge for a welcome breakfast of delicious mini chocolate croissants, Danishes and as much coffee as we can drink; it’s all very NYC.
Alas, if only 57 was a destination in its own right – its interiors have just the right level of Saturday night fever to warrant a very cool bar that would have delivered the spirit of Studio 54.
But, with Surry Hills on your doorstep, you’re certainly not left wanting.
The Details: Hotel 57
The verdict: Set in the heart of Surry Hills, Hotel 57 deftly harnesses the style of a fun, bygone era to get you in the mood for a night out. We paid $199 for a Dancing Queen room.
The score: 3.5/5
Greats: The rooms are perfectly styled with sizeable wet rooms and a great in-room service provided by way of an iPad. Endless pastries and coffee in the morning helped soothe the effects of the previous evening.
Grates: The lack of a Studio 54-themed bar. In a suburb known for its bar culture, it seemed like a missed opportunity. Also, the room’s lighting wasn’t very considered and the lack of a view lost points.
Where: Hotel 57 – 57 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills; 02 9011 5757
All AT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.