This was my first trip back to the Park Hyatt since its $65m renovation, which comprised a full refit of its rooms and resulted in the closure of the hotel for many moons.
Sydney is a city of surprisingly few fabulous hotels. All the major chains are represented – Intercontinental, Four Seasons, Shangri-La, and a few new boutique entries of late (QT, The Darling) to shake things up a bit. All of these are fine – and in fact I’m quite fond of The Darling, but The Park Hyatt has always been at the top of the tree, not least because it sits on one of the finest pieces of real estate in the known universe.
From one of my two balconies, I am around 10 metres to the Harbour’s edge. The sharp, hard white sails of the Opera House are lit up across the narrowest stretch of the Harbour, directly across from me. Without any visual assistance, I can see what people are wearing as they walk in and around the Opera House. If I lean out slightly I can look up into the dark iron ribs of the Harbour Bridge and spot the bats.
The entertainment factor cannot be undervalued. On a Saturday, the promenade directly beneath our balcony is filled with an unending procession of brides as photographers jostle for space. Sweaty joggers run through the photos. The council needs to make up a yellow diamond sign for “Brides Crossing”. Monumental cruise ships lumber into and out of the Overseas Passenger Terminal, disgorging the hordes and then vacuuming them up again with regularity. If you look closely enough you can watch the outdoor cinema atop certain cruise lines from the hotel. The city skyline glitters above Circular Quay like a multi-coloured tiara, whilst the lower rise buildings of the North Shore, at least on this weekend, are lit up in silhouette by a fantastical lightning storm.
The refit has upped the ante even further, with most rooms costing in excess of $1000 per night. On both nights we stayed, the hotel was running at full occupancy, including the $16,000 per night penthouse.
Our room is a deluxe harbour view suite. The room itself is balanced and luxurious, with simple modern pieces, discreet technology points and a super duper king size bed which could easily fit five across. The bathroom is all Italian beige tile and a giant bath with a view of those famous sails. However, it is clearly designed to take second place to the view, and rightly so. One of the great wins in the refit was the decision to replace the old rendered balconies with sleek glass sheeting, so the view is unimpeded from floor to ceiling.
The new spa is a soothing monochrome space with atmospheric lighting and friendly expert staff. The new rooftop pool is a tiny gem, glittering small and tranquil beneath the iron trusses of the bridge.
The lobby has been divided along its length so that a long reception desk forms both a welcome point and a discreet wall for the Living Room behind it, a space which is part bar, part lobby, part restaurant, and 100% harbour view.
The Harbour Kitchen and Bar remains light and slick, the breakfasts now pared down with individual servings of smoked salmon, or small goods, or house made yoghurt, or fruit salad lining glass shelves in a refrigerated cabinet, a little like an exceptionally stylish vending machine.
So to the brickbats. Housekeeping missed the mark. Cleanliness was not an issue, but timing was fairly appalling. They arrived at 8.45am on Sunday morning, and 8.15am on Monday morning to make up our room. Good luck with that. I know there is a DND button but since when does housekeeping appear at crack of dawn? Holding my eyelids open with toothpicks, I asked them to come back later. They didn’t, which was somewhat embarrassing when friends, invited back for an evening drink on the balcony, were greeted with rumpled sheets, dirty glasses etc. Not good enough really.
The location won’t suit all people – you cannot get closer to the iconic harbour attractions, but the CBD it ain’t. If you wanted to head up to Martin Place for business or the Westfield Tower, be prepared for a little sweat. There’s good news, though, with plenty of restaurants within walking distance, around the Wharf area, Overseas Passenger Terminal and the Rocks in particular. A short cab ride gets you everywhere else.
However, there are surely few better ways to spend an evening than on the balcony of a your room with a plate of Sydney Rock oysters, a saucy little mignonette dressing and a bottle of something crisp and white. Priceless.