Price per night: from AUD$2400 per night
Review by: Katrina Holden
Why stay here?
It’s been seven years of meticulous renovations and restorations, and the results are extraordinary. Aside from being Sydney’s newest, luxury buzz-hotel and the first Capella Hotels & Resorts property to open in Australia, Capella Sydney, from its location near Circular Quay, is close to top attractions including the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.
Design and sustainability notes
The sandstone building façade alone is impressive, with the hotel housed within the historic former Department of Education building designed in 1900 by NSW government architect, George McRae. I love the entrance from Farrer Place that sees botanical artworks by Australian First Nations artist, Judy Watson, encased within the building’s original, freshly polished gilt frames. The hotel’s transformation was completed by Make Architects (with outposts in Sydney, London, and Hong Kong); and interior design was handled by Melbourne-based Bar Studio.
Inside my Skyline Suite that overlooks a heritage Sydney clocktower, bespoke furniture is punctuated by textural elements such as soft leather chairs, velvet cushions, smooth marble table and benchtops, linens by luxury Italian brand Frette, and buttery soft, velour robes and slippers. There’s not a hint of plastic anywhere inside the suite. Vegan, sustainable in-room amenities were created in partnership with luxury UK, B Corp-certified skincare brand, Haeckels.
From the in-suite iPad, I can order 24-hour in-room dining. The mini-bar is well stocked and includes local brands, such as a tailored Capella Sydney whisky from Sydney-based distillers, Archie Rose; and Young & Henry’s beers. But the finest dining moments are located on the ground level. The afternoon tea experience in Aperture is a sensorial treat. Nine delicate morsels — combining the best of local ingredients such as spanner crab, wattle seed, and finger lime — are served on ‘Jardin Indien’ Bernardaud chinaware from France. An Aperture blend tea is endlessly poured for us, specially created for the hotel by Sydney-founded artisanal tea producers, The Tea Centre. The calming living green wall looms over the space, as does a truly hypnotic, kinetic art installation dangling from the glass-ceiling atrium, titled Meadow by Dutch duo, Studio Drift (their first work to appear in the Southern Hemisphere).
Pre-dinner, I make my way to the Living Room for an ‘Echoes of Eternity’ cocktail made with Victoria’s Starward Whisky and Mr Black Coffee Liqueur. I munch on a canape of Wagyu beef and lemon myrtle cream cheese as Capella cultural officers chat to guests about Sydney and the history of the site.
The culinary highlight of my stay is undoubtedly dinner at Brasserie 1930, which is helmed by the esteemed Bentley Group’s Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt. My waiter recommends the creamy starter of spanner crab, alla chitarra, tarragon, and sea urchin sauce, which was delectable; while my companion and I share the whole roasted duck served with roasted plum, fennel, spinach, and glazed eschalot.
Some guests head to McRae Bar for a nightcap, adjacent to the Living Room, and named in honour of the building’s first architect. Breakfast is served at Brasserie 130 — order a la carte from the menu but save room for a Capella Sydney signature donut from the self-serve table.
Spa and wellness
In my suite, I soak in a large, standalone tub, scooping bath salts with a spoon from a dish. There’s a pillow menu to choose from, as well as a bath pillow menu I can request at turndown service. On level six, the Auriga Wellness zone sees a fitness centre, spa, and an incredible swimming pool that is literally suspended beneath restored and original heritage light wells. I make my way here in the morning and have the entire zone to myself.
I start in the 36-degree Vitality Pool, reclining on one of the submerged hydrotherapy massage chairs, before resting in the sauna that looks so brand new, I wonder if it’s even been used. Lastly, I wade in the 20-metre pool that has a consistent depth of 1.2 metres, making it perfect for aqua walking or running.
Back in the suite, I peruse the Auriga spa menu and am awed by the diverse range of treatments available to book — such as a new moon renewal and reflection treatment; a full moon cleanse and grounding ritual; or full moon massage; or a connect to country treatment that features stones and botanicals gathered with the permission of Indigenous Elders.
The special touches
The lavatory in my suite is next level, sensing my approach each time including in the middle of the night where I’m wondering where the light is, but the intuitive and heated seat guides the way! As with other Capella hotels, Capella Sydney filtrates an air aroma that runs through centralised air conditioning. An Australian scent permeates a heavenly fragrance throughout all the public areas, lobby, and corridors. When I stay, the hotel has only been open for 10 days. If there’s any nerves or teething issues among the staff, it doesn’t show. I witness and personally experience nothing but exceptional service levels and a genuine warmth and willingness to help at every turn.
If you want to upgrade
Four master and bespoke suites, known as the Prestige Suites, range from 105–235m2 and feature a full separate living area and select guest benefits such as exclusive access to the Living Room and program of daily Capella Rituals; and exclusive 24-hour access to the wellness centre.