There’s been a hotel bearing the name Wentworth in Sydney, in one form or another, for more than 160 years. In that time, it has risen from a boarding house owned by early colonial explorer, author, politician and all-round icon William Charles Wentworth to the first five-star hotel in the city. The current incarnation, Sofitel Sydney Wentworth, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, having first opened its doors on December 14, 1966. Since then it’s been the hotel of choice for princesses, politicians, pop stars and even the Pope.
Planted firmly in Sydney’s financial district, the streets around the Sofitel can seem rather quiet (especially after dark). But thanks to the city’s burgeoning small-bar scene, there are actually a number of cosy establishments dotted through the surrounding streets. The tricky part is finding them, so keep en eye out for hidden doorways. The hotel is also within walking distance of Circular Quay, the Botanic Gardens and the luxury shopping strip of Castlereagh Street.
Look and feel
The building itself is something of a Sydney icon. When it was first built it was a classic symbol of the jet age; sleek, modern and innovative. It’s still the largest brick building in the Southern Hemisphere and is built in a unique horseshoe shape, designed to ensure the rooms wouldn’t be too close to busy Phillip Street. Inside it’s all fawn marble, polished wood and brass accents, plus lots and lots of fresh flowers. The Sofitel is never going to be the coolest hotel in the city, but it doesn’t need to be. There’s a classic elegance about the property and it has been showing the new kids how it’s done for half a century.
The stylish Soiree bar off the lobby has a French apero-inspired menu of wine, cocktails and small plates. There are two signature cocktails and, in the interest of journalistic integrity, I try both. Lola, a mix of vodka, St Germain, pomegranate and champagne, is the winner. Upstairs on level five, Garden Court is a breezy European-style bistro with a leafy outlook over the hotel’s raised central garden and a seasonal French/Australian menu. But my favourite thing about hotels is always room service, so I opt for a bowl of lobster bisque and warm crusty bread rolls, which I eat wearing my bathrobe in bed.
There’s no swimming pool (and, as it’s a heritage hotel, they can’t install one) or spa, but guests can use the very good Elixr Health Club located on the ground floor.
The Sofitel is proud to call itself Sydney’s ‘hotel for the arts’, so you’ll often find a special on-site exhibition or performance, or a partnership with events like Vivid and the Archibald Prize. The concierge will help you organise tickets to anything you fancy.