Suite: Prestige Suite | Size: 74 square meters | Price: From $1029 per night | sofitelsydneydarlingharbour.com.au
With 590 guest rooms including 35 suites, this 35-storey hotel is the first new-build Sofitel in Australia. Although it is conveniently located next to the new International Convention Centre (ICC), the hotel is not just for conference delegates. The all-glass high-rise – the tallest in Darling Harbour and designed by Sydney architect Richard Francis-Jones – emanates luxury and this vibe continues as you enter the white marble lobby and catch the signature fragrance in the air. As Sofitel is a French brand (Accor is the parent company), don’t be surprised when you are greeted with “Bonjour”. Much of the hotel’s inspiration, including artwork, is taken from the South of France, where glamorous seaside towns reign. Meanwhile, public spaces pay tribute to Sydney’s strong wharf heritage through the use of timber beams and rope.
Located on the top floor, with a separate lounge and dining area, the Prestige Suite has a sleek Scandinavian feel with neutral colours, blond timber, and those amazing floor-to-ceiling views over Darling Harbour and the CBD. There is a large bookcase on one wall, with a selection of interesting coffee table books on different Australian subjects. They stock my favourite tea, TWG, along with a Nespresso coffee maker and minibar full of the regular goodies. The bathroom is magnificent with a freestanding soaking tub and separate shower with double shower heads. There is also an in-built TV to enjoy while you soak. While pleased to see Hermès toiletries, I’d like to see them do away with the small single-use plastic bottles. Sofitel is famous for the MyBed, and they never disappoint. All suites come with access to Club Millésime, the spectacular lounge on level 35 with soaring ceilings and sweeping views. It is a tranquil environment with many privileges including private check in/check out, hot and cold breakfast, all-day refreshments, a lovely afternoon high tea, and canapes and cocktails in the evening. Our leisurely breakfast with coffee, eggs benedict, fresh pastries and the weekend paper while perched above the Harbour was one of the highlights of our stay. Club Millésime is definitely one of the nicest hotel club lounges in Sydney.
As a Sydneysider, Darling Harbour is not an area I normally explore, as I think of it as a tourist spot. But since my last visit, the area has really been revitalised. The convention centre is a stunning building and had a fabulous Rolling Stone exhibition showing during our stay. There are numerous restaurants, bars, and a buzzing nightlife with reworks on Saturday night and several talented buskers in the area. There is room for improvement – the Harbourside Mall is stuck in a time warp, for example – but things really seem to be coming together. For tourists especially, Wild Life Sydney Zoo, Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, and Australian National Maritime Museum, not to mention the many Harbour cruise operators, make Darling Harbour a prime location.
Look and Feel
Beyond the French ambiance, the attention to detail – from the jelly sh installation in the lobby to the 12-metre, 12,000-litre fish tank behind reception – is quite impressive. One of the most stunning areas of the hotel is the 20-metre outdoor infinity pool that appears to drop off into the Harbour. It must be one of the most Instagram-worthy spots in town. The fitness room is adjacent to the pool and bar, and also offers the same amazing views from the treadmills and cycles in case you needed extra motivation to workout.
The third floor hosts the Champagne Bar, which can seat 110 making it Sydney’s largest. There is a large range of Champagnes, but if you’re really trying to impress someone, check out the 2002 Louis Roederer Cristal Jeroboam. Surrounded in 24K gold latticework, the three-litre bottle will cost you a cool $22,000. Enjoy a glass of bubbles at dusk and watch as the city lights up. Next door is restaurant Atelier, a French-inspired grill headed by executive chef Eric Costille, who is French, of course. Atelier combines the flavours of Southern France with locally sourced produce, meats and seafood grilled to perfection. The Bouillabaisse De Marseille was a delicious casserole of seafood delights, and the kangaroo carpaccio with ginger lime and nori dressing was as soft as butter.
I love a ritual, and the Sofitel has two clever rituals practised daily. The first is the Plate Shining, which is done every day at 7 am. Wearing white gloves, a porter will wipe the Sofitel nameplate counter-clockwise (clockwise when in the Northern Hemisphere) seven times. The cloth is then folded five times and put in the ritual box. The Candle Ritual, inspired by the lights of Paris, takes place every evening in the lobby to mark the transition from day to night. It lasts about 15 minutes and leaves a warm candlelit glow.