We check in to the newly opened The Porter House Hotel Sydney, MGallery, which sits within an 1870s heritage-listed building in Sydney’s CBD.
Why stay here?
The Porter House Hotel spans over 10 floors of a historic 36-storey building, offering 122 guest rooms and suites, many with views of Hyde Park. All guests have access to a fitness centre and a heated swimming pool, as well as a rooftop garden.
The hotel sits in a great location — you can stroll to Hyde Park, just one block away, or to nearby theatres or Chinatown. Also, the main shopping hub of Sydney and the Pitt Street Mall is just a short distance away on foot.
I really love the mixed-use space (with neighbouring office buildings) and the ‘discretion’ of the hotel. There’s no grand hotel lobby — and in fact, I had to really look for the entrance. The result is the feeling like you’re in a New York urban hotel where guests are made to feel part of the neighbourhood.
The cosy check-in area adjoins Henry’s Bread and Wine where people are sitting on tables and chairs on the footpath or in the bistro area within, enjoying after-work drinks. Inside Henry’s is also a large selection of daily fresh blooms, creating a part florist, part patisserie, and part bistro atmosphere.
Originally commissioned in 1876 by Hugh Dixson, who was Australia’s leading tobacco manufacturer at the time, The Porter House was formerly a tobacco factory and warehouse. It was later leased to leather merchant George Johnson & Sons; and furniture manufacturer, WW Campbell & Co.
The history is kept alive via numerous touchpoints. Carved into the stone flooring at the entrance are key dates and facts; in a corridor flanking Henry’s Bread and Wine, there are several items on display that were uncovered during the build. The eateries on-site reference names of those connected with the history of the building; and original windows, brick archways and timber beams provide a nod to the past.
The modern tower that has been built around the original building has managed to seamlessly blend the contemporary with the classic.
Design and sustainability notes
Award-winning architect Angelo Candelapas of Candelapas Associates was responsible for the development of this special heritage project.
Inside, the design is of light tones such as dusty pinks and mushroom greys, which sit alongside natural textures that give a contemporary yet welcoming feel. Hardwood flooring and gold and brass fixtures are additional luxurious design touches.
Playful additions such as vintage and modern bed lamps affixed to the ceilings in guest rooms evoke the theme of the old meeting the new.
In the room
I’m staying in a Superior Room, which is light and spacious. A large, 65cm TV is mounted on the wall; and there’s ample space for luggage storage.
Inside, there’s a curved leather bedhead, ceiling-fixed bed lamps, soft-lit oval mirrors and round basins. I especially like the pink and grey marble tiling in the bathrooms.
The hotel has made use of the latest technology, being the only hotel in Australia to offer a ‘DigiValet’ — a virtual walking, talking iPad ‘concierge’ that can serve as a guide to the hotel and its facilities. From it, you can order room service, glasses of wine from the bar, mini bar items and control all your internal blinds, lights and television.
There are several dining and drinking venues within the redeveloped hotel, with three new establishments spread across four levels of the original Porter House building. Henry’s Bread and Wine provides an all-day menu. Before dinner, I sit at the central bar and watch as my mixologist prepares an Orchard Blossom cocktail for me.
For dinner, I head upstairs to the generously sized Dixson & Sons restaurant on the building’s first floor. Hotel guests can also access the restaurant through a bridge on level one, using a room key, without having to access it through the lobby and lift.
I’m seated beneath a white arched original window overlooking the street. There’s a sophisticated yet relaxed vibe here as I settle into a tan leather seat, admiring the exposed brick walls, extensive wine fridges and vintage touches including china plates suspended on the wall and a golden drinks trolley.
The contemporary cuisine is prepared by executive chef Emrys Jones, previously of qualia luxury resort at Hamilton Island, Queensland. Jones aims to showcase the best of Australian produce throughout classic French cuisine with an Asian twist — and I like how the menu clearly details regionality in dishes such as grilled Yamba prawns, whole roasted five-day aged Aquna Murray cod or Newcastle green leaves, ginger and yuzu dressing.
Down at the bar at Henry’s, I’ve been told about the specialty of the house at Dixson & Son — the pastured beef Wellington for two, served with Paris mash and bordelaise. It is carved at the table for us and is decadent, with juicy, soft and tender beef. When staying as a hotel guest, breakfast is also served here at Dixson & Sons.
On the top level of the hotel, there’s a DJ playing at the Spice Trader bar as I slide into a curved, green velvet banquette. Vintage features include brass fittings, a wall of antique mirrors and a striking 14-metre semi-oval green marble bar serving as the centrepiece. It’s a perfect spot for a nightcap, sipping on one of the signature cocktails.
I loved the feeling of being in a contemporary, urban space that felt more like residential living than a hotel. All hotel guests have access to a fitness centre and a heated pool located on level 11.
Room rates start from AUD$359 per night (twin share for a classic room)