It’s just after check in time at the Hilton Sydney. Outside, shiny light rail carriages roll down George Street while throngs of pedestrians meander towards the sound of buskers in neighbouring Pitt Street Mall.
For a Saturday afternoon, it all seems very normal. Inside however, things are a little different since I last stayed here. Hand sanitisers are everywhere; numbers are restricted in elevators; there are new protocols around gym and pool usage. Most significantly, the Hilton Sydney has undergone a $25 million refurbishment, with two new room types – Corner Room and Family Room – at the heart of the enhancement.
Yet there’s some familiarity in the new normal. Firstly, and encouragingly, guests are checking in. And at more than just a trickle. Hotel staff are still slick and all smiles too, albeit behind a screen of plastic. Front office manager, Jason jokes that he’s almost part of the furniture, after 10 years of service at the hotel.
The Hilton Sydney has been a fixture in the CBD for as long as I can remember. But stroll past the property and you mightn’t even notice it’s there, such is the hotel’s seamless integration into arguably the busiest part of Sydney.
But its integration doesn’t make it any less impressive – just more inclusive. For decades, patrons have flocked to the Hilton’s famed heritage-listed Marble Bar to enjoy a drink amongst beautiful artwork and surrounds while guests from near and far have been welcomed to a hotel right in the heart of the city. And the property indeed couldn’t be any more convenient with boutiques, eateries and other retailers literally on its doorstep.
Away from the bustle downstairs, the results of the new refurb are eye-catching in our corner Executive Suite on the 33rd floor, with updated décor, fittings and artwork tastefully illuminated by new lighting. Among this suite’s features are a comfy king bed, large television in the bedroom and even larger TV in the separate living space, espresso maker, fridge, and ironing amenities (which my partner loves). Especially nice are the cushioned windowsills, which are just large enough to sit on to enjoy panoramic views that take in most of the city, Sydney Tower, and even glimpses of the harbour and bridge. I quickly discover the sills also provide a great veil during a game of hide and seek with my 5-year-old! In the luxury bathroom, there’s a massive tub (complete with TV screen), rain-shower, European tapware, shaving mirror, and Crabtree and Evelyn amenities. An extra toilet is conveniently placed near the entrance.
Through the 55-inch television, we order room service from Luke Mangan’s Glasshouse, the hotel’s main eatery. But you can also order coffee from Caffe Cino, cocktails from the Marble Bar, or other all-day dining options.
Served on gorgeous Robert Gordon crockery, our Italian-themed vegetarian meal comprises a delicious pumpkin ravioli, generous serving of tender gnocchi with asparagus, peas and zucchini, and cherry tomato pizza for the little one. Mangan’s Liquorice and Meringue roll dessert in a lime and mint sauce has us oohing and aahing afterwards.
Elsewhere on the room-service menu are oysters, king fish tartare, wagyu beef burgers and a tasty-looking chocolate fondant.
We’re kindly warned at check-in to get in early for breakfast, and we’re glad we do when we find a 20-metre long line as we leave the Glasshouse in the morning. But it’s still active while we work our way through the buffet, which offers a nice mix of cold and hot, healthy and decadent treats. It’s so busy in fact that even hotel general manager Hayden Hughes is helping clear tables.
With stunning views of the sandstone QVB and Hilton’s own green-lined atrium, we feast on roast cauliflower with tahini, sautéed mushrooms, and guacamole, before moving onto vegan croissants and yoghurt (made from coconut milk), and creamy soy cappuccinos. Figs and pineapple that melts in our mouth also stand out. It’s a sweet end to a sweet stay at the Hilton Sydney.
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