As far as the world’s most recognisable hotel brands go, Sheraton is up there as one of the best balanced in almost all facets of luxury accommodation. It’s high end but accessible, elegant but modern, sophisticated but grounded in a way that’s adaptable for all types of guests; for a hotel with roots dating back to the 1930s Sheraton have done well to juggle change and continuity so as not to be left behind in the very busy world of hotels and resorts.
One would find different expressions of this brand in just about every tourist-attracting city across the world, and for Sydney the form is Sheraton on the Park, a property that makes a very strong case for the more refined end of the CBD, clearly not needing those sparkling harbour views to leave a lasting impression on guests.
In terms of location, this is as central as you can get. A short 20 minute walk will bring you to Circular Quay and The Rocks; spend the same amount of time shuffling those feet and you’ll find it easy to get to Oxford Street (and with the help of a quick bus trip, the classier Paddington), Kings Cross, Surry Hills, and a variety of shopping destinations across Sydney. If you’ve got a show at State Theatre, you’ll be there in less than 10 minutes; if you’re keen on a film at nearby Event Cinemas you need but walk for 15 while taking in the main strip of George Street. Then of course, there’s leisurely Hyde Park which is located directly opposite the property.
Hyde Park really is a touchstone for the hotel, hence the property’s name. To zone in on that fact, a few design elements within the property – particularly in lobby-level dining space The Gallery where various high tea options are available to guests and the public – were recently tweaked and refined to mirror elements of the park. The leafy location also defines the best points of view from the hotel, especially from the private terraces which are reserved for the top few floors; looking out over Hyde Park from one of these upper-class rooms is a really unique perspective of Sydney, and as mentioned above, it need not rely on the city’s famous harbour.
A quick scope of the tremendous Hyde Park perspective from one of these terraces will allow one to take in the various textures of Sydney’s architectural triumphs. There’s the sandstone St Mary’s Cathedral and the Archibald Fountain to the left, the Anzac Memorial to the right, and all around are those bushy figtrees which dot the park. Turn back to face the room and look up, you’ll be able to clearly see the top of Centrepoint Tower. Take all of this together and even for a local this is a vital scene of everyday Sydney life; not the dreary hustle and bustle of Elizabeth Street, not the idyllic escapism of Circular Quay, but simply the jaw-dropping craftmanship of both man-made and natural wonders coming together to capture Sydney in one stunning portrait. The view from the top is one of the most memorable – even inspiring – elements of Sheraton on the Park.
A grand entrance should tell you all you need to know about a hotel, and such a notion is not lost on this property. The lobby is magnificent, an ambitiously large scene that draws on a lot of wood, marble, and polished brass to make that first impression a special one. After marveling at the giant staircase that sits at the centre, one only needs to turn immediately left to enter The Gallery, or turn right to check-in and be greeted by some classic service. The staff work seamlessly here, and the hospitality is about as fine as one would expect from a hotel of this particular repute – efficient, personable, and friendly.
As a guest I was fortunate enough to find myself in the lofty Deluxe Terrace Suite which would usually be priced at approx. $1349.00 per night. The enormous room is obviously designed with several types of travellers in mind, particularly those who here for business or entertaining. The incredibly spacious living area features an exceedingly comfortable corner lounge that almost stretches along an entire wall, ending nice and close to the well equipped work desk which is by all the standard connections one would need for productivity – unless that productivity includes an AUX cable of which none (at least in my few minutes of searching) could be found.
The polished marble table top that kind of divides the living area in two houses a secret television unit, a massive screen that smartly rises with the press of a nearby button. The television is quite some distance from the lounge, but whether or not this is a negative depends on what you’re there for; there’s another wall-mounted television in the bedroom.
Rather imposing is the large round six-seater table near the entrance to the middle balcony, the first feature one would notice as soon as they walk into the room. It’s a beautiful, sturdy table that seems designed to host small conferences should a group shy away from the expansive official conference rooms of which Sheraton boasts plenty.
There are three separate terrace-style balconies, the middle of which has two leisurely chairs on which to sit and really take in that extraordinary view. The furthest one is accessible via the large bedroom, the space having no problems fitting that gorgeous, soft and smooth bed which is decorated with a textured, deep blue quilt. To either side of the bed are tables with classic lamps, one has a phone and two bottles of free water, the other – the closest to the windows – has a 30-pin iPod dock, a redundant feature of many hotels which have not yet realised that people do not use the iPhone 4 (or similar) anymore. A bluetooth speaker would have been a more in-touch feature seeing as there are various smartphones out there nowadays; though this is but a small overlooked detail.
The bedroom is complete with a welcoming armchair before it opens into the powder room, where one will find a spacious walk-in wardrobe and a large vanity with Hermès products alongside all the usual bathroom suspects. Further on is the exquisite black marble bathroom with a sizable bathtub, separate shower, and toilet.
Sheraton on the Park completely justify the ‘deluxe’ label of the suite, a subdued but stylish room that comes with an experience powered by access to the 21st floor Club Lounge. It’s always an added treat to access a hotel’s club lounge, but this particular one truly makes it feel like a privilege. During any given hour the lounge will be brimming with quiet conversation between guests, the only other sounds being the soft atmospheric music and glasses full of champagne clinking. Those who aren’t fussed on a full breakfast buffet (the hotel’s restaurant, Feast, has an incredible spread bested only by it’s dinner buffet) can also head here during the morning for complimentary breakfast; as for the evening, there’s a pre-dinner drinks and canapes buffet from 5pm to 7:30pm – house wines and beers, fresh seafood, antipasto, pastries, and cheeses mostly. Reliable, high speed Wi-Fi is a given; as is comfort, bolstered by those flickering gas fireplaces.
One floor up, on the 22nd, is a day spa, fitness centre, and indoor heated pool. The fitness centre is quite surprising seeing as most hotel gyms are modest in size; this one is huge, with a great deal of machines (even a TRX cable, boxing bag, and rowing machine) and free weights. As I was strapped for time I wasn’t able to test the day spa, although the warm reception I received on entering the area was enough to indicate a high standard of quality. The pool is not to be overlooked, as with pretty much everything in the building it’s a generously sized, beautiful pool with a deep aqua glow from the smart lighting around the space. There’s a nearby hot tub in the corner, smaller than one would expect, but very inviting.
Seeing as the 22nd floor is the top, there are some great city views from both the pool area and the fitness centre; none can quite match to the terrace suite, but they are attractive perspectives nonetheless.
With such a huge slice of Sydney’s dining scene at the foot of Sheraton on the Park it’s tempting to venture out into the night for dinner, but the buffet at Feast on the hotel’s second floor is a viable, versatile option that doesn’t feel like “settling” for guests. The all-you-can-eat spread is impressive, boasting a fresh – like actually fresh – seafood section, separate to the main island that’s full of attractive cakes, breads, meats, sushi, and other dinner staples. The third island is manned by chefs more than willing to dice up some slices of pizza or carve some meat for the plate.
A good quality, consistent buffet is hard to come by in any city around the world, and while Feast does have some disappointments – the pizza is much too thin and floppy, the pork is dry – the large majority of eats here make for a satisfying meal. Those wanting after-dinner cocktails can hop to the neighbouring Conservatory Bar which has a respectable list of classics, some signatures both permanent and rotating, craft beers, and – as far as hotel bars go – an excellent wine list.
Sheraton on the Park feels too mature to be able to have the vibrancy it does, but an undeniably youthful energy runs throughout the sophisticated atmosphere, again lending strength to the Sheraton brand and reiterating the balance it is known for. With one of the city’s best hotel buffets, definitely one of the best Club Lounges around, views that are distinctive and mirror the classic side of Sydney, and rooms that are truly jaw-dropping, it wouldn’t be hard to assert this as one of the finest properties in the city. A genuine five-star experience.
161 Elizabeth St, Sydney
The writer stayed as a guest of Sheraton on the Park.