Otto and I are in Sydney, staying in splendour at – officially – the city’s best hotel.
It’s also won 2009 best spa and fitness facility, an award deserved for its stunning swimming pool alone. I’m en route to the Pacific; we’re kicking back at The Observatory Hotel, near the Harbour Bridge, for a few days. Tying with Rae’s at Byron Bay, this is the best hotel I’ve stayed at anywhere in Oz. With the architectural stone exterior appeal of the historic homes surrounding it on the CBD fringe at Millers Point, it’s charmingly understated but just a knockout, from the moment friendly doorman Nicholas appears and begins unloading my luggage. Inside, it’s even better: a reception with real Continental polish, at the edge of an elegant marble foyer and lobby hall with comfy sofas arranged in intimate nooks under soothing potted palms, fireplaces, objets d’art and – ho hum – millions of dollars’ worth of Sidney Nolans casually dotted around the walls. Not ostentatiously in prominent spots, mind you: some of the best are tucked modestly in corners. When you’re truly flash you don’t flaunt it. There’s a business centre, relaxing drawing room filled with newspapers, magazines and sunshine, magnificent Globe club bar with antique-edition library, and Galileo chef’s-hatted French restaurant, where the stars truly came out at breakfast and dinner. Service is the keynote here; they’ll even arrange a laptop if you forget yours.
With valet parking, we were perfectly located to stroll The Rocks, visit gourmet markets, take a morning run around the harbour edge and nip into town and to the Quay for lunch. Within hours, staff pausing to greet us, smile and chat, we felt at home. But hotels are all about your room, aren’t they? Couldn’t fault it! We romped in absolute luxury: deep wool carpet, downy king bed, mahogany armoire, cedar furniture, marble bathroom, deep tub with crystals, two showerheads, internet, cable TV and so on. The hotel’s part of the Orient-Express group, who operate Agatha Christie’s famed Venice-Simplon train, and elite Lilianfels Blue Mountains Resort. Expensive? An absolute bargain, I reckon. With rooms starting at $315 a couple a night, look at it my way: that tariff includes spending your day in Sydney’s best spa complex: complimentary grooming products, fruit tea, filtered water, fragrant women’s/men’s steam rooms, spacious saunas, therapeutic spa, super gym, beautiful lounges under a Southern Cross canopy and the biggest, bluest pool. (Full La Prairie treatment menu also).
I enjoyed a room service snack next to my waterside balcony while Otto gnawed on a dog biscuit. After all, Otto’s a dog. The Observatory’s the only Sydney five-star hotel that welcomes pets in dedicated rooms. The hotel left the pink-iced biscuit on his “pillow”, a plush pink dog bed, along with his bowls and litter tray in the bathroom. Otto’s choice from the special Pets’ Menu: Lassie’s Favourite, beef with chunky veg. For cats, selections include grilled salmon with quail egg, tuna, potatoes and olives. For pet charges, info: www.observatoryhotel.com.au