Beautiful, Businesslike, a Bit Boring: A Review of the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour
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For the second night of a two-night stay in Sydney in December, I decided to move across Darling Harbour from the Hyatt Regency Sydney to one of the city’s other new landmark hotels, the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour, which officially opened in November 2017.
The gleaming tower — the first new-build luxury hotel to open in the city since the 2000 Olympics — was constructed at a cost of nearly $500 million AUD (roughly $395 million USD). It has 590 rooms, including 35 suites, and is adjacent to the Sydney Convention Centre.
I first heard about the plans for the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour two years ago, so when I was casting about for hotels on my trip to Australia, I was excited to see that it had just opened.
What I was not so thrilled about? Room rates that started at $436, especially when I could see much lower rates on many of the days surrounding my trips, including one night where I could have booked a room for just $230!
Still, without many options, and wanting to check out the new hotel, I decided to bite the bullet and book the room. There was a “Magnifique Breakfast” package that included a full breakfast for an additional $15, but I decided just to book the regular rate instead.
That ended up being a good call, because before I checked out, I was given the option to add breakfast to my stay for just $1 AUD ($0.77 USD). I later learned this was a special promotional rate, and not simply a glitch.
The day before I was to check in, I looked at rates at the hotel to see if they had changed. Sure enough, rooms were $76 USD lower than when I had booked. A rate of just $360 seemed much more reasonable to me, and though I was within the 24-hour cancellation period, I decided to call the hotel directly and ask if they could book me in at the lower rate. I talked to a polite reservation agent who explained that I was within the cancellation period but that he would make an exception and give me the lower rate. He even gave me the same 77-cent breakfast deal.
LeClub AccorHotels is not one of my main points programs, though I do have an account and I would’ve earned just over 700 points on my stay. I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for my stay and earn 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar.
As you can guess from the name, the Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour is located … at Darling Harbour. This is the area southwest of Central Business District and the Circular Quay. The convention center is here, as are tourist attractions like the SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. So while it might not be the top neighborhood for first-time visitors, it was central and close to public transportation. In fact, it was there that I caught the train back to Sydney Airport (SYD) the following morning for a flight to Melbourne Airport (MEL). That way, I paid about $14 to get back to the airport instead of the $50 or so a taxi would have cost me.
After walking across Darling Harbour by Pyrmont Bridge, I arrived at the hotel at noon. There were a few other people in reception, but no one else checking in, so an agent helped me right away.
She told me my room was already available and noted my rate and that breakfast was included before handing over my key and directing me to the bank of elevators between the reception desks and the hotel entrance.
My room was up on the 12th floor, down the hallway and around the corner from the elevators. Club Sofitel rooms and suites were up on the 28th through 34th floors, with the Club Millesime Lounge located on the 35th, or top, floor of the tower.
In my room was a short foyer, to the left of which were the bathroom and closet. There was an eclectic assortment of photographs on the wall, which I think were meant to evoke feelings of whimsy and wanderlust.
The room was 35 square meters, or about 375 square feet. The floor-to-ceiling windows added a lot of light and a feeling of spaciousness. On the wall closest to the door was a sofa with colorful throw pillows.
Next to that was a small round table with the room compendium and another chair. This doubled as a workspace, though the position of the power plugs on the wall above the couch were awkward.
The king-size Sofitel MyBed-branded bed was dressed in white linens, and I found it to be comfortable. The hotel offered a pillow menu with six choices, including ones for children, hypoallergenic latex ones and another made of memory foam. Next to the bed were switches for the lights and air conditioning, power outlets and a USB port.
I thought the headboard was interesting. It was a combination of blond wood, dark metal and gray leather, with leather straps hanging over it. It called to mind vintage luggage.
That aesthetic was echoed by the minibar, a cylindrical wooden chest whose drawers and cupboards opened, like an updated take on the steamer trunk or an Art Deco bar cart. It had snacks, wine, spirits, a kettle and a Breville coffeemaker
Above it was a huge flat-screen television that extended out and swiveled so you could watch it from either the sofa or the bed.
I really liked how big the windows were, but it meant the room was rather hot when I came in. My view looked over the hotel’s outdoor pool on the fourth floor.
And you could take in the rest of Darling Harbour.
One thing I didn’t like? The shades and curtains were not electronic. I’m not saying every hotel has to have this feature, and it’s probably expensive to install, but with windows this big, it was a task to heave the shades up and down.
The bathroom was behind a sliding door of frosted glass, and contained a walk-in closet.
The walls and floor of the bathroom were a light travertine, which gave it a spa-like look. There was a single sink with a countertop of black marble. Oddly enough, this is where the minibar’s refrigerator was.
There was a leather kit with disposable toiletries. The bath products the hotel stocked were high-end Lanvin Orange Ambre shampoo, conditioner and body lotion.
The bathroom contained a separate chamber for the toilet. The other stall housed the shower, with both overhead and handheld shower heads.
There was no bath, which was interesting considering there was a bath menu waiting on my bed. I guess that’s just for the higher-end suites, which did have separate bathtubs.
The free Wi-Fi was great. There was a paid option, too, but I didn’t see any reason to use it given the speed at which the complimentary Wi-Fi operated.
Overall, I thought the room was bright and sophisticated, with interesting design touches. I liked how spacious the bathroom was and those Lanvin bath amenities. I would have liked a dedicated workspace, though.
Food and Beverage
The hotel had four restaurants and bars. Le Rivage was a casual outdoor bar and dining terrace by the pool on the fourth floor. I didn’t eat there, but it looked like a nice place to spend a sunny afternoon.
In the lobby, Esprit Noir was both a bar and a lounge with various casual seating areas.
The Champagne Bar and main restaurant, Atelier by Sofitel, were up on the third floor. This was where I had my 77-cent breakfast the following morning.
There was a pastry spread, a fruit and juice bar with yogurt, and cold and hot stations with cereal, eggs and made-to-order omelets.
Atelier was open for lunch from 12:00pm to 2:00pm daily, and for dinner from 5:30pm to 10:00pm Monday to Saturday, and from 5:30pm to 9:00pm on Sundays. The dinner menu offered marinated heirloom-tomato salad, fish en papillote, charcoal-grilled ribeye steaks, strawberry and blueberry sponge cakes and desserts, raspberry crémeux and blackberry chiboust.
The hotel had an infinity pool on the fourth floor that looked out over Darling Harbour and Sydney’s skyline.
Just down the hallway from the pool was a large, well-equipped gym, which I took advantage of the second morning of my stay.
Finally, down in the lobby, was a boutique called Debonaire on Darling, which was only open Monday to Thursday from 8:30am to 12:30pm, selling little luxury items and colorful apparel.
To the Point
The new Sofitel Darling Harbour is a beautiful hotel. Because it’s so quiet and out of the way, first-time visitors and tourists to Sydney might prefer to be closer to the sights around Circular Quay. This hotel is for folks who need to be near the convention center or who are here on business.
I thought the décor in the public spaces and the rooms was understated but chic, and I enjoyed my room’s views of Darling Harbour. The outdoor infinity pool is an unusual and welcome touch for Sydney.
As for the service, all the staff I interacted with were friendly and helpful when I asked for anything. I also really appreciated the reservations desk being willing to change my rate when I found a lower price the day before my stay, which makes me more inclined to give the hotel my business on future visits.
Images courtesy of the author.
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