Although it’s one of the world’s coolest and most modern cities, Sydney has a surprising dearth of head-turning hotels, with most accommodation offered by behemoth chains. Hotel QT, then, arrives as a breath of fresh air.
Merging two of the city’s historical landmarks – the Gowings department store and the State Theatre – the new QT rises out of the Central Business District like the rebel love child of Fortnum & Mason and Studio 54. Kitsch, camp, yet entirely stylish, this five-star pad (which opened four months ago) is exactly what you’d expect from the first Sydney property in the Design Hotels marketing group.
Sydney is the third location for the expanding QT chain, which already has properties on the Gold Coast and in Port Douglas. Like many city-centre hotels it lacks a grand entrance, so look out for the theatre’s vertical State sign on Market Street and the copper-wigged “Directors of Chaos” (no, really) who’ll cheerfully guide you through a modest Art Deco entrance. Here, the staff don’t apply for a job, they audition, and as a wink to its theatrical heritage they go through hair and make-up before every shift (wouldn’t we all love that?), which makes for a quirky and super-friendly team.
Take the lift to the first floor, a journey which is sadly not long enough to enjoy the tailored lift music. (Solo travellers get “All By Myself” while groups are treated to party tunes.) Here the lobby is as colourful as a Baz Luhrmann film set. Sydney-based designer Nic Graham has created a mash-up of bespoke and vintage furniture sourced from eBay, charity shops and flea markets. It’s the pulsating heart of the hotel, not only because of the numerous digital wall murals, but because the avant-garde space has fast become a magnet for Sydneysiders. The collection of modern art is a big attraction, with original works from digital artists Daniel Crook and Daniel Boyd alongside those by sculptor Morgan Shimeld. Particularly cool is the installation of vintage luggage that stretches the length of the lobby.
Upstairs, a billboard-sized digital mural takes you through to an opulent bar which has already made its mark on the Sydney scene. The Gowings Bar & Grill is under the rule of creative food director and acclaimed Sydney restaurateur Robert Marchetti. Here, tattooed and moustachioed chefs knock out Pacific Rim produce spun with a trendy brasserie style. Go up another level and the womb-like Gilt Lounge, the hotel’s secret late-night hangout, serves swanky cocktails until 2am.Back downstairs, large colourful ottomans dominate the guest lounge, where you can kick back with a bespoke negroni or potter past the QTique, a series of original store cabinets flogging retro objets d’art and curious man-gifts such as moustache wax and tattoo preserver.
The QT hits the perfect note; it’s unconventional, fun and just the right side of pretentious.
Set on the corner of George and Market Streets, the QT is smack in the centre of the shopping district. Directly opposite is Myers department store and the high-end Westfield mall is within credit-card melting distance. Sydney’s first Topshop has opened next door, and QT’s guests can descend by private lift into its shopping lounge. A 10-minute stroll along Market Street takes you to Hyde Park, and in 15 minutes you can be at Circular Quay snapping away at Sydney’s iconic sights.
The rooms on the Gowings side have grand views of the Queen Victoria Building in all her limey, domed glory – the St Paul’s of Sydney. Darling Harbour lies beyond, connected by the futuristic monorail which glides silently below.
Sydney-based designer Shelley Indyk has certainly had her work cut out: there are 200 rooms in a dozen styles over 19 floors. The Gowings side keeps its original palazzo style with polished timber floors and Art Deco doors, while the State side is more theatrical. The rooms are colourful and comfortably sized, with quirky flourishes such as bowler-hat lights and animal-head hooks, asymmetric headboards and up-lit glass cabinets filled with curiosities (available to buy). The mini bar comes with all the ingredients for a hot night in: condoms, ninja bread men and a shake-your-own espresso martini. Nespresso machines come as standard, so you can wake up to a decent flat white. For something special, check out the state suites with views of the building’s recently reinstated gargoyles or a deluxe double in the chairman’s boardroom with a bedside bath and oak-panelled walls.
Hotel QT, 49 Market Street, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia (00 61 2 8262 0000; qtsydney.com.au).
Double rooms start at AU$420 (£280), room only.