|The following impressions are based on a media stay.|
Whisper it quietly, but I think I’m developing a soft spot for the new Hilton.
Note the emphasis on “new”. I’m not talking about the decrepit, faded glory of the soon-to-be-deflagged Hilton Singapore; I’m talking about newly-renovated and new build properties like the Hilton Munich City, Hilton Tallinn Park and the Hilton Budapest, hotels that make you do a double take when you see the Hilton logo hanging at the entrance.
The Hilton Sydney is the latest to undergo a renaissance of sorts, completing an A$25 million refurbishment in February 2021. All 587 rooms and suites went under the knife in the hotel’s first major update since 2005, and the results certainly look impressive. Gone are the dull carpets and tired furniture, replaced with sleek, contemporary-styled rooms boasting large-screen TVs and other modern conveniences.
Even if you’re not staying the night, the Hilton Sydney is also a hotspot for foodies thanks to Luke Mangan’s acclaimed glass brasserie and popular subterranean watering hole Marble Bar.
Here’s my impressions of the hotel, based on a media invitation.
|🦘 Journey to the Hermit Kingdom|
|🏨 tl;dr: Hilton Sydney|
|With refreshed rooms and high quality dining, the Hilton Sydney isn’t your business-as-usual Hilton.|
|👍 The Good||👎 The Bad|
The Hilton Sydney is located at 488 George Street, opposite the Queen Victoria Building, and near other shopping landmarks like Westfield Sydney and The Strand Arcade. It’s also a mere stone’s throw away from the Town Hall station, with plenty of eating and drinking places in the vicinity.
The check-in area was completely empty when I arrived around 1.30 p.m, but my room wasn’t ready just yet. I was given a key to use the executive lounge, and asked to come back at 3 p.m instead.
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the crowd at 3 p.m; it stretched throughout the lobby and then some. I think it was just my misfortune to choose to check in on Saturday, when Sydneysiders are out in full force for staycations. Still, I think they should at least have had a priority check-in desk for Gold & Diamond members.
All I needed was the key, having completed the paperwork earlier, and I really didn’t fancy waiting in this queue. Fortunately, I managed to get help from the concierge desk. The gentleman took my ID and returned later with the keycards- so that’s a little tip if you find yourself in this situation.
The 587 rooms and suites at the Hilton Sydney are divided into the following categories:
|Room Type||Number of Rooms||Size|
|Master Suite||1||90 sqm|
|Ambassador Suite||4||86 sqm|
|City Suite||15||53 sqm|
|Executive Suite||4||52 sqm|
|Junior Suite||16||48 sqm|
|Executive Room||77||30 sqm|
|Premium Room||26||30 sqm|
|Deluxe Room||255||30 sqm|
|Corner Room||28||30 sqm|
|Superior Room||115||28 sqm|
|Guest Room||46||28 sqm|
My booking was for a City Suite, but on arrival I was bumped up a further category to the Ambassador, an 86 sqm behemoth that’s even bigger than my house in Singapore. There’s a total of four such suites at this hotel, just one category below the highest-tier Master Suite.
The door opened to an entrance foyer, with a marble-topped mini-bar area on the left. A Nespresso machine satisfies your caffeine needs, while an emptied-out mini-fridge provides storage space for personal items.
Also in the entrance foyer was the suite’s powder room for guests.
The living room was elegantly furnished with separate seating and dining areas. Near the entrance was the TV area, with a light grey sofa, a strikingly purple recliner chair, and a coffee table.
Elsewhere in the living room was an eight-seater dining table, perfect for hosting guests.
While the dining table is a great place to get work done, there was a second option of a smaller writing desk in the corner. The desk didn’t have power outlets of its own, but you could run a cable to access the ones beneath the TV.
Given the Hilton Sydney’s business-friendly credentials, I was surprised that Wi-Fi speeds were so slow. I clocked a mere 7 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up, versus triple digit scores at the Fullerton Sydney and QT Sydney.
The entire living room is bathed in natural light, thanks to five sets of bay windows. Each comes with a cushion, inviting you to take a seat and enjoy the surrounding views.
In terms of layout, the Ambassador Suite is U-shaped. Connecting the living area and bedroom is a massive walk-through bathroom. Yes, I said “walk-through”- this cavernous space opens at both ends, and the bathroom itself is probably larger than a standard-sized room.
Dual vanity areas were provisioned, bisected by a sunken tub.
Bathroom amenities are from Crabtree & Evelyn, Hilton’s standard-issue brand worldwide.
Soaking in the bathtub is virtually mandatory, but if time is a factor, there’s a separate shower area. It’s a bit of a tight squeeze, but boasts a generously-sized rain shower head. This provided excellent coverage and water pressure.
A wall-hung toilet rounded out the bathroom, although I wish they’d sprung for a bidet seat.
The bedroom was clad in neutral tones, with a dark wood headboard and a daybed near the windows. Electronically-controlled blackout blinds help provide a good night’s sleep.
The king-sized mattress was a standard Hilton Serenity Bed, made by Serta. Marketing materials will tell you that it boasts extra coils for motion absorption and spine support, reinforced edges to prevent sagging, plush pillow top and a patented quilt design that aims to improve circulation. As far as hotel beds come, this is one of the better ones.
There were two bottles of mineral water on the bedside, as well as an alarm clock with USB ports. Extra USB ports were built into the bedside charging outlets.
What more can I say about the Ambassador Suite? It’s an amazing space to stay and host, although with prices starting from A$798 a night, it comes with a price tag that’s only for special occasions. It may not be the largest suite in the hotel, but it’s got serious presidential suite vibes.
As much as I enjoyed the Ambassador Suite, I’m well aware it’s not something that regular guests to the Hilton Sydney can expect. So I asked if I could see a few of the lower category rooms, just for comparison’s sake.
The good news is that all rooms have received makeovers, and the new decor is a refreshing change from the old Hilton design template.
Everything looks fresh and new, with the exception being the bedside power outlets and switches. It was a bit of a jarring contrast to see modern, black plastic faceplates with USB charging capability just below a scuffed set of metal-mounted old school switches.
One of the more controversial choices that designers A+ Design Group made during the renovation was to remove the full-sized work desk, which they believed took up too much floor space. Fortunately, they didn’t go completely deskless (hear that, Marriott?), instead replacing it with a slimmer “custom table” with a fixed height leather seat. Guests may request for an office chair if they wish.
This sits beneath the room’s 55-inch LCD TV, and it’s light enough to shift backwards if you want to use the screen as a second monitor.
The removal of the full-sized desk creates room for a comfortable teal-coloured armchair and coffee table, more suited for taking in a book.
The closet area near the entrance had ample storage space for clothes, plus a digital safe, ironing board and iron.
For all the work that’s been done in the bedroom, the bathroom looks decidedly last generation, and I’m starting to understand why none of the post-reno publicity photos featured it prominently.
There’s nothing terrible about it, but just conveys a very different aesthetic from the sleek and modern looking room. This is probably much closer to classic Hilton, if such a term exists.
The Hilton Sydney’s executive lounge is located on the 36th floor, open daily from 8 a.m to 8 p.m.
Evening cocktails are served at the lounge from 5 p.m to 7 p.m on Wednesdays to Saturdays; on other days of the week they’re served at glass brasserie.
The lounge wasn’t involved in the most recent renovation, which explains why the style here is slightly older. But it’s still plenty spacious, with numerous seating areas for lounging, dining and working.
The lounge had printing facilities as well, though they weren’t available at the time I visited.
Guests can help themselves to a range of soft drinks and light snacks throughout the day.
While the lounge was vacant most of the day, it got packed around 5 p.m as evening cocktails kicked off.
The evening canapes spread featured a range of cold and hot items, as well as crackers and cheese, cut fruits and cakes.
The lack of carbs meant it probably wouldn’t be a dinner replacement, but there were some fresh prawns and spring rolls that would do nicely as a snack.
A bartender was on duty to whip up various concoctions and pour wines. He handled the crowds admirably.
The Hilton Sydney doesn’t have facilities of its own. Instead, guests can access the next door Fitness First Pitt Street Platinum, and have full use of its 25-metre indoor lap pool and TechnoGym equipment.
This seems to be a common arrangement for Sydney hotels; QT Sydney guests have access to Virgin Active gym facilities too, for example.
Breakfast is served at glass from 7 a.m to 10 a.m on weekdays, and 7 a.m to 11 a.m on Saturdays and Sundays. The buffet option costs A$45 per person, if not included in your rate.
Be advised that if you’re a Gold or Diamond member, you only receive complimentary continental breakfast; it costs an additional A$10 per head to upgrade to the full buffet.
While I’m not on board with elite members having to pay an upcharge, at least you won’t walk away feeling ripped off. Breakfast at glass is above and beyond anything I’ve experienced at a Hilton so far.
The buffet spread is extensive, running the entire length of the open kitchen. There’s also with further stations for bread and cereal.
Hot options included fried rice, eggs, congee, dim sum, sausages, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, as well as more “chefy” creations like pumpkin with crispy coconut bacon.
Cold options consisted of salads, smashed avocado, cold cuts, yoghurt, muesli, and fruits.
Two freshly squeezed juices were available- apple and watermelon.
The bakery section is on a separate table, with various kinds of breads and pastries, as well as a toaster.
Made-to-order eggs can be requested through a form on the dining table. Do note that filtered coffee and tea is the default; barista coffee requires a A$5 top-up.
This was easily one of the best hotel breakfasts I had during my entire Sydney stay, offering both quality and quantity (and yeah, I’m a sucker for smashed avocado).
Outside of breakfast hours, glass is home to one of Sydney’s hottest tables. This Luke Mangan restaurant serves up modern Australian cuisine for lunch and dinner, and reservations are hard to come by.
I managed to secure a 5.30 p.m slot (it was either that or 9.30 p.m!) for dinner, which had the following options (a min. spend of A$50 per head is required):
My starter was a king crab omelette, with enoki mushrooms, herbs, and a miso mustard broth. This was, quite simply, inspired. The omelette was runny inside, just the way I like it, and the flavours were a unique blend of Vietnamese and Japanese influences.
In the spirit of the season, I decided to go with the porchetta as my main, with mango and fennel puree, grapefruit salsa and Tuscan cabbage. This too, was excellent. The pork was moist, and the stuffing provided a pleasantly sweet contrast to the savory meat. I only wish the skin were slightly more crisp.
For dessert, I had the chocolate fondant with lavender cream and blackberries. There’s something quite enchanting about lavender cream, which hits you so subtly you only realise it mid-chew.
Service was impeccable throughout the meal, even though the place was absolutely packed.
Make no mistake- glass offers dining of the highest quality, and is well worth a visit even if you aren’t staying at the hotel.
The Hilton Sydney sports some impressive new chops after its renovation, with rooms that make you rethink what a Hilton can be (I just wish they’d gone the whole nine yards and worked some magic on the bathrooms too). Breakfast is superb, and glass is worth a pilgrimage on its own- assuming you can even get a reservation.
There are certainly some points that could use improvement, such as the lacklustre Wi-Fi speeds and better Diamond recognition (in particular: a dedicated check-in line for Diamond members, and no upcharge for full breakfast).
On the whole, however, it’s safe to say this isn’t Hilton-as-usual. Long may the trend continue.