Seduced by daze of wine and roses
ROMANCE is hardly a new concept when it comes to marketing accommodation packages. Every hotel worth its champagne flutes has a hearts-andflowers deal of some kind. The names vary — from seduction to sizzle, romantic interlude to starry nights — and the inclusions may slightly differ, but you can count on chocolates, red roses and bubbles (whether champers, baths or both).
Some clever hotels in the US have got into the babymoon market: romantic and relaxing packages for parents expecting their first child. After all, this could be the last good sleep they get, and it might as well be on Egyptian-cotton sheets and fluffy-wuffy pillows. It smacks a bit of gimmickry but the hospitality industry is keenly competitive, particularly at the five-star level, and most packages do offer sufficient extras to make the deal worthwhile.
The Singapore-owned Stamford Hotels and Resorts group — with nine properties in Australia, including one in Sydney’s North Ryde and a duo in Adelaide — sells a range of packages but none seems as popular as its Romance & Seduction deal. This must be a huge hit around Valentine’s Day: candles, chocdipped strawberries, rose-petal bath, French fizz and a bottle of wine with personalised message on the label, room-service breakfast, parking and late check-out. With packages starting from $300 at the group’s popular Sydney suburban property, the all-suite, resort-style Sir Stamford Grand North Ryde, it’s easy to see the good value.
My husband and I (blimey, I sound like the Queen) book into the Sir Stamford at Circular Quay, which was The RitzCarlton in an earlier incarnation, and occupies one of those imposing flat-fronted brick buildings that Macquarie Street does with such aplomb. The feel is of a London townhouse; in Sydney, only The Observatory, down at The Rocks, has this same genteel, old-fashioned feel.
The public areas are wood-panelled and crystalchandeliered, with over-stuffed sofas, Louis XV chairs and a serious collection of Georgian antiques and portraits. There are working fireplaces in these grand salons and the hotel even employs a chimney sweep. Doormen and porters are formally dressed; it’s all very duffers’ club, there should be earls asleep in wingback chairs and butlers ironing TheTimes.
There are 105 guestrooms, including 14 suites; ours is a spacious king room overlooking Macquarie Street and east across the Botanic Gardens and a parade of canary island palms to a pretty patch of Sydney Harbour. There’s a slight swoosh of traffic from the Cahill Expressway, even with the glass doors to the cute juliet balcony closed. The proportions and the easy comfort of the room make up for the lack of contemporary style. No stainless steel, coloured glass installations or lamps that look like flying saucers looming over the bed: this is maximalist territory, with voluminous curtains, classic bedside lamps and country-house furnishings.
We are not on a Romance & Seduction deal because we have already met, and done all that, possibly a century ago. But our overnight rate does include dinner. Apparently the package is called Lazy Daze, which suits us fine. We don’t even have to get out of our cotton robes (provided as part of the deal and embroidered with our names; at our respective ages, it’s entirely possible to forget) as the chef is coming to us. A butler sets the table, fluffs the pink roses and lights the candles; the white-hatted chef wheels his cooker into the room — a sort of five-star barbecue — and flambes the prawns. The butler takes a commemorative photo (of the chef, not us: we don’t look that good in the robes) and then the two chaps depart. Our main-course and dessert orders from the room-service menu duly arrive, served with a flourish by the returning butler.
It’s all very pampered and relaxing, including a half-hour massage each from a therapist who visits our room, sets up her table, unpops her potions and is too polite, I fear, to mention that we seem to be asleep.
Sir Stamford at Circular Quay, 93 Macquarie St, Sydney 2000. Phone (02) 9252 4600 or 1300 301 391; www.stamford.com.au. Tariff: The hotel has a Best Rate guarantee so book online for the cheapest deals, including a complimentary $10 dining voucher (valid to September 30); recent best weekend overnight tariff was $260. Romance & Seduction Package from $485 for two; Lazy Daze from $580 and Winter Snuggler (with beanies and wintry inclusions), $283. Getting there: About five minutes walk from Circular Quay ferries and trains; 20 minutes by taxi from Sydney airport. Checking in: Corporate clientele mid-week; package guests on weekends. Bedtime reading: RuthPark’s Sydney by Ruth Park. How marvellous that she once described Sydney as ‘‘ that tawny city . . . croaking and huffing and squealing like some fabulous toad’’. Stepping out: Botanic Gardens and Sydney Opera House on the doorstep; consider a guided backstage tour of the latter (www.sydneyoperahouse.com). Guided tours of nearby Government House are available from Fridays to Sundays from 10.30am to 3pm (www.hht.net.au). Brickbats: The hotel doesn’t have a spa or the slick amenities of a modern hotel. Soft furnishings could do with an overhaul. Bouquets: Lovely high teas and postopera suppers served in The Bar. Sophisticated ambience; the feeling you’re a member of a club, not an anonymous guest.
Join the club: Sir Stamford at Circular Quay