The jury rests
Mattress wars are hotting up as hotels lure guests with more luxurious bedding. Our inspectors go under the covers
AND so to sleep: the days are gone when a bed was just a bed. In the competitive world of five-star accommodation, hotels are introducing premium mattresses, cloud-soft underlays and squishy doonas, pillows of all shapes and textures, and soundsleep inducements such as aromatherapybased toiletries and herbal teas. The Four Seasons Tokyo offers guests six kinds of eccentric-sounding pillows, including cypress chips and buckwheat chaff.
From Sofitel’s MyBed to Marriott’s Revive, this is no token approach: in most cases, guests who love their hotel sleep can order the bedding for home. It’s another way for accommodation groups to consolidate guest loyalty and to extend the experience: frequent-sleeper programs, one could say.
In all cases, we have tried Sydney hotels, but the bedding is mostly universal across the respective hotel chains; some modifications may have been made for international climate zones. Sofitel in French Polynesia, for example, features a lighter version of its MyBed, more suitable for the tropics.
With tongue firmly in cheek, management at the Outrigger on the Lagoon, on Fiji’s Coral Coast, refers to its Westin Heavenly Bed clone as the Hell of a Bed.
Here’s how 10 five-star hotels stack up.
Sofitel Wentworth Sydney
EMBEDDED reporters never had it this good: Sofitel’s MyBed was one of the first to hit the international hotel junkie’s radar and retains its leader crown.
Sofitel Wentworth Sydney is undergoing refurbishment and will unveil its revved-up look next month, complete with the updated Paris Sofitel MyBed. Those who’ve tried the existing MyBed may find it hard to imagine how it could be improved. But the new model is all goose down and feathers (replacing duck), with winter and summer weights, and uses all-natural hypo-allergenic materials.
No princess, no matter how fussy, could possibly feel a pea under this lot. The mattress topper is like marshmallow (and surprisingly supportive, despite its airy fluffiness) and the snowy bed linen is talc soft.
For the full Posh-and-Becks faux-royalty extravaganza, book a So Sofitel Premier Package and have a butler on hand to scatter roses, run a treatment bath (designed by Anita Lattouf of the hotel’s Lattouf Hair Spa using Aveda’s Caribbean soak and scrub products, smelling of lime, mango and vetiver) and serve afternoon tea with Lenotre patisseries and a four-course dinner.
Oh, and to plump the Paris MyBed pillows, of course. Branding: Sofitel MyBed. Mattress: Patented extra-thick highdensity box spring. Goose down and feather king-sized mattress topper is 183cm x 204cm.
Sheets: 230-thread count, pure cotton or blend.
Cover: Paris duvets of goose feather and down; two seasonal weights. Stitching format ensures a consistent plumpness.
Pillows: Oversized, filled with goose down and feather.
Where: All Sofitels. Sofitel Wentworth Sydney is the first in Australia with the Paris version; others to follow.
Take home: Feather duvets, pillows and comforters available via SoBoutique (delivery from Europe; local site will be set up this year). Until August 31, 10 guests at any Sofitel in Australia or New Zealand have a chance to win a Sofitel MyBed valued at more than $3200. www.sofitel.com.
Bouquets: The ultimate sleep experience in serene room with thick curtains and perfect lighting.
Brickbats: If it’s MyBed, why can’t I take it home? Susan Kurosawa
Shangri-La Sydney, The Rocks
THE bed is superb, the view sublime, but what really impresses is the perfection of the apples in the complimentary fruit bowl, so ripely red and highly polished they dazzle. We wonder if the hotel employs an apple buffer or perhaps it’s a secondary duty of the young man who comes to our room with a welcoming pot of Chinese tea, which he pours with great ceremony, soon after we check in.
In the early evening, the lights are dimmed, the green-and-gold silk bedcover and some of the profusion of cushions and bolsters are whisked away (leaving four deliciously plump goose down and feather pillows) and bottles of mineral water and monogrammed slippers are placed beside the super-sized bed.
Most charming, however, is a souvenir bookmark featuring an extract from James Hilton’s 1933 book LostHorizon , which is left on the bed: ‘‘ But here at Shangri-La, all was in deep calm.’’
All is calm, too, in this bed with a view, thanks to the room’s tall windows with low sills; we draw the heavy drapes and sink into the sublimely soft mattress and fall asleep, lulled by the faintest whisper of traffic streaming across the Harbour Bridge. Branding: None. Mattress: Simmons Beautyrest, 25cm thick, 810 coils. Topper is a mix of 75 per cent goose down and 25 per cent goose feather.
Sheets: Pure cotton; 300-thread count in most rooms; 800 in top-rated accommodation. Cover: Goose feather and down doona. Pillows: Menu of feather, anti-snore, buckwheat, foam or bolster.
Where: Mattresses, pillows and linen are standardised in all Shangri-La hotels and resorts, with some variation between regular and Horizon Club floors.
Take home: Bed supplier can be provided on request. www.shangri-la.com.
Bouquets: Bed with a view; extracts from a literary classic; those perfect apples.
Brickbats: Large marble bathroom chilly in midwinter. Sue Milne
Park Hyatt Sydney
SOMETIMES you just can’t say no to excess. At about 10cm wider than a standard king bed, the Park Hyatt’s Grand King is luxuriously large enough to lose yourself and your loved one. With a sumptuous mattress topper over a 33cm-deep, pillow-top support mattress, the bed is blissful.
Dual-layered, double-glazed doors keep the room whisper quiet above the bustle of the west Circular Quay waterfront. The flat-screen TV can be swivelled to watch from bed or moved to avoid annoying LED stand-by lights. And to save you moving once you’re feeling almost comatose, the sheer and blackout curtains are remote controlled. After a deep slumber, if the harbour and city views don’t have you jumping out of bed, guests are provided with a route map to start the day with an invigorating walk or jog along the beautiful harbour or historic Rocks precinct. Branding: Made exclusively for Hyatt. Mattress: The Hyatt Grand Bed features a made-to-order, no-flip pillow-top mattress and three-part comfort support system. The UniCased Edge design ensures the mattress retains its shape and resists body impressions. The Posturepedic innerspring system provides orthopedically correct back support, reducing tossing and turning. Each Hyatt Grand Bed includes 23cm Shock Abzzorber Plus spring unit with a 10-year warranty.
Sheets: 280-thread count; custom-made for oversized Grand King.
Cover: Doonas are 50 per cent duck down and 50 per cent feather.
Pillows: Oversize king rectangular (80cm long), large square (European style) and standard size on the bed (two of each); same down composition as doonas.
Where: Hyatts Australia-wide and across the world.
Take home: Grand King (twin, full and queen also available) and accessories: www.hyatt.com or www.hyattathome.com.
Bouquets: Turndown service includes a Lindt chocolate and bottled water. Thoughtful touches to ease guests into blissful dreams include lavender-based T2 Sleep Tight Tea and Botanicals green tea and passionflower oil (with burner).
Brickbats: Wish we could sleep in longer. Sharon Fowler
Taj BLUE, Woolloomooloo
THE former W Hotel is now a funky flagship for the India-based Taj hotel group.
Its harbourside location and maritime history (the hotel is housed within a former wool and cargo-handling wharf and sheds) make this a triumphantly Sydney place to stay.
In the split-level suites, bedrooms are upstairs, centre-stage in smallish lofts and angled to the watery views; a hook is provided to open and close blinds on two skylights (if on the northern side, the spikiest bits of the city skyline seem to hover in these squares of sky).
The bed is huge, made to look even more oceanic by an oversized suede headboard. The pillows are layered with a quilted sham under soft cotton cases edged with a navy stripe, a la Ralph Lauren.
The decor theme is cobalt, the tactile textures are mohair and wool; even the glasses are a shiny navy. All of this blueness cleverly echoes the harbour beyond.
The civilised breakfast menu includes gourmet herbal teas (from Bengali chai to Chinese green sencha), freshly squeezed juices that transcend the usual orange-apple line-up, and an Indian masala omelet humming with spice. Just the thing to get you on your way after a night of plush comfort beside the harbour. Branding: No house brand. Mattress: Sealy Executive Comfort Plush with pillow top.
Sheets: 300-thread count Egyptian cotton from Sphinx Collections. Cover: Goose-down doona. Pillows: Four standard on king-sized bed; pillow menu soon to be introduced. Where: Taj BLUE Sydney. Take home: Contact executive housekeeper Melissa Tracey: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.tajhotels.com.
Bouquets: Aveda toiletries in tingling mint and rosemary; 800ml bottle of Voss artesian water by the bed; Spa Chakra, arguably Sydney’s best day spa, is a mere stumble away. www.spachakra.com.
Brickbats: Turndown service chocolates are rather passe; reading lights should be more directional. Susan Kurosawa
Four Seasons Sydney
THE harbour and city views from Sydney’s Four Seasons are so stunning it’s a shame to close the curtains, but this is a sleep test after all. The hotel offers a turndown service during which room lights are dimmed, soothing music is played on the bedside stereo and room temperature adjusted according to the season. Heavy, floor-to-ceiling curtains with velcro closures shut out all light.
The hotel’s beds — the cornerstone of its Perfect Sleep program — have been custommade by Sealy since 1984. The king-size bed’s four pillows aren’t too squishy and have enough give to ensure your head sinks slowly.
Sleep is a subjective thing. I like my mattress firm and my lighting soft, and in my junior suite it’s soft enough to set off the panoramic view and increase any chance of romance. The custom-made bed is near perfect, its mattress firm but forgiving. The 300-thread count cotton sheets are crisp and tightly tucked, meaning you don’t feel as if you’re being rolled into a kebab each time you turn.
As a nightcap, try the Sweet Dreams ($28), which includes two miniature bottles of Bailey’s Irish Cream with a selection of mixed chocolate truffles or the herbal and tea cake ($17), with a pot of anti-stress ‘‘ petal’’ herbal tea and cakes.
Branding: Four Seasons bed is customised by Sealy.
Mattress: The Custom Four Seasons Ultra Plush Pillow Top by Sealy; 33cm deep; handbuilt box springs; 848 coils.
Sheets: 100 per cent cotton, 300-thread count; some by Frette.
Cover: Doona filled goose down.
Pillows: Four: 25 per cent duck down and 75 per cent duck feather. Foam, hypoallergenic or buckwheat also available. Where: All Four Seasons hotels. Take home: Four Seasons began the mattress revolution in 1984 when it introduced a special Sealy model with hand-built boxspring coils and a three-layer pillow top at its London hotel; it was also the first chain to offer its beds for sale. Bed kit available for about $6000 (this includes mattress, box spring and frame; bedding extra). www.fourseasons.com.
Bouquets: 24-hour health and fitness facilities (menu of aromatherapy treatments) and
with 100 per
cent room service; L’Occitane toiletries; deep-soak tub and separate shower.
Brickbats: Insulation could be better: even 15 floors up, the late-night buzz of George Street can be heard. The television (not flatscreen) is a little distant from the bed (instead, read The Hermit by Eugene Ionesco). Lex Hall
Sheraton on the Park
SHERATON’S Sweet Sleeper bed has the aah factor: instantly comfortable and supremely snug. All beds come with the Sweet Sleeper set of Sealy Posturepedic plush-top mattress, soft fleece blanket and puffy doona. There are five allergy-sensitive down pillows on each bed, and guests can request a turndown service, which includes bottled water.
To soothe those aches before turning in, there’s a marble bathroom with separate shower and tub, and a range of quality toiletries. Furnishings are simple with a cosy feel and the TV is positioned at the foot of the bed for convenient in-bed viewing. For a healthy start next morning, try yoghurt ($9), pancakes ($24) or a fruit smoothie ($8) from room service. Branding: Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Bed. Mattress: The Sealy Posturepedic mattress and foundation used by Sheraton is the No. 1 bed retailed in North America. Each has a 600-coil Posturepedic plush top mattress ( 29cm mattress height with 23cm foundation). Sheets: Cotton sheets, 200-thread count. Cover: The doona is 100 per cent polyester woven into a fine micro denier for softness and feel similar to natural blended materials. Blankets are 85 per cent acrylic and 15 per cent polyester fleece.
Pillows: Two natural pillows (50 per cent feather and down), two synthetic Comforel pillows by DuPont (100 per cent hypoallergenic), and signature S-Crest pillow in micro denier polyester fabric. Pillowcases are made from polyester-cotton blend with a thread count of 180.
Where: More than 70,000 Sheraton rooms around the world.
Take home: California king, $1300; other sizes are also available. www.sheraton-hotelsathome.com. Bouquets: Comfy bedding, beautiful bathroom; sheer and sleep-enhancing blackout curtains.
Brickbats: We have trouble regulating the airconditioning. Sharon Fowler
The Westin Sydney
WE have Westin’s bosses to thank for putting in the hard yards, tossing and turning on dozens of different beds and pillows for a year to come up with the chain’s aptly named Heavenly Bed. A job well done.
I’ve never seen a mattress like it: topped with such a thick, comfy pillow-like top that you could almost fall asleep brushing your hand across it, let alone lying down.
The down blanket — weighted according to climate zone — is also a thing of beauty. Add a crisp white-covered doona and four QE2sized pillows, and you have the ingredients for a sleep machine. Plus a whopping boudoir pillow (great for lounging, though I think it’s meant to be decorative).
Full marks, too, for the bedside lights: one for a subdued effect, another for reading. The top-class Bose sound system is within arm’s reach. Turndown comes with bottled water. (A ‘‘ balanced’’ version is available in the room for $7 a large bottle.)
The TV is flat-screen, naturally, a sizeable 94cm, and positioned opposite the bed, so there’s no need to turn my head. It can even be viewed while in the bath, courtesy of a glass screen. The touch of a button brings down a privacy screen.
Mattress: Simmons Beautyrest, 32cm thick, 960m coils. Baker linen mattress pad.
Sheets: Decorative piped Baker thread count from 180 to 250. Cover: Polyfill doona with cover. Pillows: Four king-sized pillows: two feather, two synthetic and boudoir pillow.
Where: Heavenly Beds are at all Westin hotels worldwide. In Sydney, rooms have kingsized beds or two doubles.
Take home: $3685 for the king-sized ensemble, two pillows, doona and delivery. Items can be bought separately. In the US, Westin also sells mink-trimmed eye masks and the Heavenly Dog Bed. www.westin.com/ sydney; email@example.com.
Bouquets: The room temperature display can easily be seen from bed and airconditioning is whisper quiet.
Brickbats: The height of the huge pillows may not be to everyone’s liking. Barry Oliver
linen, THE king-sized bed is one to subside into: its white cotton depths and woven oatmeal cover look inviting and they fulfil their promise. There are three good-sized pillows lined up (extras in the walk-in wardrobe), plus a bolster. Half-duck and half-goose down, with bordered cotton covers, they bunch and pile exactly as needed for sumptuous sleeping.
Executive housekeeper Ursula Dufey, 20 years at the hotel, is reportedly meticulous about bed-making and training staff. Hospital corners are immaculate.
Bedside lights are fine for reading and there’s a conventional large-screen TV in the bedroom. Turndown comes with the requisite chocolate (one between two). Curtains exclude all light, but the harbour spectacle should not be banished and in north-facing rooms can be glimpsed from the bed. Branding: None. Mattress: Sealy Executive range, with cotton protector. Best suites have 50 per cent duck and 50 per cent goose down topper. Sheets: 100 per cent cotton. Cover: Doona of 50 per cent duck down and 50 per cent feather; 100 per cent cotton cover.
Pillows: 50 per cent duck and 50 per cent goose down. Non-allergenic on request. Where: InterContinentals worldwide. Take home: Not for sale. www.sydney.intercontinental.com. Bouquets: Generous bathroom with mountains of towels.
Brickbats: Extras spartan (instant coffee and uninspiring tea); room and service information only available on TV screen. Judith Elen
Sydney Harbour Marriott
IT is like sinking into marshmallow: the Marriott’s Revive bed has the squashiest of mattress toppers, perfect for a snug winter night’s sleep. There are six pillows on the oceanic king-sized bed: two pure goose-down in big square European style, and four standard, with goose-down and feather filling. A bedside pillow menu suggests a further five varieties, from micro-fibre to latex.
By the bed at night, instead of a chocolate there’s placed a caffeine-free Tea Tonic organic teabag in a ‘‘ fruity tutti’’ mix of lemongrass, hibiscus, orange peel and raspberry. The next morning, if I have problems dragging myself from bed, I can order a wakeup pack of two cans of Red Bull and a packet of tropical Berocca ($23) or an energising room-service banana or strawberry smoothie ($8). The bedside lights are fine for reading, the TV set is at a perfect distance from one’s pillowed perch, the generous curtains are layered with sheers and black-outs and there are no shafts of early morning light to stab me awake. Branding: Marriott Revive. Mattress: Comes with a 10cm topper. Sheets: 300-thread count white cotton by Australian Mills. Cover: Down-filled doona. Pillows: Two European and four standard on king-sized bed; pillow menu.
Where: All Marriotts in Australia (NSW, Victoria and Queensland) and Courtyard by Marriott in North Ryde, NSW; the Revive product will soon be rolled out at Courtyard by Marriott in Parramatta, NSW, and Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast.
Take home: Marriott is in the throes of setting up the logistics. www.marriott.com.au.
Bouquets: The house-brand aromatherapyblend toiletries; a pasta, risotto and pizza adjunct to the room-service menu is well considered.
Brickbats: Pizza crumbs may disappear without trace into the super-soft canyons of the Revive bed. Susan Kurosawa
THE new-look Hilton Sydney has a good night’s sleep down pat. There’s no branded bed or fancy-pants accoutrements, just a firm custom-made Sealy mattress with mushy duvet and four super-comfy pillows selected from a comprehensive menu that offers something for even the fussiest of sleepers.
But it’s the clever design of the hotel’s Relaxation Room category that makes this the perfect contemporary cocoon. The lighting is spot-on with accurately directed reading lights positioned above the bed and a discreet nightlight beneath the bathroom vanity; all are controlled from a bedside panel, as are the recessed, fitted electric night blinds that effectively block all external light.
At turndown there are chocolates and a handy weather report for the following day as well as some intriguing bedside reading, including a dream atlas.
The flat-screen telly is perfectly located for in-bed viewing while the super-luxe bathroom rounds out the sleep experience nicely. A bath master is on hand to rustle up a rose petalstrewn extravaganza and the multifunctional shower offers plenty of power and a plethora of Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries. Branding: None. Mattress: Sealy king-size mattress made to Hilton specifications in suites and Relaxation Rooms. All other guestrooms feature two twin-size mattresses zipped together to create one large bed.
Sheets: 100 per cent cotton percale (225 thread count) designed for Hilton.
Cover: Doona is 50 per cent white duck down, 50 per cent feather fill, made to order for Hilton.
Pillows: Full pillow menu offers soft, medium and firm support, low allergenic, duck down and boomerang. Where: Relaxation Rooms only in Sydney. Take home: Bathrobe, pillows and kingsized doona. www.hiltonsydney.com.au.
Bouquets The bath master, on stand-by to create a tailored aromatherapy-infused plunge for die-hard romantics or weary road warriors. One press of the Hilton Magic button does it: room service, pillows, housekeeping, the lot.
Brickbats: The wooden bed base has sharpish corners that can create a night-time obstacle for bleary-eyed guests. Christine McCabe Travel&Indulgence team members were guests of the featured hotels.
Do not disturb: A good night's kip in a Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed, far left; Nick Jones, executive housekeeper at Sofitel Wentworth Sydney, top; Westin housekeeper
Lalita Euapoon prepares a Heavenly Bed, above
Sheet dreams: Housekeeper Terrie Montojo makes up a bed at the Sofitel Wentworth Sydney