The chair­man was here

Two Syd­ney ho­tels of­fer board­room­style guest suites

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AUSTRALIA - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

So this is how the big­wigs once lived. The CUB Suite at the 62-room Old Clare Ho­tel in Chip­pen­dale, at the south­ern end of down­town Syd­ney, is not named for a cub reporter, al­though I used to fre­quent this Broad­way pub in its ear­lier tough-and-tum­ble in­car­na­tion. I was a Fairfax jour­nal­ist back then and our Jones Street head­quar­ters was a tankard’s toss away. It was a pop­u­lar wa­ter­ing hole known as The Coun­try Clare Inn, com­plete with sham­rock mo­tifs and green-coloured Guin­ness on St Pa­trick’s Day. Next door was the Carl­ton United Brew­eries build­ing, which is now linked to the re­vi­talised pub via a four-storey glass atrium and raised walk­ways. Hence the CUB acro­nym for the (new) Old Clare’s top digs and the web­site’s poin­ter to The Fancy One.

At more than 100sq m, the wood-pan­elled CUB Suite feels the size of a ball­room, with tall sash win­dows and lofty moulded ceil­ings. Many of the fit­tings would hardly be needed by to­day’s guests — the eight-seater din­ing ta­ble (a replica of the orig­i­nal, which re­sides else­where in the ho­tel), the vestibule that just calls for a re­cep­tion desk and a sec­re­tary with a dic­ta­tion pad, and the ex­ec­u­tive wash­room com­plete with porce­lain uri­nal. Into th­ese sur­rounds, the ar­chi­tects have popped a bed­room “cube” and con­tem­po­rary bath­room, and the de­sign­ers have en­sured all mod-con com­forts are in place, from wall­mounted telly to bright cush­ions and even desk lamps made from sal­vaged mar­itime light­ing and parts. It is a tri­umph of heir­loom-meets-hip even if the acreage makes you won­der if roller­skates should be sup­plied for ease of get­ting about the par­quetry floors. The lo­ca­tion is grand, too, edg­ing the newly cool precinct that in­cludes hawker-style Asian restau­rants and Ja­son Ather­ton’s just-opened Kens­ing­ton Street So­cial restau­rant.

What would the chair­man have made of the for­mer board­room’s 21st-cen­tury fri­vol­i­ties. Mi­crofi­bre bathrobes? Nespresso ma­chines? Take a memo, Miss Jones.

Across the city in Mar­ket Street, just off Ge­orge Street, the AHL hos­pi­tal­ity and en­ter­tain­ment con­glom­er­ate (think Ry­dges Ho­tels and Re­sorts, Greater Union and Event Cin­e­mas, among other ven­tures), opened the 200room QT Syd­ney in late 2012, and took great care to cher­ish the his­tory and “bones” of the ad­joined State Theatre and Gow­ings, both opened in 1929. The ho­tel oc­cu­pies the ad­min­is­tra­tive storeys of the ven­er­a­ble theatre and the top floors of the for­mer Gow­ings depart­ment store, now with a Top Shop out­let at street level.

The QT brand is all about fun and funky de­sign. There are myr­iad styles and con­fig­u­ra­tions of ac­com­mo­da­tion (in­clud­ing cov­eted cor­ner cham­bers) but its two State Suites are the gue­strooms that con­vinc­ingly her­ald tra­di­tion and her­itage. One of th­ese was the of­fice of leg­endary busi­ness­man and hote­lier Sir Nor­man Ry­dge; the other was the com­pany board­room.

Th­ese pen­t­house-like spa­ces are from an era of desks empty but for ash­trays and de­canters (think Madi­son Av­enue’s Mad Men). They fea­ture wooden pan­elling, art deco-in­spired fur­ni­ture and mix-and-match fab­rics. Lay­ered cur­tains fall to gen­er­ous pools of fab­ric, there’s a lamb’s wool throw on the play­ground-sized bed and its ir­reg­u­lar-shaped bed­head is of soft and creamy leather. The com­modi­ous grey-tiled bath­room fea­tures a white slip­per tub and, be­side it, a moulded em­pire chair with a foot­stool set as a zany, but con­vivial, tableau. Light­ing is clever, glass­ware sparkles in jew­elled colours, dis­play cab­i­nets of dis­parate ob­jects are back­lit, there’s LED dig­i­tal art and ev­ery last de­sign de­tail pops and shines.

Lit­tle ex­tras in­clude a sil­ver tray laid with the in­gre­di­ents for a QT espresso mar­tini (Grey Goose vodka, Cafe Pa­tron XO tequila and coffee ma­chine cap­sule) plus cock­tail shaker, sugar sticks and a Bot­toms Up sign. Ah, those signs. Bathrobes are tagged Cover Up and there’s noth­ing as pro­saic as Do Not Dis­turb or Make Up Room la­bels (that would be No or Yes) while a notepad by the tele­phone is la­belled Lost For Words. The mini­bar in­cludes an Emer­gency Bowtie kit “for all for­mal emer­gen­cies”. And along the broad 10th-floor cor­ri­dor is an in­stal­la­tion of old-fash­ioned por­ta­ble tele­vi­sion sets that sits like a mu­seum piece and seems suit­ably the­atri­cal in this noir, al­most vamp­ish, ho­tel, which is some­times con­fus­ingly dark. Is that Lady Gaga in the cor­ner? Or one of the ho­tel’s ex­trav­a­gantly wigged Di­rec­tors of Chaos?

Then I no­tice a pair of griffins guard­ing the State Suite bal­conies fac­ing Mar­ket Street. I step through the French doors of Suite 1010 and peer right and then up­wards for fab­u­lous views of Syd­ney Tower, all sci-fi and soar­ing on a blue-sky Syd­ney morn­ing. To­day’s ver­sions are faith­ful copies but the orig­i­nals of th­ese Gothic stone em­bel­lish­ments were ap­par­ently re­moved dur­ing World War II in case the build­ings were bombed and they might fall onto pedes­tri­ans. It is un­likely such a catas­tro­phe is in the off­ing but QT Syd­ney is a knock­out, just the same.

Su­san Kurosawa was a guest of The Old Clare and QT Syd­ney. • the­old­clare­ho­tel.com.au • qtho­tels.com.au

State Suite at QT Syd­ney, top and above right; CUB Suite at The Old Clare Ho­tel, above left; glass an­nexe link­ing the her­itage build­ings at The Old Clare, below

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