The chairman was here
Two Sydney hotels offer boardroomstyle guest suites
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