Pamela Wade

checks into the Old Clare Ho­tel, in Chip­pen­dale, Syd­ney

The New Zealand Herald - - Travel -

Lo­ca­tion: In the south-cen­tral district of Chip­pen­dale, not far from the Cen­tral Rail­way Sta­tion and sur­rounded by restau­rants, art gal­leries and invit­ing lanes be­tween her­itage brick build­ings. The ho­tel has been cre­ated by link­ing a for­mer brew­ery head­quar­ters and the ad­join­ing Clare Ho­tel pub, re­tain­ing many ar­chi­tec­tural fea­tures, in­clud­ing the rough edges.

Check in ex­pe­ri­ence: Walk­ing past the old safe in the lobby, its door open to show a bag printed with “Ran­dom Crap” and above it some old graf­fiti pre­served on what was once an out­side wall, it’s clear this is a ho­tel with at­ti­tude. But the checkin staff are friendly and wel­com­ing.

Room: Room 119, one of the ho­tel’s most ba­sic. That means high ceil­ing, plenty of space, vin­tage fur­ni­ture, dou­ble or twin beds. There are seven cat­e­gories, and ev­ery room is dif­fer­ent, ac­cord­ing to its for­mer use.

Price: From A$339 a night for this room.

The bed: Twin beds pushed to­gether, so plenty of room and no part­ner-bounce. It’s com­fort­able and the linens are smooth and soft. The pil­lows, though, fight back: firm and un­yield­ing. It’s only af­ter two nights that I dis­cover there’s a softer, goose-down op­tion avail­able for the ask­ing.

The bath­room: Ah. Roomy enough — but it’s glass. Clear glass. Run­ning the shower to steam it up be­fore step­ping in is the only way to pre­serve mod­esty. The loo, though? Frosted glass has no sound-proof­ing qual­i­ties, it turns out. You may like to re­quest a room with more per­sonal pri­vacy. The toi­letries: Tri­umph and Dis­as­ter in en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly big dis­penser bot­tles. Noise: A bit of revelry from Spice Al­ley din­ers down be­low — more a re­as­sur­ance that you’re in the cen­tre of a lively place rather than a dis­tur­bance.

What’s so good about it? The vibe is fun — cheeky, witty, sophistica­ted.

And the bad? Apart from the bath­room? Hon­estly, noth­ing at all.

What’s in the neigh­bour­hood? Ah, this is the best bit. Chip­pen­dale is full of in­ter­est­ing eater­ies, ec­cen­tric art gal­leries, well-used pub­lic spa­ces, a mall with the tallest green wall ever, a cou­ple of se­ri­ous cheese shops. Spice Al­ley is a row of au­then­tic Asian take­aways with com­mu­nal seat­ing, hugely pop­u­lar among those in the know. Within walk­ing dis­tance are the Pow­er­house Mu­seum, Capi­tol The­atre and Paddy’s Mar­ket. Food and drink: Guests are pretty much spoiled for choice in the ho­tel. There’s also the old Clare pub, which is very pop­u­lar with lo­cals.

Ex­er­cise fa­cil­i­ties: There’s a gym, and a new rooftop pool with bar; and real bikes to bor­row. Free Wi-Fi: Yes

Perfect for . . . Bas­ing your­self for an ex­plo­ration of Syd­ney’s less ob­vi­ous de­lights in the sur­round­ing dis­tricts.

Would I re­turn? Gladly. So many restau­rants . . . Con­tact: the­old­clare­ho­

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