The New Zealand Herald

Pamela Wade

checks into the Old Clare Hotel, in Chippendal­e, Sydney


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: theoldclar­

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