There’s a Hollywood-style swimming pool that looks like an ice grotto, the mini bar is free, the
gym is state-of-the-art and every suite has
THERE’S a lot to be said in favour of returning to a favourite hotel, especially one that’s located in a city you visit frequently. The staff recognise you, there’s a home-away-from-home feeling and you know where you are going the minute you step outside the main doors because you’ve scoped the vicinity before.
But every year sees a new round of new hotel openings and the world’s major cities continue to expand their offerings to include new and exciting places to stay. I was reminded of this recently when I stayed at the Skye Suites Sydney, which allowed me to be a tourist in my home town and underlined Sydney’s global city status.
The streetscapes between Barangaroo, the Queen Victoria Building and Martin Place have changed enormously over the past few years, and Pitt St Mall is now one of the top 10 most expensive shopping precincts in the world. Tucked away in Kent St, the Skye Suites is a 73-room enclave of serviced apartments filling nine floors of the 25-storey Arc building. Not so’s you know it from ground level where an ornate 19th century warehouse facade greets your arrival.
The Crown Group, a 20-year-old Asian property development group – not the Packer-owned Crown Resorts – has major designs on Sydney. The Skye Suites Parramatta, the area’s first five-star hotel, opened in late 2017. Skye Suites Sydney is its second property, to be followed by a third in Waterloo at the end of the year.
Japanese architect, Koichi Takada, has blended Japanese minimalism and NYC loft living in the spacious suites, which hit the sweet spot for visiting businesspeople and local and international tourists. Forget normal check-in procedures and printed guides and room service menus. When you make a booking, you are offered a choice of mattress firmness and airconditioning preferences. Note is also made about your favourite tipple – whisky, beer or champagne – for repeat visits. We were asked to take a photo of three businessmen from Melbourne completing their iPad sign-in and receiving instructions about the in-room digital compendium.
Barangaroo, Sydney’s hottest CBD dining area, is only a few minutes walk away. But if you are too tired or can’t be bothered, there’s a trio of restaurants downstairs in Skittle Lane, a swish arcade that runs between Clarence and Kent streets, including an on-trend izakaya bolthole. There’s also a Hollywood-style swimming pool that looks like an ice grotto, the mini bar is free, the gym is state-of-the-art and every suite has a balcony.
The TWA Hotel at New York’s JFK airport is one of the most talked-about hotel openings of the year. For starters, the 512-room property is located in uber-architect Eero Saarinen’s futuristic TWA Flight Center built in 1962 and the design has truly stood the test of time. Overlooking the airport’s constantly busy runways, there’s six restaurants and eight bars topped by a huge rooftop observation deck with a pool.
Then there’s the cocktail lounge. A lovingly restored 1958 Lockheed L-1649A Constellation Starliner dubbed “Connie,” one of only four still in existence. The 18,000sqm main lobby is the largest in the world and you can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner for “medium prices” in the Paris Cafe restaurant under the watchful control of multi-Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. There’s never been much of a reason to hang around JFK until now. But a stay or visit at this visionary hotel is like stepping back in time to the glamour of the dawning of the Jet Age. The era when Frank Sinatra recorded Come Fly with Me, the perennial anthem of the aviation industry.
Still in the Big Apple, affordable hotels in Manhattan used to mean the sort of fleapits where transients were welcome. Not anymore. A new breed of hip properties with prices geared towards penny-pinching Millennials have sprung up all over town. Early last year, Freehand Hotels opened a reasonably-priced bolthole in the Flatiron District on the site of the historic George Washington Hotel opened in the 1920s.
The guest room options cover the gamut of bedding options from king through queen and even bunk beds for the thrifty. Non-guests should also drop by for the rooftop Broken Shaker Bar and its moreish cocktails, including Curry in a Hurry, a mix of vodka, gin, red curried honey and pineapple. The poshest of the three restaurants is Simon and The Whale, a haven of sustainable Japanese Iroko wood, where the tables are arranged so all the diners can see each other. The American contemporary menu veers from black bass crudo to upscale spaghetti and oysters.
Fancy a haircut at a barbershop where clients are also given a glass of single malt whisky? That’s one of the lures of The RuMa in Kuala Lumpur. The Malaysian capital experienced a rash of new hotel openings in 2018, including Four Seasons, Banyan Tree and W. But the latest addition is a play on the Malay word – rumah – which means “home”.
Taking a cue from KL’s tin mining history, the centrepiece of the dramatic design by MQ Studio is a copper-ceilinged grand salon with two spiral staircases which look like a giant drill. Afternoon tea is served in Selangor pewter pots and it’s hard not to drift off to sleep on one of the oval rattan day beds perched next to the black and gold mosaic tile swimming pool. Modern Malay cuisine at the ATAS restaurant seals the deal for this 253-room sanctuary in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
Six years ago, the Thief Hotel in Oslo opened its doors to a spree of global headlines, not least because one of its earliest guests was Justin Bieber. The Amerikalinjen, a sister property housed in the former offices of the Norwegian America Line has also captured worldwide attention. Many emigrants to the US booked their passages here, but wouldn’t recognise the swish interior of the boutique property designed by Andreas Bjercke and Georg Eliassen. There’s only 122 guest rooms with a distinctly nautical vibe and the property is a quick walk to both the opera house and Oslo’s main railway station. Skol a beer or two at the Pier 42 bar before heading out to the Norwegian capital’s nightlife and restaurant central, Youngstorget.