A declaration. My weekend away at 1888 in Pyrmont is by necessity mid-week and the hotel looks close to capacity. A short walk to Darling Harbour, Sea Life Sydney Aquarium. Star Casino and Sydney Fish Market, one might expect the truly boutique hotel – there's fewer than 100 rooms - might be popular with just holidaymakers. In fact, it's a long way from the leisure suit with understated couples, fresh from a shopping trip to Salvatore Ferragamo and multiple bags to prove it, and corporate types talking business at neighbouring tables.
Once a wool store, the heritage-listed building consciously couples historic character and modern style. Surrounding a glass Wonka-type lift is the restaurant and backlit bar area, relaxation lounges and reception desk. There's greenery and bikes for hire. The focus on the building's history is seamless starting in the lobby with ironbark beams and exposed brick walls, continuing in-room and extending to recycled desk furniture. Low ceilings, a favourite of many hotels, are absent, with a generous three metres for insomniacs to stare up to during those lonely hours. The squeeze, as the name suggests, is in the unashamedly named Shoebox room starting at 15 square metres. From there rooms graduate to Queen, King, King Deluxe, Loft, Suite and Attic. At the top end, The Williamson has a private entrance, king bed and space to accommodate eight for functions such as hens' nights.
At 18 square metres my Queen room has a queen bed, side tables, 101-centimetre television and covetable wall-fixed reading lamps with flexible arm. As a traveller notorious for leaving stuff behind in hotels - an entire closet's worth at a fine hotel in Hong Kong once - the open hanging space appeals. There's a decent shampoo conditioner and loofah kit. There's no coffee machine but coffee and T2 tea bags provide caffeine enough. Wi-Fi is free and fast and the in-room iPad has specific recommendations including day spas, attractions, restaurants and bars, all within walking distance. Parking across the road costs $39 for 24 hours with unlimited entry and exit.
It's a cocoon with comfortable bed and decent rain shower. What more does one need? There's still space for morning stretches while looking out the arched window. The windows are said to be soundproofed but there was a heavy downpour during the night and I do spend time staring at that lofty ceiling listening to the drip, drip of the rain on the metal canopy that covers the entrance way below.
The 1888 Eatery and Bar has that same cosy feel with plenty of friendly staff buzzing about. I'm feeling smashed but the vegetarian breakfast ($18) with half a ripe avocado (not smashed), potato hash, spinach, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and eggs how you like them restores faith. The Everything on the Buffet breakfast is a very reasonable $27 as is the blueberry and ricotta muffin ($4.50). From the in-room menu there's interesting choices such as blue swimmer crab with saffron linguini ($26) or mixed berry trifle with buckwheat crumble ($12).
Better than a boutique-sized gym the size of a shoebox, a stay in any room at the hotel includes access to the Ian Thorpe Aquatic and Fitness centre and its Olympic size swimming pool (open at 6am), fitness classes (first class is at 6.15am) and private locker. It's five minutes on foot. My stay involves stepping in to a taxi for a trip across town. When it's a no-show the helpful receptionist walks down the street to summon another. Next time I plan to book a class in sushi and sashimi-making at the fish market.
A true boutique hotel that represents the best of this beautiful city, both old and new.
HOW TO GET THERE
1888 is on 139 Murray St, Pyrmont.
Phone 1800 818 880, see 1888hotel.com.au.
Rooms from Shoebox $169 a night; Queen $199; King $209; King Deluxe/Loft; $249; Junior Suite $309; Attic/The Williamson Suite $419.
1888 is part of the 8Hotels group which also has accommodation in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Paris. A VIP programme entitles members to upgrades, evening cocktails and breakfasts.
The writer stayed with the assistance of 1888.