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Perth's Sheraton gets a $20-million facelift to befit its standing in the west, writes Mal Chenu.
Cast your eye over the skyline in Perth's CBD and you'll see more cranes than at an origami class. Ditto cavernous building sites, climbing office towers and beefy building workers. Bulldozing through any thoughts of financial calamity, Perth's prosperity and construction continue apace.
T'was seemingly always thus. So when it came time to renovate and extend the grand old Sheraton Hotel at the eastern end of town, they didn't mess around. The operators sunk a lazy $20 million into it and the result, like the AGM of a troubled company, is extraordinary.
Now the largest of the city's five-star hotels, the Sheraton has been a Perth institution - insofar as a hotel can be - for more than 35 years. She has seen the rise and fall of Bondy and Burke, the America's Cup hysteria and, more recently, the resources boom.
The Sheraton's refurbishment is aimed squarely at the business traveller and the term "executive" is everywhere. The executive wing contains 96 executive suites and the Executive Meeting Centre boasts seven state-of-the-art executive boardrooms. After a hard day of merging and acquiring, executives can relax with pre-dinner drinks and canapes in the Executive Club Lounge.
Executive lifts right behind the main lifts perform similar one-dimensional duties but have the words "executive lifts" on them. There is an alcove on each floor outside the executive lifts with a phone and comfy, but clearly business-like, chairs.
Last November, the Sheraton was named the Best Deluxe Accommodation and Best Redeveloped Accommodation at the Australian Hotel Association Awards; these gongs seem well deserved. Understated decor gives a relaxed feel, eclectic artworks and sculptures draw the eye but don't dominate, while the concierges provide much more useful information than a prospectus.
The executive suites are superb - roomy, comfortable and practical - with a large desk, LCD flat-screen television, high-speed internet, king beds and plenty of sprawling room. The chic, modular layout is relaxing but the earthy tones probably just remind executives of mining tenements. Ask for a Swan River view - it's nicer than cranes and building sites.
Origins Restaurant has white linen and china settings among sculptures, urns, paintings and floor-to-high-ceiling mirrors to give it a real personality. Ceviche of Ceduna oysters, black-pudding beignet, swede dauphinoise and chiffonade of cabbage make the menu read like a French mystery. The wine list looks great and is not too Margaret River-centric.
The light and breezy Montereys is the hotel's other dining alternative. The staple here is the seasonal seafood buffet but a-la-carte is also available. With a steam room, day spa, 24-hour gym, outdoor heated pool and round-the-clock room service (featuring a $30 penne bolognaise), there is no need to leave the hotel.
Yet a brisk walk to the Swan River is a must. Shrug off your bolognaise rage with a 10-kilometre walk or cycle along the foreshore.
The Swan Bell Tower, with its external sail design, looks like a Sydney Opera House offcut. It's a bit of a joke to locals (who consider it a folly of the former premier Richard Court) but is well worth seeing and, more rewardingly, hearing. Entry at the Barrack Street jetty is $10 for adults, with demonstrations at noon every day except Wednesdays and Fridays (when you can become a campanologist and pull the rope yourself between 11.30am and 12.30pm).
The writer was a guest of Tourism WA and the Sheraton Hotel.
Qantas, Virgin Blue and Jetstar fly to Perth.
Sheraton Perth Hotel, 207 Adelaide Terrace, Perth.
Phone (08) 9224 7777, see www.starwoodhotels.com/sheraton. Executive Club rooms start from $470, suites from $610 a night. Friday to Sunday night stays start at $295 a night.