If there was ever a company best positioned to rebadge the hotel inside Sydney's historic GPO, built in 1874 and designed by colonial architect James Barnet, it was the owners of the Fullerton brand which collects such buildings like rare stamps. It is, after all, the custodian of another major city landmark, the Fullerton Singapore hotel, which operates inside the city-state's own former GPO, opened in 1928, as well as other heritage buildings surrounding it. Formerly the 416-room Westin Sydney, the Fullerton Sydney is the brand's first international expansion with the Fullerton name derived from Sir Robert Fullerton, the first British governor of the Straits Settlements, the forerunner to modern-day Singapore.
The Sydney GPO, as befitting a landmark from where all road distances are traditionally measured, is located in the heart of Sydney's CBD and was a subject of a controversial $150 million sale in 2018 by Australia Post to the Far East property group, owners of the Fullerton brand. (The Fullerton Hotel Sydney is a joint venture between Far East Organization and the Sino Group.) Far East has thus far proven its bona fides with one of its first tasks on taking control of the property being to extensively clean and repair the GPO's imposing sandstone facade, including the marble statue of Queen Victoria, looking down (or is that across?) an often-busy Martin Place. The Fullerton Hotel Sydney is a joint venture between Far East Organization and Sino Group
The hulking Italian Renaissance Palazzo-style building is now looking a treat, but the spectacular ornate atrium-like interior of the historic section of the hotel, which is enclosed by a massive glass roof, also commands full attention. Be sure to book in advance one of the new, and exemplary, 90 minute-long guided heritage tours of the building which are free to houseguests and the general public. The Fullerton group also operates similar guided heritage tours at its two Singapore properties, including the Fullerton Bay hotel, which counts Australians as among its most frequent guests.
There's the choice of staying within the modern high-rise wing of the hotel or in one of the rooms within the heritage building itself. Your reviewer opted for the latter, with a room overlooking Martin Place and the Cenotaph, as well as a leaning flagpole sporting an Australian ensign straight out the window. The soberly-decorated and perfectly comfortable room will, along with its counterparts, be subject to a planned, though thus far unscheduled refurbishment, though the hotel's public spaces have been smartly spruced-up and rebadged under the new brand.
Fullerton Sydney's owners have not only brought a welcome taste of Singapore in the menus of its dining outlets, namely The Place and The Bar, it's also introduced the Sydney Sling, an antipodean retort to the city state's famous tipple. During your stay partake not just of dinner in the atrium under the glass roof, through which the GPO's elegant sandstone clocktower can be admired, but also the top-notch high tea served just off the lobby.
Sydney awaits you straight outside the doors of the GPO with the experience for visitors enhanced by the arrival of the new light rail service along the adjacent, semi-pedestrianised George Street providing easier access to attractions such as Circular Quay, The Rocks and Chinatown. Nearby is the Pitt Street Mall, home to the Westfield shopping centre, the Stand Arcade and major department stores.
If there was ever a time for a weekend away at some big city Australian digs it is now, with Fullerton Sydney a welcome and distinguished newcomer to the city's hotel scene. Not only does the establishment provide a thoroughly pleasing stay, it also delivers an overdue history lesson on one of Sydney's finest surviving heritage buildings.
Doubles from $265. 1 Martin Place, Sydney. Phone (020 8223 1111; see fullertonhotels.com
The free tours of the GPO are a real bonus for guests as well as an asset to Sydney.
We shall patiently await news of the refurbishment of Fullerton Sydney's rooms.
Anthony Dennis was a guest of the Fullerton Sydney