Shangri-La hotel, Sydney, review: Incomparable views

Our rating

4.5 out of 5

THE PLACE

Shangri-La hotel, Sydney 

THE LOCATION

The original Shangri-La, immortalised in James Hilton's 1933 novel Lost Horizon, was a utopian paradise in the Himalayas but it could hardly have had a finer views than the five-star Shangri-La hotel in Sydney. Perched atop The Rocks in Sydney's heritage district, the hotel's outlook takes in the city's harbour, Opera House, Bridge and Circular Quay. It's quite a show and while the matinee is stunning, the evening performance is even more spectacular.

THE SPACE

Classy from the foyer to Blu Bar on the 36th floor – an attraction in its own right – the Shangri-La is all about refined decor, first-class service and those incomparable views. The 565 rooms all have water vistas – Sydney Harbour, Darling Harbour or Parramatta River – and following a recent $8 million refurbishment by interior design firm Stack Studio, all Horizon Club rooms now have an iHome dock, Bluetooth media hub and Nespresso coffee machine, as well as new custom furniture and carpets. 

THE KIT

The bride and I are reliving the wedding night we spent here  10 years ago and our 30th floor Horizon Club Grand Harbour View room comes with a complimentary bottle of French Champagne, a lovely inclusion for anniversary celebrators. I pour the bubbles and we toast the health and absence of our children and try to remember their names as we survey the harbour. The king-bed room with marble bathroom and separate bath is spacious, comfortable and stylish. The room includes 24-hour access to the refreshed, extended and descriptively named Horizon Club Lounge, with its floor-to-ceiling windows and complimentary canapés, oysters, champagne and beer from 6-8pm, plus afternoon tea and a (somewhat limited) buffet breakfast. 

COMFORT FACTOR

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We dial-up the comfort factor at CHI, the spa, where we enjoy a peaceful extravagance – the Mr and Mrs Package. The double bath with a view is romantically sized and our tensions are soon soaked and massaged away. Shangri-La also boasts a gym and an indoor pool with adjacent private sun terrace, where the only drawback is the dulcet tones of traffic coming on to the bridge – a little jarring after the soundproofed suites, spa and pool area. 

THE FOOD

The view from our table at Altitudes Restaurant on the 36th floor makes it hard to look down at the menu. Our waiter eventually takes us through the fine-dining options, including a la carte and the four-course Epicurious Menu ($125/head). The heady combination of the spectacular outlook, immaculately presented, produce-driven cuisine, happy reminiscences and, it must be said, the odd vino or three, make this an exhilarating and intimate dinner from amuse bouche to cheeseboard.

Cafe Mix on level one offers Asian street food, a grill and desserts and the ground floor Lobby Lounge is an elegant bar that also does Chocolate High Teas on weekends. 

STEPPING OUT

The Rocks presents a cosmopolitan range of activities, from hedonistic cafés, bars and restaurants to boutique shopping and shows at the Sydney Opera House or Sydney Theatre Company. The Museum of Contemporary Art and Sydney Observatory are just a stone's throw away. You could climb the Harbour Bridge for an even better view or just wander the cobblestone laneways and soak up the heritage. Shangri-La is an ideal base from which to explore the best of Sydney. 

THE VERDICT

We've still got it! Oh, you mean the hotel. We loved Shangri-La  10 years ago and we love it this time. At James Hilton's Shangri-La, the inhabitants were isolated from the outside world, were permanently happy and hardly aged. Well, two out of three ain't bad.

Shangri-La Sydney's refreshed look is exquisite and the amenities are first rate. It's hard to imagine a more perfect hotel to recommend to visitors from overseas. Splurge on a harbour view room – you won't regret it. 

ESSENTIALS

Rates fluctuate throughout the year across the five standards of suites. Horizon Club rooms start from $380 at low occupancy times.

176 Cumberland Street, The Rocks, Sydney. Phone 02 9250 6000, see shangri-la.com/Sydney 

The writer was a guest of the hotel.