Sofitel Sydney Wentworth
Despite the name of the hotel and several other buildings in the area, Wentworth is not a suburb of Sydney. It is, in fact, part of the CBD and the Sofitel is located just south of Circular Quay, home of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, and west of the Royal Botanic Gardens. It's the quintessential Sydney location.
The name comes not from the hotel's location, but its predecessor on the site – Wentworth House, a boarding establishment founded by William Charles Wentworth in 1854.
Originally opened in 1966, the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth is a large building featuring a striking curved tower that surrounds a large courtyard. It's the oldest five-star hotel in Sydney and the largest brick building in the southern hemisphere. There are 436 rooms across 12 of the building's 17 levels.
The hotel has played host to a slew of prominent people over the last 53 years, including Princess Diana, Bill Gates, Sophia Loren, Vladimir Putin and many more. The Sofitel recently completed a six-month makeover, with new furniture and carpets for the lobby and modernising the rooms (see below). Guests get complimentary access to the Elixr Health Club gym on level one.
My king room features, as the name suggests, a king-sized bed, armchair and footrest, desk and ample storage space. The narrow window is flanked by mirrored shelves designed for aesthetic rather than practical use. The refurbishment has seen new carpets and upholstery featuring modern, soft greys and muted tones throughout.
Perhaps the biggest changes have been on the technology side, with new Wi-Fi internet (the connection is fast for a hotel this size) and smart TVs set up with Chromecast, allowing you to stream entertainment from your phone via your Netflix or Stan account.
The bathroom is spacious with a large tub and marble floors and tiles.
There's a pillow menu to go with the Sofitel "MyBed" – noticeably comfortable, it's not surprising to learn Sofitel sells its mattresses and bedding online. Little touches from staff are appreciated, such as the placing of a camomile tea bag on the pillow as part of the turndown service.
Dinner, breakfast and afternoon tea is served in Garden Court, the hotel restaurant looking out onto the courtyard. The French-influence menu features dishes such as Byron Bay pork neck, braised wagyu beef and Tasmania salmon.
I opt for beef tartare followed by rock cod with smoked almonds. Both are delicious. Head waiter Claude is highly attentive and goes through the dishes in great detail, right down to the two types of salt. For breakfast, there's a buffet and an a la carte option.
You're within about 10 minutes' walk of some of the city's highlights, including the Opera House, the Botanic Gardens and the Museum of Sydney.
A short walk through the Domain takes you to the Art Gallery of NSW, where you'll find an extensive collection of Australian and international art. Currently showing until September is this year's Archibald Prize finalists for portraiture. The hotel is running special packages to coincide with the exhibition. See artgallery.nsw.gov.au
One of the oldest five-star hotels in the country, it's good to see the Wentworth keeping pace with its newer rivals. With real estate hard to come by in Sydney, the Wentworth will always have the advantage of its location.
Rooms at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth start from $195. See sofitelsydney.com.au
The friendly, professional staff offer service that lives up to the five-star rating.
The window, though floor-to-ceiling, is quite narrow, limiting the amount of natural light in the room.
The writer stayed as a guest of the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth.