The Crystalbrook Kingsley review: Newcastle's first five-star hotel is exceptional

Our rating

4.5 out of 5

THE PLACE

Housed in the city's former council administrative headquarters, the Crystalbrook Kingsley is Newcastle's first five-star hotel. Opened in June in the Roundhouse building, EJE Architecture and Melbourne-based Suede Interior Design were charged with the iconic brutalist building's multi-million-dollar reincarnation. The name Kingsley is a tribute to Newcastle's heritage and the city's earlier moniker of Kingston, which dates to 1804.

THE LOCATION

Centrally located in Newcastle's cultural hub, the Kingsley melds with the surrounding City Hall, the heritage-listed Civic Theatre and Newcastle Art Gallery. Leafy Civic Park, restaurants, cafes, museums, galleries, Newcastle Harbour and the bustling Darby Street are on the Kingsley's doorstep.

THE SPACE

Sustainable luxury is on offer in 130 elegant rooms and suites incorporating, where possible, locally sourced upcycled and recycled materials. Interiors mimic the building's cylindrical structure while a charcoal and yellow palette inspired by the canary pays homage to the region's coal-mining history. Undyed wool carpets, furniture made from reclaimed timber, keyless access, recycled coat hangers and paperless check-in and check-out are among a string of eco-friendly initiatives. The crown jewel is the striking rooftop restaurant and bar on the ninth floor featuring a swimming pool-length bar crafted from Hunter granite.

THE ROOM

Our room for the night (choose from urban, park or harbour) has a custom AH Beard bed, tablet control centre, STAYCAST by Google and 100 per cent waste-free bathrooms (an Australian first), where all amenities are biodegradable or recyclable. Interiors balance the weight of the brutalist architecture with undulating forms, bold hues and plush materials like a mustard suede lounge. Newcastle's mining past is referenced again in the charcoal and gold colour palette with hints of bird and feather motifs. Each room has a custom-made console which houses a mini-bar featuring Hunter Valley wines and confectionery. The Kingsley Master, one of just two suites, has its own custom armoire and is the only room with a bathtub suite designed by renowned Newcastle tilers, Earp Brothers. From our room we have glimpses of the harbour and the terrace-lined streets of the historic suburb, The Hill, behind Newcastle.

THE FOOD

The culinary offerings on the the ninth floor of one of Newcastle's landmark buildings, locally known as the Roundhouse, could easily take a back seat to the sweeping vistas from Nobbys Head to Port Stephens. Thankfully the modern Australian menu is a match for those far-reaching panoramas. Eighty per cent of produce sourced for the hotel's namesake restaurant and adjoining Romberg's bar is grown within a three-hour radius, while the wine list displays the breadth of the Hunter's wine varietals. Take in park views and eyeball the neighbouring clock tower atop City Hall as you sip on a dirty martini from the bar before making your way for dinner in the restaurant of Mediterranean flavours. Executive chef Natalie Bolt's pared-back dishes celebrate the beauty of native Australian ingredients. Highlights include Adina Estate olives and polenta cake with sweet fig jus and sustainably caught paperbark-baked whole market fish with sunrise lime pickle and harissa duck fat potatoes. Breakfast, also served at Roundhouse, is currently an a la carte affair, however there was a painfully long wait of up to an hour for food. In the lobby Ms Mary, a cafe named after pioneering Newcastle convict Mary Eckford, has casual bites and an alfresco terrace overlooking Wheeler Place.

STEPPING OUT

Aside from the city's cultural attractions, Newcastle Harbour is within easy reach. Stroll to the foreshore with he colourful outdoor street art along the way, catch the bright red Light Rail to Newcastle Beach or use it for an unofficial bar hop of the city's budding small bars (Coal and Cedar, Saints Gin Bar and Blue Kahunas are but a few highlights). You could easily do without a car here, especially with restaurants like the renowned Subo, Restaurant Mason and Momo for nourishing vegetarian fare all a short walk away.

Before venturing out for the night head for the Kingsley's rooftop for a tipple at Romberg's, named after the building's Swiss-trained architect Frederick Romberg.

THE VERDICT

Crystalbrook Kingsley is an exceptional reimagining of an iconic Newcastle building and another piece of the historic city's ongoing metamorphosis. Its central location can't be beaten.

THE ESSENTIALS

Rooms from $275 a night. Crystalbrook Kingsley, 282 King Street, Newcastle. Phone (02) 4928 8600. See crystalbrookcollection.com/kingsley

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Romberg's open Wed-Sun 4pm-late, Roundhouse open every day except Monday.

Sheriden Rhodes stayed as a guest of Crystalbrook Kingsley.

HIGHLIGHT

The glamour of the bar and unrivalled views over Newcastle.

LOWLIGHT

Having to pay to use external gym facilities but it's believed this is a short-term arrangement.