When you're a hotel that enjoys as enviable a location as this one, just a short stroll from Circular Quay, The Rocks and the Opera House, you can safely get away with calling yourself the "Sydney Harbour Marriott". But, in an increasingly competitive Sydney hotel market, canny nomenclature is not enough and, in spending $15 million on an overdue and generally impressive refurbishment of the three-decades-old, 595-room hotel, its owners have elevated its formerly relatively low profile.
Along with the food and beverage outlets, the main public areas of the 32-storey, five-star hotel have been attractively renovated and upgraded, and not a moment too soon. The large centrepiece open space in the atrium is now dominated by the 120-seat Silvester's – a restaurant named after a former butchery that once occupied the hotel's site – creating some welcome ambience.
This is where the hotel falters, albeit slightly. With the hotel a product of the architecture of the late 1980s, my irregular-shaped, low-ceilinged one-bedroom suite feels dated (even though the Sydney Harbour Marriot's rooms were renovated in 2011) with a rather small and unimpressive bathroom. Even the view of the harbour and the Opera House, combined with some attractive furnishings and offbeat, Sydney-themed art work, don't quite compensate. But, when you consider the hotel's superb location and its new restaurants and bars, it's a quibble.
That multimillion-dollar refurbishment includes three new and upgraded dining and imbibing venues: a cafe-bar, Three Bottle Man, Custom's House Bar, a pub popular with office workers, and Silvester's. The most impressive of the trio is Three Bottle Man which opens out, with alfresco seating, onto historic Bulletin Place. Three Bottle Man is named (they love their names here at the Marriott) after the 18th-century British Prime Minister, William Pitt, as is the street outside the hotel. An alcoholic, Pitt was notorious for being a "three-bottle-a-day man" as he always carried three bottles of liquor with him (the hotel's public relations literature about him is somewhat more forgiving in its explanation of the name). A cafe by day, Three Bottle Man neatly transform itself into a bar after dark. Every hotel should have one.
From this hotel, Sydney is your rock oyster (and the site of Three Bottle Man used to be occupied by an oyster bar). Aside from the aforementioned iconic attractions, Sydney's harbourside cultural assets such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Operas House, the Roslyn Packer Theatre at Walsh Bay, are all within easy walking distance. Ferries, trains, water-taxis and sightseeing boats depart day and night from the Circular Quay transport hub.
Despite being a stalwart central business district hotel for three decades, the Sydney Harbour Marriott hasn't received the attention or notoriety of its Emerald City rivals such as, say, the Four Seasons, Park Hyatt or Sheraton on the Park. But a stylish, well-considered revamp, particularly in respect to Three Bottle Man, has taken this establishment to near the top tier of Sydney hotels. All in all, this is a wonderfully convenient hotel for the interstate or international visitor as well as for staycation-minded Sydneysiders wanting to reconnect with their city and its harbour.
Doubles from $640. Sydney Harbour Marriott, 30 Pitt Street, Sydney. Ph: 02 9259 7000. See marriot.com.au
Anthony Dennis was a guest of Sydney Harbour Marriott.
Location, location, location. Views, views, views. There are few better located Sydney hotels than this one, with a trio of new and updated venues adding lustre.
Despite some attempts to spruce them up, and the harbour views afforded from some of them, the guest room fell just short of five-star standard.