INTRODUCTION

I had one night stay at the Hilton Sydney on 12 January 2016.  As an HHonors Gold member, I was upgraded from the standard “King Guestroom Plus Room” I reserved to a “Twin Deluxe Plus Room” (staying with the mother).  Having booked the standard room on numerous occasions in the past, Gold members can expect upgrades to a Deluxe Plus room (two category upgrade), as well as complimentary executive lounge access.

The hotel is centrally located in the Sydney central business district and directly across the road from the Queen Victoria Popular, which is popular among tourists for shopping and Neo-Romanesque architecture.  It is about a 2 minute walk to Pitt Street Mall for shoppers, and a 5 to 10 minute walk to Martin Place and other business districts.

The hotel is about a 15-20 minute train ride from the domestic and international airport, which costs around AUD 18 one way.  The closest accessible train station is “Town Hall”, from which it is about a 2 minute walk to the hotel.  By taxi from the airports, one can expect to pay around AUD 40-$50, taking about 20 minutes.

Nightly prices vary greatly, between $200 to $700.  However, I have noticed that Fridays and Sundays are usually the cheapest.  Given that the hotel is frequented by airline staff and business travellers, it is not surprising that weekday stays can be quite expensive.  Also, you can often find a great nightly rate when booking on the day of a stay, or one or two days prior (around the $200 mark).


CHECK IN

I arrived at the hotel at about 2:00pm in the afternoon and was able to check in (the standard check-in time is 3:00pm).  The front desk was staffed by two people.  While there was an HHonors priority queue, its use wasn’t strictly enforced for only HHonors members.  However, check-in is generally fast, with no more than 2 or 3 people queuing at any one time.

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HHonors Diamond members can also check in at the Executive Lounge on level 36.  However, the check-in desk there is often not staffed, so I recommend checking in at the front desk.


THE ROOM

The room was quite small at 30m².  The beds are very comfortable, being soft but also firm enough for support.  However, the standard pillows do not provide enough support for my liking, but there is a pillow menu for switching to a preferred one.

Despite recent room refreshes, the hotel’s rooms still suffer from tiny porthole-esque windows – an unfortunate consequence of the hotel being over 20 years old.  However, the windows are powered with very effective blackout blinds, which are great for sleeping.

The work-desk is very large and extremely functional.  A plug adapter is also provided.

The north-facing view from the room was towards CBD area.  However, south-facing rooms have views of Sydney Town Hall.

Despite being upgraded to the Deluxe Plus room, all non-suites are pretty much identical.  The only discernible differences are that Deluxe, Deluxe Plus and executive rooms are on progressively higher floors.  Deluxe Plus rooms also get a half bottle of red wine per night, which does not apply to other rooms (including executive rooms).  The wine is nothing to sing home about however.

The glassware in the room is very nice and there is La Maison Du Thé tea provided, as well as instant coffee and UHT milk.  The mini-bar provides a pretty standard range of soft drinks, beers and hard liquor.  However the prices are quite high with a bottle of water costing AUD 8.50.  The machine is also electronically-operated, with your room automatically charged if an item is removed.

Slippers, bathrobes and a safe are also provided in the wardrobe.


BATHROOM

The bathroom was very small, claustrophobic even.  A better use of the small space would have been to combine the shower and bathtub into one.  However, there are those who prefer the two separate.  Nevertheless the small space was perfectly functional but not stand-out (a common theme in these rooms).

The bathroom amenities were Peter Thomas Roth – a Hilton standard.  A needle and thread mending kit was provided, along with toothbrushes and grooming kit (cotton buds etc).  The mending kit is especially appreciated as they can come in handy.  However, shavers are only available on request and are not normally provided on arrival.

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FACILITIES

Hilton does not have its own gym, but instead contracts with LivingWell Health Club.  This is a great feature as the fitness centre can be accessed directly in the basement level through the hotel elevator.

The gym has a good variety of cardio and isolation equipment, as well as free weights and a stretching area.  Hotel guests are to sign in at the gym’s front counter, where towels will be provided free of charge.  There is also a functional pool and spa centre.


EXECUTIVE LOUNGE

Breakfast, afternoon tea and evening canapés are served in the level 36 lounge daily.

Gold members always get lounge access, but do not get breakfast in the Glass Brasserie unless an AUD 29 fee is paid.  While Glass does have a greater variety of food options, I often prefer the lounge breakfast when on business, as it is quieter with acceptable food options.  Breakfast lounge options include smoked salmon, sausages, boiled eggs, salads, yoghurts, cereal and an assortment of pastries.  Juices, water, tea and coffee are also available.

Afternoon tea usually comprises scones, nuts, crackers and alternating pastries.

Evening canapés are quite extensive for lounge food, which can easily be used to fill up for dinner.  There are usually two alternating hot options including dumplings, meat skewers, meatballs, mini meat pies and spring rolls.  There seems to be a tendency for the hot options to be of the Chinese variety.

Other evening foods include 3 to 4 salads, smoked salmon, a charcuterie board and cheese board.  A ‘bar’ is also available.  Alcohol options include Australian reds and whites which are acceptable, and basic cocktails.  My go-to options here are always the James Squire Fifty Lashes pale ale, as well as Pimm’s cocktails and Baileys on the rocks.  I highly recommend these, as they aren’t visibly presented at the ‘bar’ counter.

One issue with the lounge is overcrowding during the evening service.  While this isn’t a huge issue, it can be a little loud and busy in the evenings and is not recommended for getting work done.  However, providing lounge access to all Gold members is a great amenity and makes the hotel very attractive compared to its competitors.


GLASS BRASSERIE

I had breakfast in the Glass Brasserie, which usually costs AUD 29 for Gold members.  However, as a very frequent guest at the hotel, I was provided this complimentary at check-in.

The restaurant itself is very nice, with high ceilings and glass windows overlooking the Queen Victoria Building.  One tip is to ask for a window seat, as the staff tend to direct diners to other tables with a darker ambience.

The food options are quite extensive, including the usual breakfast buffet options, but also others such as eggs benedicts, dumplings and Chinese congee.  As the hotel is part of the Hilton Huanying initiative, the congee is definitely pitched towards Chinese visitors.  However, I have to say that the food quality is quite poor, especially the gyoza, which is pan fried and steamed to a crisp (and not in a good way).  Barista coffee also costs extra.

Fresh juices are provided, as well as cold platters, cereals, yoghurts and fruits.  Don’t miss out on the pastry section as well, which is tucked away near the restaurant entrance and away from the other food offerings.


SERVICE

Service at this hotel is very good.  The in-room ‘Magic’ service can be used for any queries you may have, including room-service ordering and late check-out requests.  Hotel staff are very welcoming, always taking the time out to greet guests when passing by.  Concierge staff are also very helpful in answering questions guests may have.  However, one minor gripe is that turndown service is not provided unless requested.

One of the things I love about this hotel is the seasonal theme rotations.  For the month of this stay, the thing was ‘Mango’, which coincides with the Australian summer love of Mangoes.  Previous themes were ‘Wagyu Beef’ during December 2015, and ‘Tiger Prawns’ in November 2015.  This keeps the hotel fresh for repeat guests and keeps me wondering what food offerings will be provided at breakfast and evening lounge services.

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OVERALL

This is one of my go-to hotels in Sydney for its central location and exceptional service.  As the rooms are very small, it probably isn’t as suitable to leisure travellers compared with other Sydney CBD properties such as the Sheraton, Westin or Four Points.  It is definitely a great hotel for business travellers given the functionality of its rooms.  However, what it lacks in room size, the Hilton definitely makes up for with service.

In particular, if you are an HHonors Gold or Diamond member, the complimentary lounge access and breakfasts are a great amenity.  Indeed, if you are able to secure a good nightly rate, these inclusions definitely make stays very worthwhile.

As a frequent guest at this property, I always look forward to returning due to the service and amenities.  I highly recommend it to those visiting Sydney, whether for business or leisure.

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