In this post-apocalyptic world of COVID lockdowns, it felt like we may never travel again. While overseas jaunts may still be a little way into the future, there’s nothing like a staycation in your own city to make you fall in love all over again. Yes, I do mean with each other (if you’re going with your partner!), but also with the place in which you live. How often do we rush around in our frenetic little bubble, racing to work and home, the gym, the same old haunts to meet our friends, without ever really stopping to smell the roses? When Sydney’s sleek West Hotel offered me (and you, dear reader, read on to find out how!) an overnight stay we roped our wonderful, kind and generous parents (Dad, are you reading this?) in to help so we could enjoy the night sans children. As Damien and I checked into the sophisticated plant-filled lobby we could barely believe our luck.
The West Hotel is part of the Curio Group – the Hilton’s more boutique upscale division of properties. The façade of the building consists of 333 panels of square smoked glass giving it a studded appearance, while the sleek modernist interiors feature hues drawn directly from the Australian landscape.
The 182 rooms are decked out in a modern industrial style with shades of charcoal, sapphire and walnut with brass accents. There’s a quaint bathroom with Appelles amenities, a Nespresso machine and an amazing pillowy bed that will be 100% kid free in the morning.
What I think really makes this hotel stand out is its location. It’s on the Western corridor of the city (hence the name), nestled up against the sprawling Barangaroo development and all the gastronomic delights that are on offer there.
It also happens to be right next to several of Time Out Magazines favourite hidden city bars and speakeasys – there are about five dotted down Clarence street, just a few minutes stroll from the hotel. Damien plots us a course of bar-hopping – the perfect way to while away the afternoon hours sans children.
First stop is Old Mate’s Place. Like most speakeasys this bar is a bit tricky to find. At the top of a building you walk into a dimly-lit haven that is part old school library, part rooftop cocktail bar. We walk through the lower level and clock quirky family portraits and potted greenery hanging on the wall while a hipster bartender nods at us while he mixes his Manhattans. Up another set of stairs and we open the door to a perfectly adorable little rooftop bar. We settle in for a couple of very impressive cocktails (Strawberry Bloody Mary, anyone?) as the sun sets.
Next up is Lobo – a Cuban themed rum bar. Also hidden down an unassuming little laneway, you’ll likely notice several other would-be clientele consulting Google maps as they try to navigate a way in themselves. All that is forgotten as you descend the stairs into a kitsch décor mash-up of flamingos, rattan and banana palms. Trying to pace ourselves Damien and I order a rum cocktail to share and take a seat overlooking the bar for a spot of People Watching.
Next up, we poke our heads into the popular Baxters Inn next door, but forego a drink, as I’m eager to save myself for a margarita at ‘Cantina OK!’. This diminutive little Mezcal bar has been set up in a converted car space underneath an office block. Yep, one single car space. There’s a standing-room-only narrow bar and a wall of Mezcals which the owners import straight from suppliers all over Mexico. I order a spicy marg with Mezcal and can confidently say it was the best I’ve ever had. The ice is shaved with a charming grinder imported from the Philippines and the bartender mixes the liquor through delicately, infusing it with Cascabel chilli. It’s hard to stop at just one but we have dinner booked at the hotel.
Solander Restaurant at West Hotel is inspired by botanist Daniel Solander who studied many of Australia’s unique flora and fauna. Executive Chef David Vandenabeel highlights many of these species in the restaurants dishes utilising everything from Acacia seeds, Banksia nectar, Paperbark, Illawarra plums to kangaroo and wallaby. We share the mushroom cappuccino with truffle and charred Balmain Bugs – which are both delicious. For mains we can’t go past Mountain-Pepper spiced Venison Rack and a braised Pork Belly with master stock all washed down with a gorgeous bottle of South Australian Shiraz.
In the morning we wake early and go for a run to shake the cobwebs. We jog up to the outdoor gym on Observatory Hill then wander back down for breakfast at the hotel. Brekkie doesn’t disappoint either: eggs benedict and avo on toast with a very creamy Almond Latte. We get the coffee to go and set off on another walk around the neighbourhood.
The Reserve at Barangaroo is beautifully constructed with sandstone stairs artfully arranged, appearing to tumble into the Harbour. The landscaping is impressive and there are plenty of spots to sit and soak up the view. We walk back to the hotel through The Rocks, reading historical little placards on all the steps and checking out the ancient pubs. By the time we check out and head back to the car we felt like we’ve spent days roaming around. It’s amazing what you can jam in when you don’t have kids slowing you down.
If you have a stay in Sydney on the horizon I recommend checking out The West – it’s not a huge hotel and it doesn’t have that cookie-cutter feel that some of the high rises can have. The location is perfect to explore the very new and very old parts of Sydney. And if you can carve out time for a little bar-hop (especially if you’re visiting the YCK Laneways Block Party, between April 7 and May 22) definitely order a Mezcal marg.
Story by Sigourney Cantelo