Sofitel Darling Harbour Review
The Sofitel Darling Harbour is Sydney's newest luxury hotel, a striking 35 story glass monolith that majestically overlooks Darling Harbour. Recently having spent a week at the hotel here is my take on what it is like to stay at this new Sofitel.
I will start by sharing two interesting facts about this hotel, firstly, that it is privately owned by part-time Sydney cosmetic surgeon and Australia's largest private hotel owner, Dr Jerry Schwartz (I should have listened to my mother and become a plastic surgeon). And secondly that this is the first new build luxury hotel to grace the Sydney skyline in the last 18 years, information which I gleaned from the restaurant wait staff who were understandably proud of their new creation. The hotel while privately owned, is managed by Sofitel Hotels & Resorts, which is a chain of luxury hotels based in Paris and owned by Accor Hotels. This French connection is a noticeable undercurrent throughout your visit from the friendly "bonjour" greeting when you interact with any of the charming staff to the Hermès toiletries in the bathrooms.
The reason I specifically chose to stay at this new Sofitel was that my wife and I were looking for a hotel that was close to the International Convention Centre Sydney in Darling Harbour and the Sofitel was perfect; the conference centre is literally on the doorstep to the hotel. And as to our room choice, we opted for one of their Junior Suites as we liked the idea of having more room to spread out in as well as the fact that it gave us access to their Club Millésime, more on that later.
The foyer is crisp and elegant with a touch of French chic, there is a bar on the left-hand side, and the reception desk is to the right, I can highly recommend the takeaway coffee. The doormen and concierge were very helpful and welcoming throughout our stay and provided useful local information, especially when I needed a florist at short notice. There is also a small gift shop that is well stocked with a great range of gift items and last minute necessities, and the prices were surprisingly reasonable, not the usual either the guest is desperate or clueless let's charge accordingly approach.
The check-in process was very efficient, especially considering that we arrived at a busy period; we were warmly greeted and made to feel welcomed and unrushed. Once we had our room keys we headed over to the elevators, from memory there were at least six, so it was rare during our stay that we had to wait long for a lift.
Our Junior Suite was located on the 29th floor in the middle of the building on the Darling Harbour side. The room was not as large as I was expecting as I would have expected a suite to have had a separate seating area, and there was no dedicated desk and office chair. However, what it lacked in space it more than made up for in views, the floor to ceiling windows gave a truly breathtaking view of Darling Harbour at any time during the day or night.
The room had a daybed/couch and a reasonably sized table with a couple of chairs, so in-room dining was comfortable, and there was no need to sit on the bed if you wanted to watch television or work. The bed was extremely comfortable, and it came with the usual selection of different pillows to try depending on your taste. There were a plethora of different unmarked switches for the lights, and by the end of the week, I had almost learnt how to wake up in the morning without incurring the wrath of my wife by turning on all the lights at once.
The room came with a good sized TV, and I was pleased to find that the HDMI port was easily accessible and that the remote control allowed me to select different video inputs so that I was able to stream Netflix or Foxtel once I had connected my laptop. The room did come with Apple TV's AirPlay feature to allow screen mirroring, but due to the average WiFi, the picture quality was pretty ordinary. That is my valuable travel tip for hotel rooms, invest in a 6m long HDMI cable, and you will never have to pay for another in-room movie again.
The only other criticism I had for the room was that there was no Bluetooth speaker setup, often I find that the bedside clock doubles as a speaker, so if you did want to play music it would have to be through the TV's speakers. Not a major problem and it did give me an excuse to go out and buy another Bluetooth speaker which are always handy to have. The walk-in wardrobe was a good size, and we had plenty of room to store our clothes and bags for the duration of our stay. The only warning concerning the room I will make is to do with the footstool at the foot of the bed, both my wife and I walked away with a couple of first-class bruises as a result of colliding with it, so you might want to remember to give the foot of the bed a wide berth.
The bathroom was enormous; I think it must have accounted for conservatively a third of the overall floor space. There was the stand-alone bath, the large shower stand with a rain head, double vanity and then the toilet, tastefully hidden behind a frosted glass wall.
There was also a waterproof TV next to the sinks, but I am not sure why it was there apart for the hotel to be able to say that the room had one, as at no stage did I feel enticed to make use of it. The shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and body cream were all supplied by Hermès in attractive little green bottles, and they were a really lovely touch of luxury, I must admit quite a few ended up in my suitcase for the trip home, and I am now saving them for when we have someone important come to visit, possibly the Queen.
One of the most impressive features of the new Sofitel is its crystal blue infinity edged pool with stunning views out over Darling Harbour. The pool is surrounded by tables and sun loungers with some lovely elevated covered seating off to one end, though you may have to get down early to claim this choice piece of poolside real estate.
The bar Le Rivage offers snacks and drinks throughout the day, and when we went down, we were served by an amiable bar member who looked after us exceptionally well. As part of occupational health and safety around pools, our champagne was served in some very tall plastic flutes. I think it is fair to say that the pool at the Sofitel is unique as far as entertainment areas overlooking Darling Harbour go.
As an unfortunate side effect of rapidly approaching middle age I have taken a renewed interest in exercise, as such, I made a point of visiting the gym far too often for my liking and as such can tell you quite a bit about its amenities. The gym is located next to the pool area and shares the magnificent views overlooking Darling Harbour, allowing you to jog along while watching the boats and passer buys.
The gym was a very generous size, and the equipment does not feel as if it has been shoehorned in as is often the case, there was plenty of room to move about. All the equipment was the latest and greatest with Bluetooth this and Wi-Fi that and more display screens than you could desire. One of my favourite exercises in rowing and it is rare that I find a hotel gym with an ergo but this one had a brand new Concept 2, which came as a pleasant surprise.
The gym was spotless, and the temperature was always comfortable. There were stacks of towels in various sizes, hand wipes, newspapers, apples and filtered water. I very much enjoyed the hotel gym it was never crowded, and it was worth a visit if only to enjoy the view.
One of the particular reasons we chose a Junior Suite was that it came with access to Club Millésime. Club Millésime is the breathtaking dining/lounge area located on the 35th-floor, which is only accessible to guests staying in Club Rooms and Suites from the 28th floor up. The Club is a superbly designed space with soaring ceilings and windows.
The Club serves a daily continental breakfast, which is a wonderful way to start the day. Every morning we were warmly greeted by reception with the ubiquitous "bonjour", and once the Ambassador Team had been satisfied that our names were on the list, we were shown to a table. One of the benefits of getting to the Club reasonably early is that you increase your chances of scoring a window table and with it the beautiful views out over Sydney.
Sipping coffee and tucking into a croissant while gazing down on the different suburbs of Sydney from a bird's eye view gives a totally different perspective of the city, you get to spot hidden rooftop gardens, courtyards, and tennis courts. It is worth placing your coffee and egg/omelette order when you are first seated so that you know that they are on their way when you wander off to graze the buffet. The standouts for me were the sausages and pastries; being a French chain, you can imagine that the pastry chef is held to a pretty high standard.
In the evenings the Club serves complimentary canapes and drinks, the canapes were excellent, you could either help yourself from where they were laid out on the serving areas, otherwise the Ambassador Team would bring them to your table and offer you a drink or a top up. The wine was excellent, and I even got to try the Semillon Sauvignon Blanc from Amelia Park in the Margaret River, which I had been keeping an eye out for.
A particularly convenient benefit of the Club is that you can use it to check out from. This proved to be extremely pleasant on departure day as there was no queuing, we got to peruse our bill while sitting at a desk and once we had settled up we were invited to use the lounge for as long as we liked and offered tea or coffee while we waited for our onwards transport.
In conclusion, I would say that the Sofitel Darling Harbour was an exquisite experience, the views were magnificent, the staff efficient and friendly, the food and drinks excellent and the facilities first class. If you are looking for a hotel in Sydney and the buzz of Darling Harbour is a draw, then I would definitely recommend the Sofitel. And while the Club Rooms and Suites are dearer than the standard rooms for the benefit of access to Club Millésime I found the cost well worth the amazing views and peaceful retreat.
To learn how you can receive a FREE nights stay and 50% off of your food bill on a visit to the Sofitel Darling Harbour you might like to read my review of the Accor Plus membership program.
To learn more about the hotel, I recommend jumping on their website www.sofitelsydneydarlingharbour.com.au
Address: 12 Darling Dr, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 8388 8888
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