Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, revisits her favourite teenage hangout as a fully-fledged adult.
I’ve always thought I was a typical teenager. I just wanted to be an adult, yet so many things were off-limits because of my age. My friends and I used to love to hang out at hotel bars to sip on mocktails while pretending to be much older than we were. (Although if we truly older, we wouldn't have been drinking mocktailsWe loved hotel bars because the snacks were plentiful, and the service was always good. Our favourite bar was at the top of the InterContinental because it had such a great view of the city.
So it's with some hazy but fond memories that we revisit the InterContinental Hotel, located on the corner of Bridge and Macquarie streets near Circular Quay. The restored three-storey sandstone Treasury building provides the roots for the hotel and the original birdcage-style elevator, marble staircase and lion statues are a feature of the light filled atrium lobby. Above it are 31 floors of rooms.
Mr NQN checks us in while I meet a friend for lunch. Of course, the best thing about staying in a city hotel is catching up with friends for lunch that work nearby. Service is very friendly upon check-in, he tells me, and I later make my way upstairs to room 2409, an eastern harbour view room. One thing that is a small detail but we both notice is that when you put the key in the slot for the elevator, it automatically selects the correct floor for you. A tiny detail, but a good one.
The room itself is actually quite small at 32 square metres. I haven't had an enormous sample of Sydney hotel rooms — just the Sofitel and the Park Hyatt — but in comparison, this is noticeably small. There is a very comfortable king bed with plenty of feather pillows, a pillow menu sits on the right of the bed and an alarm clock and iPod dock on the left. There's a window seat, which is where a sick Mr NQN has sat the entire afternoon, drinking in the view of the Botanical Gardens. The rooms either have a garden view or the more sought-after harbour view although you do have to be up very high to be able to see both the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House in the same view.
A quick glance at the mini bar is a bit alarming. A packet of potato chips is $7.50, so I put them back. The selection is nevertheless good, with Australian boutique brands rather than supermarket stock. There is Ronnefeldt tea in a good range of flavours but the coffee selection is only instant and the milk is in small UHT vials.
Like the rest of the room, the bathroom is small, although I do like the fact that there is a tub. It's a tub/shower combo with a cloth curtain. The amenities provided are by a San Francisco brand called Agraria in a lovely lemon verbena scent. There's shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and body wash. In the cardboard amenities box there is a shower cap, nail file and emery board, cotton tips, cotton pads and a shoe-shine cloth.
The water pressure could be stronger, but the towels are large and plentiful. The do not disturb signs are paper ones that you thread through the door handle and there's a card if you would like a complimentary newspaper in the morning. Internet is $25 a day for multiple devices — not the highest that I've seen, but still expensive.
I call housekeeping for a turndown. This service is available on request and, by the time we make it back to our room, it is done. Both blinds have been drawn, two bottles of water and foil-wrapped milk chocolates have been provided, and the milk has been replaced. Our pillows are brought to us and the service throughout the hotel is absolutely top notch with everyone we encounter: polite, friendly and anticipatory of any needs.
Although this isn't a club room, it has all the same features of a club room, which is curious because club rooms are usually quite spacious. But the most important thing to get is access to the club lounge on the 31st floor, which is where my old stomping ground — the bar — used to be located. It is open all day with complimentary light refreshments and free internet, but we are visiting for twilight drinks . There are three flights of stairs to get there (as well as an elevator), and with each step it is feeling familiar. When we arrive at the club lounge, it is dimly lit and busy with people although there are plenty of tables free.
The dark lighting inside (really too dark for any sort of photography) serves to enhance the spectacular harbour and city view below, which sparkles like a diamond after the relentless rain from only days before. We sit entranced by the view. Service again is superb and there are snacks available from sushi, dips, cheeses, empanadas, lamb brochettes and a good list of alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks from 5-7pm for club guests. It's easy to see why it's such a popular spot and why people request club access; the lounge is a spectacular setting with an incredible view.
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