Watching the Sex and the City reboot is the best kind of trip down memory lane. The shoes, the clothes, the characters, and of course, New York City in all its glory – nostalgia is the name of the game, and we are all in.
And so, it feels like the appropriate time for our own dose of nostalgia. It might not be the big apple, but Sydney still puts on a show when you let her. And what better place to fall back in love with our shining city than at one of her most iconic institutions?
Checking in to Hilton Sydney for a city staycation, I’m ready to get my heels out, put my make up on and… soak in the bath. But more on that later.
The Hilton Sydney has perched proudly on George St since 1974. Her subterranean Marble Bar and terrace Zeta Bar have been hosted many a party, while glass brasserie’s tables have held service for the who’s who of not just the Sydney set, but visiting celebrities, politicians, you name it, they’ve dined there.
Like the stars of Sex and the City, Hilton’s aging has happened in style. There’s been some work done, for sure, in fact, $25 million worth of renovations took place late last year, but trust me, it’s all extremely tasteful. Walking into the lobby, it’s as familiar to me as Carrie’s front stoop. My head still cranes back to look up, up and up at Bronwyn Oliver’s sinuous metal Vine sculpture, one of the last and most spectacular works from the seminal Sydney artist. Caffé Cino still perches quietly in the corner, the perfect spot for a morning tête-a-tête with a work bestie or a low-key afternoon tea treat with mum. Escalators still head upstairs to glass and the conference rooms we’ve all spent many an hour in at some point in our working lives are waiting. The long hallway cuts all the way through to Pitt Street, bringing back the buzz of being in an actual hotel rather than my own four walls for once.
And it’s not just the Hilton who has had an extra spruce up. George Street is fresh from its own facelift, the thoroughfare now just for trams and pedestrians. There’s a tram stop right out front of the Hilton hotel, perfect if you’ve got heels on and don’t feel like wearing out your feet before you head out for a drink down in Circular Quay. Or you can hit the shops. Literally on your doorstep are plenty of options like the QVB, Pitt Street Mall and MidCity.
Inside the hotel, the 587 rooms have undergone quite the makeover. There are new carpets, lights, tapware, TV (big beautiful 55 inch TVs), furniture and some fab art Charlotte would definitely approve of. I can sink into a sleek teal armchair and pretend I’m in a swanky New York apartment – the type of apartment you’ll see on the show and always wonder how the characters can tackle their mortgage and still have a taste for Jimmy Choos… but anyway, back to reality. It’s a real treat to sprawl out in a City Suite for the night. One of 40 suites at the Hilton Sydney, the City Suite sprawls out across lounge room, living room, two bathrooms and a bathtub that’s as big as my kitchen back home. That’s not an exaggeration. The double bath is definitely designed for two, has a window seat that looks straight down on over the QVB’s domes and down to Darling Harbour, plus the piece de resistance, a TV mounted on the wall. Yes, I did have a bath while watching a documentary about puppies. Yes, puppies. And yes, it was as fabulous as it sounds.
After a heavy dose of pampering, it’s time to dress up for a few drinks. Luckily, I’m not going far. Stop one is the Executive Lounge for drinks and nibbles before descending downstairs to Marble Bar. It’s a time warp of the best kind. The glass-domed ceiling and tall march archways, the frolicking nymphs in murals on the wall and the majestic mahogany bar haven’t changed since my last pre-pandemic tipple. And that’s no surprise. The bar itself hasn’t changed since the late 1800s. Built in 1893 in the Adams Hotel, it was reassembled at the Hilton in 1973. The heritage-listed space feels timeless in a way that a Chanel suit will never steer you wrong. I’m this close to ordering a cosmo as an ode to Carrie, but in such hallowed halls, it’s time to go old school with a gin martini.
Back upstairs, at Luke Mangan’s glass brasserie, night has fallen and the lights of the QVB sparkle through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Stepping inside, it’s all about a New York state of mind. Wine racks rise to the high cathedral ceilings, round tables with banquet seats are power lunch perfect and filament lights drop down to give everything a hushed glow. The open-air kitchen is busy, which in a post lockdown Sydney is a real treat – there are Sydney rock oysters, kingfish sashimi and caviar to start, and a burrata and watermelon gazpacho salad entrée that sings with flavour. In case you haven’t noticed, I love to lean into a theme, so I make a beeline for New York steakhouse classics. A Riverina fillet with onion cream and yellow zucchini goes a treat with a big bowl of French fries. The Southern Ranges 250g grass-fed Scotch Fillet is another heavy hitter, served with bearnaise sauce and a delicate potato gratin. Steamed blue eye cod or pan fried gnocchi will keep non-steak eaters happy. Dessert ticks all the boxes. It’s not a Serendipity dessert, but the Chocolate fondant with lavender crème gives New York’s famous dessert café’s dishes a run for their money.
In the bright light of a Sunday morning, I could burn off some energy with a trip downstairs to the Fitness First Platinum in the building, but what New Yorker would give up a chance to brunch? Glass brasserie’s breakfast spread ticks all the boxes and then some. A fresh banana smoothie, chia seed pudding with coconut yoghurt, made to order omelette, bacon and some fruit and I’m ready to roll out the door. There’s pastries, cold cuts, avocado, dim sum… like the melting pot of the Lower West Side, there’s a little something for everyone.
And just like that, all good things come to an end. Checking out of the Hilton Sydney is like saying goodbye to an old friend, but one you know you’ll pick back up with just like that.
Lisa was the guest of Hilton Sydney