Hotels

Ultimate inner-city escape

Rob Forsaith - AAP

Paradise can be a hard thing to pin down when you’re strapped for time and lacking leave.

Reclaiming the weekend has become a battle for many young professionals trapped in a 24/7 work culture.

Increasingly, an overnight inner-city escape trumps a weekend at the beach or bush for many.

Establishments such as Sydney’s QT Hotel have popped up around the world in response to those wanting more from a hotel than a decent night’s sleep.

QT is a wonderland, a unique encounter that borders on ethereal at times.

That alone means it won’t float everyone’s boat.

However, the number of positive reviews and awards swung QT’s way suggest it is an innovation the market wants more of.

The result is quirky, cool, fashionable and incredibly luxurious, but most importantly a sense of disconnect that can be hard to achieve in the many Sydney hotels that attract a similarly hefty price tag.

From the moment you walk through QT’s subtle entrance on Market Street, it’s clear something is different about the place.

Bellhops, one dressed in black with a scarlet bobbed wig, greet us like long-lost friends as they take our bags.

It should feel disingenuous. It doesn’t.

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I later find out the wigs and every other staff member’s outfit was designed by Janet Hine.

Janet’s background is TV and the stage – So You Think You Can Dance, Sweet Charity and the like.

Management embraces the idea of the hotel being part production, providing a hair and make-up artist for front-of-house staff before they start work.

QT’s investment in superficial matters – an afterthought at so many hotels – is a sign of things to come as we enter an elevator to reach the lobby.

I’m hesitant to spoil the surprise that follows in the lift, but needless to say the designer hotel has had a lot of fun to redress the most mundane and banal element of your stay.

The trend continues in the lobby, a colourful mix of old and new with plenty of space and retro art.

Opened in 2012, QT is a major refurbishment of the heritage-listed Gowings and State Theatre.

There are nods to the building’s past throughout the complex, with many of the original fixtures, fittings and furnishings restored.

The white-tiled barber shop – where you can wind the clock back by enjoying a glass of scotch with a razor shave – in particular feels as if it belongs to another generation.

The same can be said of Gowings Bar & Grill, which provides a sense you are dining in a brassiere on the other side of the world.

The suite doesn’t disappoint. The bed is among the most comfortable I’ve slept in, while the dark-stone bathroom and room itself are remarkably spacious for something in the city centre.

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The minibar is stocked with gingerbread men, pick-up sticks, a range of alcohol for a supplied cocktail shaker plus an emergency bow tie.

As is the case with the entire hotel, it is so incredibly different from what the vast majority of players offer.

Some might do business better, but few have mastered pleasure as well as QT.

It means it is entirely viable to not leave the building during your stay.

The menus, crafted by Robert Marchetti, Paul Easson and Ian Cook, at Gowings Bar & Grill are worth discovering.

Likewise, the coffee at Parlour Lane Roasters.

The hotel offers a well-stocked free movie list, while there can be no better location if you’re seeking an overnight stay after a show at the State Theatre.

The treatments at the barber shop and spaQ, featuring wooden lockers recovered from World War II Japan plus a stunning decor that suggests alchemists are at work, are extensive and personalised.

It would of course be foolish to ignore what’s on offer within walking distance – Circular Quay, shops, the botanic gardens, Darling Harbour, galleries, and Hyde Park.

Not to mention the many highlights beyond the city centre.

But the fact you could conceivably spend your entire stay cocooned within QT says a lot about what makes it so special.

Regrettably, such extravagance comes at a cost. You’ll struggle to get a room for less than $300.

Aside from high occupancy, the downsides are limited.

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Gym junkies may bemoan the lack of a fitness centre; however, guests are provided with complimentary passes to Virgin Active on Pitt Street.

Those wanting fewer bells and whistles may not have time for the “pretentious nonsense”, as one occupant grumbled in the lift.

The absence of a kerbside entry for cars could presumably cause some stress during peak hour, but there’s no real excuse for driving given the location.

It may not be a beach villa in the Pacific or a sun-bathed balcony in the Mediterranean, but it’s a different kind of paradise.

QT also operates properties in Port Douglas, the Gold Coast, Falls Creek and Canberra, with QT Bondi and QT Melbourne to open in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Every hotel has its own character.

STAYING THERE

QT SYDNEY 49 Market Street sydney (02)8262 0000

qtsydney.com.au

*The writer was a guest of Destination NSW.

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