It might be assumed that the 1888 Hotel is an homage to Australia’s colonial heritage, styled after a wool shed from the era when Australia “rode on the sheep’s back” (to coin a popular term), and named after the year when Old Sydney Town celebrated its centenary. The nation of Australia would not commence for another 13 years. In truth, this boutique hotel is in a heritage building, and resembles an old wool shed because that’s exactly what it was. Even the sign – 1888, the year it was built – was required to remain. The owners chose to turn it from a year marker to a hotel name.
Location, Location, Location
On the outskirts the Sydney CBD, the 1888 is only a short walk to the city, and minutes away from the Star Casino, and Darling Harbour, Sydney’s harbourside collection of restaurants, street entertainment and attractions.
Imagine a shopping-and-dining district disguised as a family theme park. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.
The guests are a mix of business visitors (as the Sydney Convention Centre is basically across the road) and international travellers, keen for a relaxing place to stay.
For the sake of nitpicking, perhaps I would change only one thing about the location. Though built on a hill, which should be a prime vantage point, the 1888 Hotel is dwarfed by a huge Novotel across the road.
Along with other recent buildings, this completely blocks what would be a terrific view of the city. The Novotel should be moved about a hundred metres. (I only request one change, but I don’t say it will be easy.)
Architect Chris Haughton and interior decorator Cressida Kennedy used the constraints of the four-storey heritage building to their advantage.
The wood panels, made of ironbark hardwood, had to stay in place. Where it could be removed, the wood was recycled, transformed into the desks that add a pastoral feel to each bedroom.
The original rooms had to remain, so they were transformed into various levels of luxury accommodation, from The Attic – the deluxe top-floor suite – to the lower-floor “shoe-boxes”.
Though their name might suggest compact dwellings, even the so-called shoe-boxes have an ensuite, a queen-sized bed and enough floor space for a yoga session.
If you like to party, go downstairs for The Williamson, alias the Party Room, alias the 007 Room (which conveniently happens to be Rm 007).
While most of the 1888’s retro design is due to necessity, this one is deliberately ornamented with authentic vintage accessories – a home wine bar from the 1950s, cosy chairs from the 1970s, a cocktail table from the 1960s.
“Organic” and “local” are the buzzwords. The soap and bathroom amenities are made of fully organic, local ingredients.
Even the mini bar is stocked with organic and gluten-free beer, wine, snacks, chocolates and cola, without a single Coke in sight. It’s possibly the healthiest mini-bar I’ve ever seen.
Eat in or eat out?
The 1888 Eatery & Bar looks like an Aussie country pub, notched up a few stars, with light meals for guests, keen to wind down in the hotel environs.
Its breakfast buffet is very appealing, highlighted by the granola made of native Australian nuts, seeds and grains.
However, there are countless dining alternatives nearby, from the family-friendly food halls of Darling Harbour to the eateries of Chinatown to the hip cafés and cocktail bars around the corner.
What’s the bottom line?
139 Murray St, Pyrmont, Sydney, Australia, +612 8586 1888; www.1888hotel.com.au; 90 rooms from $160