Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour in Sydney is set in a converted wool store built in, yup, 1888, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about its gorgeous young staff or vibrant interior – and their commitment to sustainable dining, their Italian restaurant is wholly vegetarian. The hotel champions old and new Australia, with reclaimed Ironbark beams and period windows in rooms, and a lively bar which draws the crowds come happy hour.
Get this when you book through us:
Daily Continental breakfast for two, Happy Hour at Mister Percy (a quartino of wine or two beers and a pincho tasting plate) and 1pm late check-out
11am, but flexible on request. Earliest check-in, 2pm; if you turn up early, the hotel will store luggage until your room is ready.
Double rooms from £152.36 (AU$269), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include WiFi, minibar drinks, gym access and classes at Snap Fitness and self-service laundry. Rates exclude Continental breakfast (AU$25) a 1.8 per cent credit-card surcharge for Visa and MasterCard payments, 3 per cent for Amex and Diners Club.
Some King Bedrooms are wheelchair-accessible; just ask upon booking. The hotel have a partnership with buzzy, brightly coloured Snap Fitness Pyrmont gym, less than 10 minutes' walk away, if you have a work-out regime to maintain.
At the hotel
Onsite parking (at an extra cost); free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, minibar, slippers and bathrobes.
Our favourite rooms
Natural light spills through the period windows and into the airy Lofts, which have a mezzanine bedroom, exposed brick walls and punchy Australian artworks. Pops of colour – bright yellows, reds and blues – punctuate the understated, stony colour palette. For the best views of Sydney, sprawl out in Stirred, at the top of the building, which has a sociable lounge area and a sun-kissed patio. If you want to pretend that you own the place, book Shaken, which has its own private (and very grand) entrance, primary-coloured furniture, a cocktail bar, a bathroom with an oversized tub and a little outdoor area for in-room breakfasts.
Leave books and iPods at home – each room has an iPad.
The hotels public areas are wheelchair accessible, there's a lift to all floors and some King Bedrooms have been adapted for guests with mobility issues.
Subject to availability, four-legged friends are welcome for a charge of AUD$80 a pet a night (a maximum of two a room); beds, bowls, baggies and snacks are provided. See more pet-friendly hotels in Sydney.
If you book a Junior Suite (or higher category room), little Smith(s) can come too: cots are free; extra beds for 12-year-olds and under are AU$50 a night.
The hotel's fully vegetarian restaurant uses local produce for a more sustainable dining experience.
Make a beeline for a bistro table for dinner; for drinks take your pick from the mix of comfortable lounge chairs – all are decked out in plush fabrics and leathers.
Sydney sybarite. Bring a fine knit or cashmere shawl, to honour the hotel’s strong ties to the textiles industry.
Veggies, rejoice – the hotel's Italian restaurant Mister Percy (named after a former wool classer who worked at the original wool-store) favours fresh veggies and carb-y treats, and has done away with meat dishes. There are gourmet pastas, say gnocchi with gorgonzola and walnuts or pappardelle with wild-mushroom ragu, and pizzas with 24-hour matured dough, topped with caponata and ricotta, potatoes and truffle paste, cumin-spiced cauliflower and crispy kale, and more tempting toppings. Plus there's an elegant aperitivo offering.
The cosy bar area in the restaurant attracts a local crowd and its carefully curated 100-strong wine list has mainly Mediterranean-style wines, including a touriga-shiraz blend from Gundagai (Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio from Victoria's King Valley are on the menu too). The cocktail list also has a European lilt, with Italian-approved negronis and fruity Aperol spritzes on offer.
Mister Percy opens for dinner from 5pm till 11pm, from Wednesday to Saturday only. The bar’s open from 5pm to 11pm Monday to Saturday (‘til 10pm on Sunday).
In-room dining is on offer between 5pm and 10pm (expect an additional tray charge).
Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour has a prime position in the inner-city suburb of Pyrmont, a short walk from Darling Harbour, Chinatown and some of the city’s best bars and restaurants.
Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport (www.sydneyairport.com.au) is 11km away (a 20-minute drive). The airport is serviced daily by all major international and Australian carriers.
If you’re coming by train, Town Hall Station is just 2km away (www.sydneytrains.info). It’s a five-minute drive or a pleasant 15-minute walk from the station to the hotel.
Sydney’s CBD is a seven-minute drive away. Parking spaces (AU$45 a day) must be pre-booked, and you’ll need to collect your permit from reception on arrival, before parking up. 1888 Hotel is just off the Western Distributor Freeway on Murray Street, Pyrmont; the car park is just opposite the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Start with a stroll around what's on your doorstep: Darling Harbour and Cockle Bay. Speaking of cockles, it'd be a darn shame to miss the Sydney Fish Market. Feeling lucky? The Star casino is just minutes away. Take a walk through Sydney’s Botanical Gardens overlooking the Opera House and Harbour Bridge or get up close and personal at the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Pylon Look-out. The ‘Coathanger’ was built in 1924 and was at the time the world’s largest single-span bridge. There are hot shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art, on the waterside at West Circular Quay (the café is perfect for people watching). Sydney's CBD (Central Business District) is bustling with great retail therapy. Hot stores in the area include Australian accessories label Mimco, at 320c George Street, beside the ivy complex. Cult label Sass & Bide is at Shop 6, ivy, 320 George Street, right nearby. Alternatively, venture to Paddington where you’ll find the best of the fashion boutiques, arthouse cinemas, hip eateries and cool bars. Glenmore Road hosts the biggest designer boutiques such as Ksubi, Alannah Hill, Kirrily Johnston and Scanlan & Theodore. The (in)famous Bondi Beach may not be Sydney’s prettiest, but it’s definitely worth a peek, especially on Saturday mornings when the Bondi Farmer's Market takes over Bondi Beach Public School.
What else would you eat by the Maritime Wharf but succulent seafood and the freshest of fish? Join discerning locals at Flying Fish on Jones Bay Wharf Pyrmont for long lunches, or pop in for zingy cocktails and sea-inspired nibbles at the restaurant’s Little Fish bar. Where Tokyo meets Sydney, Sokyo at 80 Pyrmont Street offers Japanese dining in a dramatic, liquorice-coloured dining room. Chef Chase Kojima is clearly enjoying himself: his playful menu includes dishes such as maple miso and tuna sashimi with plum jelly. Skip breakfast and/or lunch for the 10-course degustation menu at popular Momofoku Seiobo, a wander from the hotel (and the brand’s first outpost outside New York), also at the Star casino on Pyrmont Street. Sit at the bar and watch the chefs in creation mode, and work your way through the menu (the steamed pork buns have amassed a loyal following).
Enjoy a glass or two of wine and some pizza or nibbles at Gallon Wine Bar, a casual neighbourhood drinking spot that’s just a short walk from the hotel on Harris Street.
Partied out, sun burned and feet in pain from dancing away for many nights, and I was extremely happy to be checking into Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour. I had been to my friend’s hen party in Cairns and I was in need of some catching up on reality – so where better than while also checking out the world’s first (self-dubbed) ‘Instagram hotel’, in sunny Sydney?
Welcomed warmly by a member of staff, they stepped in to help me with my luggage and I was happily left free to check out the groovy interior. Cool, low, neon-coloured chairs (reminiscent of the many colours of my Mooch character if you’ve ever seen my blog) teamed with exposed reclaimed wooden beams. I defy even the most jaded hotel-hopper not to widen their eyes at this dazzling downstairs space, with its glittering glass lift shaft and lofty atrium. Along with toffee-brown Chesterfields, there’s a tree sprouting from a grassy circle on the concrete floor and even a space for Instagram selfies. Pops of Crayola colour come courtesy of Australian art on walls and covetable pieces of mid-century furniture.
When I arrived I’d been told that my lovely Mr Smith who’d been on a road trip while I was partying with the girls had arrived at Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour an hour before. I was expecting to meet him up in the room, but he’d been told he couldn’t access it until I got there – my guess is they thought he was a cheeky backpacker tagging along. LOL.
Key collected, we were soon glugging fresh lemonade then making a beeline for that Roald-Dahl-story-worthy glass elevator. We only need to head up to the first floor, so the journey was short – it must be fun shooting all the way to the top to absorb the whole warehousey interior. The hotel has a history that it’s clearly proud of: the name references its 1888 birthday, and the building has been undressed to reveal its past: repurposed beams made into tables and chairs, for example, lofty period windows letting in lashings of light and exposed brick walls left as a feature in the unfussy rooms.
We entered our junior suite and everything here felt super fresh: the freestanding bath, the flatscreen TV floating on the wall, and the hipster-friendly minibar packed with irresistible organic and health-conscious treats. An iPad in the room controls the temperature and provides information on services and local attractions, which is always a clever bonus don’t you think? A killer WiFi connection and hi-tech media hubs make you feel like a hotel is a blogger’s best friend. Being able to update my posts whenever I feel the impulse is always an advantage when travelling far from home – as well as being able to check out the hotel’s Instagram account and spy on what other guests are up to.
The bar beckoned next for some chatting, chilling, and exotic cocktail sipping. There’s a great atmosphere here thanks to the hotel attracting cool and quirky folks – really that’s the essence of 1888. When the bar closed at midnight we hit the elevator that Willy Wonka would approve of and head up one story for a relaxing bubble bath. Soon enough were snoozing – the bed was very comfortable – and a much-needed stretch of beauty sleep was had.
The next morning those helpful staff won our hearts again. We fell in love with the team. They’re smiley, proud of their hotel and effortlessly helpful: rushing off to flag down taxis and volunteering the area’s best bits unasked for. Sydney’s world-famous harbour is only a few minutes’ walk from the hotel so we couldn’t resist a stroll around there gawping at that spectacular Opera-House-studded skyline. We also explored other delights of the city including Chinatown – cue me getting lots of cute key chains and stickers to decorate the notebook that’s rarely out of my hand.
The eatery and bar finally lured us back for some simple, nutritious snacking. Breakfast is a grazing affair of cold cuts, cheeses and granola, and the rest of time it’s especially appealing for its irresistible small plates. 1888 is a blogger’s dream, overall hey? It felt like a relaxed getaway while still letting us be immersed in the heart of the city. Delightful staff, and food and drinks worth instagramming and a peaceful room that was chic and comfortable. And best of all, when you see how much it costs it doesn’t have you breaking out in a sweat.