You realise that QT Sydney is different the second you reach the door. Instead of the awkward, fresh-out-of-hospitality-school kids in oversized trousers and jackets curiously devoid of collars, a striking belle mans the portals. Clad in a customised leather tunic-coat, lace-panelled leggings and a fierce red bob, she greets me with energy and a smile.
These unmissable redheads are dubbed the ‘Directors of Chaos’, and while that is supremely fanciful, it’s certainly a statement that the QT hotel is not your average, run-of-the-mill five-star. In the corporate world some might call them ‘Directors of First Impressions’ – and dazzling red fringe aside (‘tis a wig, of course, your logic tells you on second glance, but who cares?), the QT’s Directors indeed make an immediate impact – hotel door staff with individual personalities that seem like they’re actually enjoying themselves? It’s noticeable and refreshing.
Positive first impressions continue when entering my QT Twin Double bedroom – its proportions are generous, the decor rich and the lighting warm yet moody. Sultry timber-lined walls, plush maroon curtains and high ceilings add to the grand atmosphere – every bit the part for a room in what was once the art-deco era State Theatre.
Smacking of James Bond glamour, a DIY Martini kit instantly catches my eye; a handy Nespresso machine serves its purpose not only as a morning kickstarter but also as an evening one. The kit’s Belvedere Vodka and Patron XO Café tequila are very decent drops for making a killer espresso martini for two. Just buzz room service for some ice, mix each of the 50ml spirit bottles, throw in a couple of coffee shots, give it a shake and you can’t go wrong. It’s a cute touch, and a fittingly fun way to get the party started.
Located in the revamped State Theatre and Gowings department store buildings, the QT has overseen a complete transformation of these two well-known heritage landmarks. And what the resulting marriage may lack in heady heights and harbour views, it more than makes up for in engaging attitude.
QT’s location, in the heart of the Central Business District, can’t be faulted. The street itself isn’t too attractive but you can blame Sydney for that – and thankfully Hyde Park is virtually on your doorstep if you’re in need of greenery and open air. The Rocks, Circular Quay and Museum of Contemporary Art are 10 minutes’ walk away, so too the Art Gallery of NSW and Botanic Gardens. Make it 20 minutes and you’re in Kings Cross or Surry Hills.
Speaking of Surry Hills, QT is by all means a cool hang-out – but isn’t achingly edgy like a typical Surry Hills hipster haunt. The QT is Manhattan not Brooklyn, West End London not East End – this is a big city hotel, and despite the ‘boutique’ tag, is the kind that can only be delivered in the downtown hub of a major global city.
Urbane players like New York have long realised that ‘the hotel bar’ is something to be embraced, whether it be bygone-era style or an of-the-moment hot spot. A great hotel has a great bar, and a great hotel bar is an offering to the city’s residents as well as its guests. Sydney and Melbourne have yet to catch on to this, with the words ‘hotel bar’ generally equating to dull decor, sharp prices and zero social relevance to locals. With Euro-sleek Gowings Bar & Grill and nocturnal cocktail-shaker the Gilt Lounge, the QT has upped the stakes.
A friend having a hotel room always sounds like a hedonistic indulgence, but in practice their neutral vibes can almost detract from the buzz. Not so QT – be it with a boyfriend, girlfriend or a bunch of friends, this boudoir was made for sharing. I’m in town with a gang for a bunch of Sydney Festival shows, and on night one we’re all heading to a party at Town Hall, which as luck would have it is just around the corner. My room wows all who swing by, and kicking off the night here sees us leaving on a high; and when the evening is done, there’s nowhere else the crew wants to settle into for a nightcap.
Waking up feeling the effects of a long weekend of drinking, dining and dancing, I’m literally not able to leave the hotel thanks to drenching rain. Instead, after breakfast at Gowings, I stagger downstairs to SpaQ. Along with the usual massage and facial treatments, the spa also boasts an old-school barber, a nod to both new-school male grooming trends and the history of the Gowings building, which had an on-site barber for generations. Inside the white-tiled space, my barber Loic offers a range of treatments and cuts. An up-close shave and steaming hot towels draped over the face certainly does the trick, and I leave for the airport rejuventated, looking slightly less shabby and thankfully feeling a touch fresher, too.
While there’s a lot of hype surrounding this new kid on the hospitality block and its much-vaunted cool n’ chic-ness, it really delivers as a hotel with personality and style, panache and perhaps even a touch of that magical je ne sais quoi. With the arrival of QT, it feels like Sydney has grown up and gotten a whole lot younger all at the same time…