Sexy, sassy and stylish, QT Sydney boutique hotel has her party shoes on and is ready to dance. This super-central design diva is carved out of the historic State Theatre and Gowings department store buildings, blending Gothic, art deco and Italianate architecture with quirky-but-cool interiors. Door gals dressed in saucy uniforms, buzzy drinking and dining, and a hip day spa? We're smitten.
Get this when you book through us:
Use of the hammam at SpaQ, plus free late check-out until noon.
11am; check-in, 2pm, both flexible subject to availability.
Double rooms from £185.35 (AU$329), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates exclude à la carte breakfast, from AU$14.
Gents can go grooming crazy at the old-school barber's (complete with antique US chairs), where wet shaves and facials leave you sleek as a seal (choose between Mr Bond or the Don).
At the hotel
Spa, barber's shop, concierge, free WiFi throughout and DVD/film library, valet parking. In rooms: flatscreen TV, radio, iPod dock, minibar, Uspa toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
All the boudoirs rock a fashion-forward look, with vibrant hits of colour, print and pattern across fur throws, rugs and cushions, teamed with modern lounge chairs and statement lights, including bowler hat pendant lamps. Cute ceramic animals, illuminated vitrines of cut-glass ornaments and DIY Martini kits up the eccentricity. Of the QT Deluxe King rooms, number 73 boasts wow-worthy windows; any QT Corner Suite is a hot tip for the extra space and sitting area.
Simply book a time slot in stylish SpaQ and 'fresh picked' treatments are honed around your mood on the day (we love the hammam and ice-room).
Bring snappy sartorial statements to fit in with the party-ready, hipster crowd here. Even the door chicks are ultra-glam, with red bobbed wigs and sexy, burlesquey black outfits, so dress to impress.
Once you've booked in, the QT Sydney Concierge iPhone app hooks you up with all the info you need to plan your stay, from the skinny on the hotel and SpaQ treats to local retail therapy and hot bars and restaurants.
This is a glam playground for grown-ups, so leave the kids with the grandparents.
By the windows or open kitchen at Gowings for sociable soirees.
Street-chic for Parlour Lane Roasters by day, seductive for Gowings Bar & Grill by night, sexy for DJ sessions at the Gilt Lounge in the small hours.
Helmed by chef Paul Easson under the creative direction of Sydney restaurateur Robert Marchetti, Gowings Bar & Grill is an edgy, European-style all-day brasserie, which lures diners with its fresh Australian produce (sourced from artisan providores), so-now culinary techniques (we're talking wood-fired rotisseries and ovens) and smart list of up-and-coming wines. Swing by for breakfast, lunch or dinner (bookings essential), with star dishes spanning New York sirloin on the bone, hand-dived wild scallops and whole line-caught rock flathead. Interiors work an elegant, retro-modern look, with private dining spaces on the mezzanine for gang get-togethers.
Need a caffeine fix? Parlour Lane Roasters café, perched by the Market Street entrance of the QT, is your go-to spot for barista-poured coffee by day or aperitivos come evening, including a fine line in naughty Negronis. Night owls should flutter to the Gilt Lounge upstairs, a drinking den for the beautiful people. Shrouded in how-very-dare-you scarlet curtains with a heady mix of retro furniture and colour-clash rugs, this cheeky little number is a must for vintage and modern cocktails – does a girl (or guy) order the Millionaire #1 or the Widow's Kiss? It's your call. Spot-on DJ tunes help the medicine go down. There's also an honesty bar in the lobby lounge for drinks or snacks on the go.
Parlour Lane Roasters pours coffee until 8.30pm Monday to Saturday, and 5pm Sundays. At Gowings, dinner is served from 6pm to 11pm. Gilt Lounge dishes drinks from 6pm until midnight Monday to Wednesday, and until 2am Thursday to Saturday (closed Sundays).
You can order room service 24 hours a day, with dishes adapted from the restaurant and a late-night menu for party animals. Minibars are stocked with stylish treats, including sweets, crisps, wine, DIY Martini kits, tea and Nespresso coffee pods.
On the corner of Market and George Street, in the heart of the CBD, QT Sydney is within easy walking distance of Hyde Park, the Opera House and Darling Harbour.
Fly into Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport (www.sydneyairport.com), which receives international and domestic flights. From there, it's just a 17-kilometre (20-minute) drive to the hotel. QT doesn't arrange transfers but you can pick up a taxi easily at the airport rank, or hire a car if you want your own wheels.
The nearest train station to QT is Town Hall, a three-minute drive away, which is served by CityRail (www.cityrail.info). If you're coming from the airport, take the Airport Link train (www.airportlink.com.au) to Town Hall station.
Valet parking at QT costs AU$69 a night, which the hotel recommends as the most hassle-free way of rocking up.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel is at its liveliest after-dark, when guests and locals alike gather in the bar for inventive cocktails served with a saucy attitude and DJ sets till late. You can prep for the evening in the spa, where treatments range from facials to Derma Peels – and there’s a barbershop for the gents, too. QT’s Market Street seat is close to Sydney’s biggest attractions: the Opera House and Harbour Bridge are both a short walk north (you can climb the latter if you have a head for heights); buzzy Darling Harbour, with its gourmet pop-ups, art installations and chic boutiques is on your doorstep; and the Royal Botanic Garden, Hyde Park and Chinese Garden of Friendship provide sunny picnic patches and meditative green spots.
DeVine Food and Wine excels at both, with a tempting Italian menu and a global wine list, with plenty of home-grown contenders. The Dining Room has a breathtaking view of the Opera House and Harbour and an equally impressive mod-Aussie menu: smoked kangaroo loin, confit hapuka, baby pink snapper. Jackalberry’s influences extend a little further, with a global-fusion menu that flits from Portugal to Vietnam to Japan in a few bites. Laidback Lankan Filling Station pays homage to India’s southerly neighbour, with all the hoppers, sambol-topped curries and kiribath pudding you could desire.
Café culture is a serious affair in Sydney: coffee inspires cult worship, brunches are constantly vying to be the best and patient queuers are rewarded handsomely. Dutch Smuggler are best known for their grade-A coffee beans and flavourful toasties, filled with mi goreng noodles and cheddar, buffalo chicken and slaw, mac and cheese with brisket and more. The Paramount Coffee Project stay true to their name by experimenting with different styles of roasting, brewing and serving. When you’ve powered up with a cup of Joe, turn your attention to the all-day menu of not-too-sinful snackables: banana and walnut bread with passionfruit curd, burnt-fig muesli with coconut yoghurt and labneh-spiked pumpkin on toast. And Cook & Archies' Buddha bowls, gyros and mezze make them a must-try for a healthy lunch.
Hit Sydney's hip Darlinghurst neighbourhood after dark, where you could bar-hop for several nights in a row. Twenties-style 'speakeasy' Eau-De-Vie has theatrical cocktails and a Martini trolley; what Ching-a-Lings lacks in elbow room it makes up for in a lively crowd of locals; the Cliff Dive turns out exotic tiki drinks till late; and champion of natural and biodynamic wines Love, Tilly Devine takes its name from a brothel madame and militia boss, so plan for a rebellious evening.
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…