Sydney, Australia

The Old Clare

Rates per night from$129.44

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (AUD188.18), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Old meets brew

Setting

Spruced-up Chippendale

WINNER: BEST GOURMET GETAWAY – SMITH HOTEL AWARDS 2016

You can teach an old dog new tricks, according to The Old Clare, whose rooftop pool, handsome rooms, destination restaurants and bar occupy two heritage-listed buildings. Nods to the former student pub and Carlton & United Breweries' administrative HQ remain, including band posters, original fittings and the boozy boardroom.

Smith Extra

Get this when you book through us:

A ​schooner of beer each at the bar

Facilities

Photos The Old Clare facilities

Need to know

Rooms

Sixty-two, including four suites.

Check–Out

11am, latest. Earliest check-in, 3pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $129.44 (AU$188), excluding tax at 10 per cent.

More details

Rates usually exclude an à la carte breakfast of organic oatmeal, smoked-mackerel and bacon omelettes, or a full English (starting at AU$8).

Also

Used to the same old tired minibar offerings? (We’re looking at you, Pringles and salted peanuts.) You’ll perk up at the stash of thoughtfully sourced in-room treats at the Old Clare, which include: Zozoko chocolates, beef jerky, Byron Bay Cookies, Thomas Chipman crisps, grapefruit fizzy pop and bottled cocktails.

At the hotel

Rooftop pool; two restaurants; bar (plus a pool bar in summer); gym; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, desk, minibar, Triumph & Disaster bath products.

Our favourite rooms

If your ideal city break involves wallowing in a bath, skip the Connell rooms, which have a shower (all the rest have tubs for two). The suites come with plummy heritage features, most notably the brewery HQ’s original boardroom, ceilings, timber panelling – even men’s urinals – in the vast C.U.B. Suite. If you’ve got a soft spot for pigs, book the Mary O’ Suite, named after Mary O’Shea: a local woman who used to maraud around Chippendale seeking slaughterhouse off-cuts for her pigs. (There’s nothing porcine about the suite, though.)

Poolside

Sydney could do with more rooftop swimming pools. The Old Clare is helping to redress the balance with its lofty lap pool set on timber decking – hot property in summer, thanks to the pool bar and city views.

Packing tips

Come thirsty, in honour of the hotel’s boozy heritage. (It’s safe to assume you won’t need to bring a bottle opener.)

Children

Welcome. Rollaway beds ($75 a night) and cots (free) can be added to rooms (book in advance). Babysitting is $30 an hour; lock it in 48 hours ahead.

Food and Drink

Photos The Old Clare food and drink

Top Table

Automata for long Sunday lunches and memorable dinners Weds–Sat; A1 Canteen for breakfasts, brunches and lunches; Kensington Street Social for everything in between.

Dress Code

Mrs Smith: match the hotel’s up-cycling by sporting reworked classics by Sydney designer Johnny Schembri (such as his digital-print patchwork dresses). Mr Smith: add beer-brown accents with vintage leather and tortoiseshell- or wood-framed sunnies.

Hotel restaurant

Clever Clare: the hotel has lassoed home-grown star Clayton Wells (ex-sous-chef at Momofuku Seiōbo). Automata, Wells’ joint, offers five- and seven-course tasting menus designed with accomplished simplicity: local produce cooked with perfect restraint. Barzaari Chippendale serves eastern Mediterranean sharing plates; menus change often, but past favourites have included roast duck breast with Gazan rice porridge, pickled octopus with chili kipfler chips and sticky sweet almond baklava with safflower ice cream. The breakfast and brunches generously stuffed brioche baps, house granolas, sourdough toast and meat-laden plates are served in the A1 Canteen will have you leaping out of bed. Wake up with the curried egg on an English muffin or bircher muesli topped coconut yoghurt and cold-pressed juices, health-boosting kombuchas and rich coffees.

Hotel bar

You’d expect most bars to be pro-booze, but Clare Bar takes things a step further: it’s kitted out in brown-hued light panels that nod to the autumnal hues of beer bottles. Naturally, there’s a solid selection of craft beer, as well as gluggable wine and clever cocktails, tossed and stirred by tatt-clad, bearded bartenders.

Last orders

Get tipsy till midnight in the bar; dine from 6pm till late in the restaurants.

Room service

Dine in your room any time of day or night. Fill up on an Angus cheeseburger or Wagyu steak with chips; for something a little lighter take your pick of organic hummus with roast peppers, or flatbread with truffled mushrooms.

Location

Photos The Old Clare location
Address
The Old Clare
1 Kensington Street
Chippendale
2008
Australia

The Old Clare occupies a prime spot in Chippendale, an inner-city suburb that’s recently had a lot of coin pumped into its regeneration: expect shiny new restaurants, galleries and shops for neighbours.

Planes

Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport (www.sydneyairport.com.au) is 7km away, a 20-minute drive. Big spenders might want to opt for the hotel’s limousine transfers ($115–$150 each way, depending on flight times).

Trains

Central Station, NSW’s busiest, is a short skip from the hotel. You can shuttle between suburbs, or get to the Blue Mountains, Hunter Valley and the South Coast and Highlands (www.sydneytrains.info).

Automobiles

The hotel is a 10-minute drive from the city centre. Valet parking is $50 a night (first come, first served); the hotel has additional parking a short walk away.

Worth getting out of bed for

The hotel organises art exhibitions, music nights and more, but it’d be a crying shame to miss out on the brilliant surrounding area. The Old Clare is part of the Central Park urban renewal project, which includes two new parks, a shopping centre, public sculptures and several skyscrapers. Locals already love Daiso, in the shopping precinct, which has 200,000-plus treasures from Japan, almost all priced at $2.80 (random, we know). Looking for something more local? Head to the Brewery Yard Markets on the first and third Sunday of every month and haggle for street art, jewellery and vintage threads. Don’t miss White Rabbit Gallery, Judith Neilson’s eye-bogglingly beautiful, non-profit temple to 21st-century Chinese art, housed in a former knitting factory on Balfour Street. But stop for dumplings at the gallery’s teahouse first – you’ve got four floors to conquer, after all.

Local restaurants

Ester Restaurant and Bar serves show-off cooking in a deliciously relaxed environment. Order the hasselback spuds and the ‘three milks’ dessert. Get your smoke on at LP’s Quality Meats, which champions all things barbecue in a casual, canteen-style setting. (Even the mashed potato with gravy is worth writing home about.) Pizza, beer jugs and a sociable garden: pub life doesn’t get more mellow than at the Rose Hotel on Cleveland Street. If you’re a little green around the gills from the night before, fix up with the English-style fried breakfast. Spice Alley, just behind the hotel, has a lovely, lantern-lit courtyard and a selection of diners serving pan-Asian fare.

Local cafés

You’ll find some of the best bread in Sydney (a tall order, but we’re standing by it) at Brickfields, a café/bakery on Cleveland Street that belongs to two master bakers: Simon Cancio and Paul Geshos. Get in early to nab the window seats. Australians take their coffee very seriously; see why with a pit-stop at the House Specialty Coffee (+61 (0)2 8957 4664), at Suite 9/9 Knox Street.

Local bars

Nifty bar snacks (a whole menu dedicated to Philly cheese-steaks, chicken poppers with 13 herbs and spices), potent cocktails (the Charlie Chaplin: gin, apricot brandy, lime juice) and music nights: if there’s anything not to like about Freda’s at 109 Regent Street, we’re yet to discover it.

Reviews

Photos The Old Clare reviews
Sofia Levin

Anonymous review

By Sofia Levin, Foodie traveller

Full points to Alice, Guest Services Manager (according to her business card) at The Old Clare Hotel. She’s left a handwritten note on a cardboard coaster in my room, propped up against a framed photo of my toy poodle, Jinkee, sadly left at home for this trip. ‘Hello Mrs Smith,’ it reads, ‘We know you love writing, food and travelling, but there is also Jinkee, and we are gutted that he can’t be with you.’ At this point I’d usually explain that Jinkee is a girl, but I’m so impressed it doesn’t matter. It continues, ‘So we prepared a belated gift for him.’ In a calico bag with ‘JINKEE’ stamped across the front is a novelty squeaky dog toy. For the humans: treats from nearby Kakawa Chocolates. 

There are 62 rooms here in what used to be the Carlton and United Breweries Administration Building. A glass atrium links it to the pokies-room-turned-reception with its retro posters, vintage barber chairs and amber glass-panelled desk. The atrium is a thoroughfare between Carlton and Kensington Streets, the latter lined with restaurants and a laneway of cheap eats called Spice Alley. My Clare Room is the priciest of three types, not including lofts and suites. If budget allows, the boardroom has been transformed into the 100-plus square metre C.U.B. Suite with restored timber panelling, an eight-seater table and slick bathroom featuring the original urinal. Each room is different and other than some plaster-chipped walls, mine feels a little newer. 

I wonder if anyone has tried to pinch the lamp made from old engine parts, but for all the industrial touches the super king bed feels soft enough to swallow me whole. Blackout blinds make it difficult to rise, countered only by the unwelcome sound of garbage trucks. On the small desk an information manual titled ‘RANDOM CRAP’ flaunts the sassy Old Clare attitude, which segues to the shower with Triumph & Disaster toiletries (read the labels for cheap entertainment). There’s Young Henrys beer in the mini bar from a few kilometres away, but I opt for tea in a Le Creuset mug. Wedged between the city and grungy-cool inner west, Chippendale – once a neighbourhood known for brothels and bad behaviour – is now the place to be. Given its history I’m hesitant to find out what happens if I hang the ‘I’M LONELY’ sign on the door. The reverse reads ‘I’M BUSY’, a no-bollocks interpretation of the standard Do Not Disturb. 

Upon booking, my confirmation email urged me to contact #THESUPERCONCIERGE and provided access to Porter & Sail, an invite-only website and app modelled on the concierge experience. I go with the former, explaining to The Super Concierge, more commonly known as Martin, that I haven’t been to Sydney for a little while and could he please recommend some places to eat because eating is what I do best. It’s an A+ for Martin, who bullet-points old favourites (Ester, ACME, Lumi Dining, 10 William Street) and sprinkles in some new ones (Saint Peter, Nour, Isaac). Automata at The Old Clare is as good as any, so I stay on-site. Inside, it turns out Automata is an old warehouse with an elongated communal table, open kitchen and mezzanine level, with mechanical features like cylinder downlights and an aircraft radial engine chandelier. Chef Clayton Wells offers a five-course set menu ($95 plus $65 for matched drinks) and a three-course lunch for $60 Wednesday through Saturday. 

When I visit, his new all-day diner A1 Canteen is moments away from opening across the pedestrian laneway. That means breakfast at The Old Clare’s Kensington Street Social, which is open three meals a day. I’m smug about booking the breakfast set with the room for an extra $25 – for two it would have cost twice that on the morning. One evening after dinner out I return to the hotel for a second dessert. Kensington Street Social accommodates with an oversized dark chocolate flan specked with cocoa nibs. For something more casual, The Clare Bar beside reception is a rowdier, retro homage to the original watering hole. 

The following morning I have chocolate flan on the brain and descend to the gym on level -1. It’s cavernous and feels a little like it’s there to tick an amenity box. My time is better spent beside the rooftop pool, with its stunning urban outlook among Chippendale’s multibillion-dollar redevelopment project. This includes a verdant backdrop courtesy of the world’s tallest vertical garden, cascading 150 meters down the reflective windows of One Central Park. This rooftop is clearly the place to do the Sydney socialite thing over summer – peacocking with beautiful people at the bar and attending pop-ups and events. Instead, I find peace in the middle of the city, first thing in the morning. The rooftop is a suntrap as water trickles over the edge of the infinity pool and muffled traffic starts up below. I think about the hotel. This is the fourth time The Old Clare has been accommodation since the mid 1800s, interspersed with other shops and dealerships. Here, I don’t need the walls to talk – in the face of gentrification you can feel the history.

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in The Old Clare’s Guestbook below.

We loved

The room was beautiful and the building was really well kept. We had an amazing stay and would highly recommend.

Don’t expect

Dining areas as part of the hotel.

Rating

Stayed on 18 Apr 2019

We loved

Everything! We came to the Old Clare as part of an extended honeymoon trip and on arrival we were upgraded to a suite which was amazing. The room was superb, the staff were charming and we particularly liked being able to take a dip in the rooftop pool and chill with a glass of rosé. We would highly recommend this hotel. The downstairs bar on the Friday night was very popular, too. 

Rating

Stayed on 8 Feb 2019

We loved

The location of the old Clare is fantastic, short walk to the central station and the amazing cafe scene in Surry Hills. The hotel runs adjacent to spice alley, a trendy alleyway full of Asian fusion restaurants, and the bar downstairs is a classic with fun happy hour deals on cocktails.

Don’t expect

Such amazing service, we received an early check-in and complimentary beer each on arrival.

Rating

Stayed on 7 Mar 2018

We loved

Accessibility to local restaurants, including onsite restaurants. The rooftop pool.

Rating

Stayed on 2 Mar 2018

We loved

The place has a great vibe as soon as you walk in. It's in a cool part of town, the decor has a relaxed and trendy East London feel, and importantly the staff are very helpful. If you've ever been to any of the Soho House hotels, it feels a lot like that which is a huge compliment. Outside you have the two attached restaurants which are popular for good reason, we had breakfast at Kensington Street Social sat outside in the lane as soon as we arrived which was excellent. The whole of that outside lane comes alive at night, Spice Alley is like walking down a street in South East Asia with the bustling food stalls full of people. There are some good restaurants further down the lane, and some lively looking bars, it seems locals descend on this little strip on the weekends and it's got a great feel. And its a short walk up to Surry Hills for more of the same cool bars and restaurants. The room itself felt real high quality, we had the Abercrombie room with the bath in. The bed was ludicrously comfortable. Really enjoyed it.

Don’t expect

A big gym or extensive spa.

Rating

Stayed on 23 Feb 2018

We loved

The luxurious bedding, modern design that pays tribute to the architecture, the deep freestanding bathtub, the outdoor heated pool (baby especially loved it) and the welcoming staff. Baby-friendly room. Kensington Street restaurant's a must-try, a short stroll away.

Don’t expect

Free valet parking, take-home souvenirs/toiletries.

Rating

Stayed on 2 Jan 2018

We loved

The staff here were so lovely and helpful, they couldn't have been nicer. We also loved all the Triumph and Disaster products and the general style and decor of the hotel... Loads of great restaurants nearby – Spice Alley is really wonderful. You can BYO too and there's a bevy of places to eat from. For something a little more special, Automata, which is part of the hotel, is a real treat.

Don’t expect

The rooftop pool was lovely but unmanned and there was no telephone for the reception so it felt a little unsafe. Therefore I wouldn't recommend for children. The whole pool area felt a little unloved.

Rating

Stayed on 19 Dec 2017