Hanging out with boy band One Direction, sipping a cocktail with a diplomat or simply watching the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House change colours at twilight: Welcome to Club InterContinental. Nicholas Stewart tries out a one-of-a-kind five-star hotel experience that's not limited to the rich and famous.
What is Club InterContinental?
The InterContinental Sydney is one of the most luxurious hotels Sydney has to offer. It has the old-world trappings of the heritage Treasury Building, respectfully restored to modern five-star standards. It also has the location: a stone's throw away from the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. But, if you're a high-flyer or a once-in-a-while splurger, the best way to view the city's most famous icons is from up high at a swanky rooftop bar.
Enter Club InterContinental. Club guests pay a premium to gain access to a spacey, sun-drenched private lounge with the most sprawling views of the harbour you're likely to ever find. They also receive the privilege of a room on the InterContinental's highest floors, guaranteeing a view from your bed of either the glittering city skyline, the Opera House sails and/or the majestic bridge.
In the club: From bedroom to bar
On my visit, I've got a picture-perfect view of both. While smaller than expected (the bathroom is especially tiny), the club room still has an air of classy comfort with its plush king bed and a warm, buttery colour scheme. From my pillow, I gaze past the bridge to Luna Park, the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay, and the many glistening lights of yachts and ferries on the harbour. One word: sublime.
But the main attraction of going Club is undoubtedly the rooftop club lounge. If rapper 50 Cent was here, he'd want to be in this club: on the hotel's top floor, the lounge is only accessible through a security door requiring a swipe of a club room card.
At first sight it conjures feelings of a sun-drenched aircraft business lounge there's an exclusive check-in area, a full-service bar with high-calibre wait staff, a selection of complimentary nibbles and refreshments all-day long, free twilight drinks from 5pm to 7pm, free Wi-Fi access, a business centre, newspapers and magazines and the best views money can buy.
The club lounge is at its best in the evening, when the city lights come alive. The wrap-around balcony offers many vantage points of the harbour and the surrounding skyscrapers. On one side I can see the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens, the Conservatorium of Music, Kings Cross and beyond, and Renzo Piano's Bank of Scotland building. On the other side, I can see the city's glass skyscrapers reflecting the harbour lights. Perched under the electric blue "InterContinental" sign, I order a Frangelico on the rocks with lime and slump in my wooden chair.
It's here where you will brush shoulders with an interesting mix of people, including the occasional celebrity. To our left we see a group of colourfully dressed African women and later learn they're doing a site inspection for a member of Zambia's royal family. We're also told that Oprah Winfrey, George W. Bush and boyband One Direction all stayed in club suites. On the day when teenage girls discovered the British pop group were staying at the InterCon, occupancy rates shot up by 10 percent, with mothers booking rooms for their daughters in the hope of bumping into Harry or Zayn.
No such luck, the boys' schedules were tight. That, and the fact that the InterCon was chosen for the privacy it offers celebrities, including discrete entrances, erected false walls and secret passages formerly used to store gold in the old Treasury Building. Sneaky.
Sunset swoon: The club lounge terrace at its best.
Exclusivity isn't always an upshot, though. Club InterCon guests are allowed the privilege of a "deluxe breakfast" in the private lounge. While beautifully sunny and private, the breakfast here is quite limited compared to Café Opera downstairs, obviously because transporting the vast range of food from the bottom to the top of the hotel is time-consuming and expensive.
Still, with proper tables and chairs, more staff, a buzzing atmosphere, and greater hot offerings, Café Opera is one indulgence even non-Club guests can truly savour.
The hotel restaurant is also worth recommending for its superior seafood buffet at dinnertime. If you want nothing but the freshest king crab, lobster, prawns and oysters, this is the best in Sydney. And the dessert section, often packed with tarts, macarons, cakes and gelato, gives Adriano Zumbo a run for his money.
For other dinner recommendations, I chat to the hotel's chief concierge David Patt, who prides himself on going out of his way for both club and non-club guests (this is the guy who scored Beyoncé and Jay-Z a yacht with 30 minutes' notice).
Patt is a member of the elite Les Clefs d'Or Australia, the 39-member-strong association of leading concierge in Australia, who exchange ideas and call on favours of each other to achieve the best for their respective guests. His concierge team are well-versed in Sydney events and dining; just chatting to David I could tell he knew the area's restaurants inside out.
Is the club worth it?
Club InterContinental guest rooms start from $450 per night, including access to the Club Lounge and the other aforementioned benefits. Compare that to an overnight stay in a superior city-side room, which starts from $295 a night.
While the club rooms could be more modern, the overall experience is top-notch. If you're lucky enough to get a harbour view (or put in a request for one), it's a stunning way to experience Sydney like a star. The club lounge really seals the deal, offering incredible vantage points of the harbour and city, faultless service, and the exciting possibility of spotting a celebrity, gazing at a yacht or simply splurging on the person you love the most.
Bedroom bliss: A club room with a view.
For more information
Rates quoted are subject to availability, terms and conditions apply. For more information, call 1800 781 066 or visit www.sydney.intercontinental.com.
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