I was initially a little skeptical when booking into a hotel in Kings Cross. The area has a somewhat insalubrious reputation, and with a fair bit of luggage I thought it might be a pain to get to during a rainy spring patch of weather.
But after checking into it I discovered that the Holiday Inn Potts Point is one of the more convenient hotels in Sydney for public transport: the hotel sits immediately above Kings Cross train station, and the lift from the station is right outside the front door.
So I was keen to figure out whether the hotel's location -- let's call it vibrant and urban -- would be a plus or a minus.
Location & Impressions
You can't get much more central in Kings Cross than the hotel. Located on Victoria Street above Kings Cross train station, it's remarkably convenient for getting to just about all of Sydney.
On the outside, it's fair to say that the hotel is a nondescript concrete block, but the bright, glassy lobby and friendly check-in staff had me heading up in the lift (with a busload of Virgin Australia crewmembers, who use the hotel as a stopover in Sydney) in no time at all.
Once upstairs, I was a little bemused by the very, very beige corridors, which had me thinking I was back in the 1980s. They'd obviously been newly repainted, because they were clean and scratchless…but who paints a corridor two-tone beige these days?
During my two-day stay I headed out into Kings Cross several times, and the slightly dangerous edge the area once had has been polished off, although a fair bit of the seediness is still there. All in all, the location's a plus rather than a minus.
(The hotel also offered to store my luggage on departure, which was absolutely ideal since I had a meeting in town. Top marks for convenience.)
I was pretty impressed by the room, which was a reasonable size and well set up for working. The eighth floor Harbourview room's view, though, was spectactular: the full stretch of Sydney's CBD across the Domain and the Botanic Gardens down to the Harbour.
The king-sized bed was very comfortable, with the 2009-revamp Holiday Inn standard mattress pad giving a bit of a luxurious feel when in bed.
I also appreciated firm or soft pillows on the bed -- marked with a small tag -- and additional pillow options from the pillow menu. Note that the menu is somewhat hidden, and appears halfway through the hotel instruction book.
The V-shaped pillows from the menu were particularly comfy for reading in bed or for watching the decent flatscreen TV, which had a good selection of channels.
The bathroom had a shower over the tub, with a moveable spray head that was set properly high. I'm over six feet, and the number of hotel bathrooms where the head comes halfway up my back...
Toiletries were the standard Holiday Inn set, which do the job but aren't all that great. Top marks for having a shoe sponge and the "things you might have forgotten" like toothpaste and a razor in the bathroom already, rather than having to ring down for them.
Top marks for a decent-sized wardrobe that fit even a large suitcase, and for an empty fridge with a "we'll fill your minibar if you like" instead the usual minibar offerings.
I found the working setup well above average for a mid-point hotel. The large desk was a comfortable height, and the chair was supportive enough for a few hours' work.
Working on the small coffee table next to the armchair was also quite comfortable, although I did need to prop my laptop on a pillow (with the coffee table book insulating it from getting too hot).
A major downside was the appalling Reivernet Internet connection, which is buggy and expensive $27.50 for 200MB at full speed (4Mbps down/1Mbps up: slow for the price) plus 800MB at a crawl.
Of course, you can pay about $75 for that 800MB at full speed on a per-megabyte connection, which is an absolute rort. And that 800MB is your limit: over 1GB and you'll have to buy another $27.50 block.
You're disconnected whenever you pass the 200MB or 800MB limit, too, and all of your active tabs are redirected to the portal page, with no way to get back to the page you were on.
That 800MB barrier means there's absolutely no way to download, say, a movie from iTunes in one shot either.
It doesn't work consistently across devices, either, and since just about everyone travels with at least two web-capable bits of tech, that's a problem.
Hotels need to realise that systems like this that fleece guests who want to get online -- a basic need these days -- are a real turn-off for business travellers who need convenient, reasonably priced Internet access.
The room wasn't especially well provisioned with power points: really only two at the desk that are accessible, plus one underneath the bedside table on one side of the bed. You can unplug the TV if you need to, but that shouldn't be necessary.
Downstairs is the Sirocco bar and restaurant, which is also where you have breakfast.
Sirocco as a pan-Mediterranean restaurant concept was actually developed in this hotel, I learnt, and the food -- both in the restaurant and delivered as room service -- is well above average for a mid-range hotel. Top marks.
Breakfast, too, was a pleasant surprise. The highlight was a freshly cooked egg station that had really interesting omelette options: not just ham, onion, capsicum and so on, but more upmarket selections like chorizo, feta, spinach, salmon and so on, with several suggested combinations.
And, of course, it's Kings Cross, so there's a wealth of dining options on the doorstep, plus a supermarket in the centre across the road.
With a view like this one, you'll want to hang out in the room for sunset: it's just spectacular.
When I saw the armchair provided I initially thought that it wouldn't be especially comfortable, but I was pleasantly surprised: a deep springy cushion meant it was just the right height to sit and admire the view.
A decent gym is on the first floor, which is well-equipped with several cardio machines and a weights system. If you want something more, just across the road is the Potts Point branch of Fitness First.
Laundry may not be on your list of relaxing things to do, but it's good to know that the hotel has a coin-operated guest laundry downstairs, with washers, dryers and free detergent. Ideal if you're on one leg of a multi-stage business trip and need to get things cleaned without paying hotel laundry prices.
Overall, the Holiday Inn Sydney Potts Point well exceeded my expectations.
The convenient location, great view, well thought-out extras and upmarket touches are a definite draw, with the rip-off Internet system and not enough power points the only real minuses.
But what really made the hotel great was the friendly, helpful and knowledgeable staff, who know the area back to front and can direct you to exactly what you need.
The hotel is definitely on my list of hotels to consider when I'm next in Sydney -- though I'll bring my own Internet connection.