The Circular Quay end of Sydney's CBD is well-placed for the upmarket business traveller: several of Sydney's top hotels are in the area, there's plenty to do after work and it's easy to get to from the airport.
Sydney's InterContinental is a 30-storey concrete block rising from the centre of the restored 1851 heritage Treasury building. I was keen to see whether it matched up to other InterContinentals I've stayed at recently and how it ranked compared with Sydney's other top-notch hotels.
Location & Impressions
Sydney's InterContinental is just over a hundred metres away from Circular Quay, convenient for a good part of the CBD and convenient for public transport. (map)
The official entrance is on Macquarie Street, just across from the Conservatorium, but there's also a door on the corner of Phillip and Bridge Streets.
Arriving by taxi, I checked in at the lobby even though I had Club InterContinental access and could have checked in there. While the option of checking in at the rooftop club -- with its panoramic views of the Harbour and CBD -- is a great option if the lobby is busy, there's not a lot of point in going up to the top floor, changing lift to the Club, and then coming back downstairs to your room if there are no queues at the lobby.
The lobby itself is as classy as you'd expect from an InterContinental, with the added bonus of being inside a heritage building: the concrete hotel rises out of the shell of interesting sandstone arcades, and the Cortile Lounge sits in the light and airy atrium that's part of the design.
My King Club Eastern Harbour View room was well-appointed in swathes of tan, dark wood and burgundy, though it was on the small size when compared with other InterContinentals I've stayed in.
The king-sized bed was comfortable, but had only a thin mattress pad -- not quite as luxurious as other InterContinentals I've stayed at recently, nor even the new Holiday Inn beds. With competition at this end of the business travel market from the Sofitel and the Four Seasons, it's surprising that this isn't a hotel you come to for the beds.
Top marks for places to sit, though. A cushioned window seat overlooked the Conservatorium and the botanic gardens towards Woolloomooloo, and a very comfortable chaise longue and a squashy round ottoman were great for putting my feet up with a book.
The bathroom was small, however, with a short tub and only a shower head -- no detachable spray wand. Frustratingly, the controls for the shower were fiddly, with just a tiny window between "needles of ice" and "scaldingly hot".
That said, the toiletries were top-notch, with plenty of my favourite Elemis brand in small bottles.
The room was a little short on power points away from the desk: although most cables will stretch from the desk so you can charge your phone by the bed.
Although the iHome iPod docking station has reasonable sound for a small unit, it isn't iPhone comptatible, so you can't use that either.
All in all, while the room was comfortable, it had a few significant minuses (Internet, shower, power points) and no real wow factor. I think business travellers have come to expect better from the InterContinental brand.
There were too many assorted hotel signs and leaflets neatly arranged on the desk for my liking, but the work space was a good size and with a comfortable chair supportive enough for a full day's work.
Four power points near the desk were a welcome bonus.
The Internet situation in the room was poor, however. On the one hand, the wired connection was fast -- 17Mbps down and 20Mbps up -- but there was no in-room wifi. The wired connection cost $25 for 24 hours, but the cable didn't reach as far as the bed.
In 2011, when laptop manufacturers are moving away from Ethernet ports and people want to connect via their phones and tablets, that's pretty unacceptable for an upmarket hotel.
So bring your wireless router with you if you have one, or get online upstairs in the Club InterContinental, which was slower -- 5Mbps up and down -- but was free and easy to use.
I had dinner at Café Opera in the hotel, which was absolutely superb. There's an interesting dégustation menu and a wide range of options à la carte as well.
I enjoyed a superb langoustine soup and an excellent piece of lamb, which went together very well indeed with the wines my waiter recommended.
Twilight drinks during the evening at the Club InterContinental are a real draw, with a plate of four different and delicious freshly-cooked tapas style canapés and some decent wine. (The sparkling wines on offer, $15 Bimbadgen Hunter Valley Sémillon or Rosé, aren't up to the standards of the well-chosen whites and reds, so stick to those.)
Breakfast upstairs in the Club InterContinental was also very good, with a good variety of hot and cold food served buffet-style. The Club staff were attentive and on the ball, keeping me well-fuelled with decent coffee.
With a variety of comfortable seating options in the room, a nice view and an iPod docking station, it's one of the better hotels for options to put your feet up and chill out.
But the Club InterContinental is a real draw. With glass walls, a roof deck and a panoramic Harbour view, it's absolutely the draw for the hotel.
It's a shame, though, that the staff don't feel able to ask other guests to behave appropriately: a couple in sportswear were on their phones all evening, including obnoxiously loud ringtones, while another couple were watching something out loud on their iPad, which was audible right across the lounge. When a group of guests is disturbing everyone else's quiet evening, someone should say or do something.
One floor below the Club, there's a small indoor pool, plus a surprisingly large and very well-equipped gym with everything you'll need for a decent workout.
The InterContinental Sydney isn't a hotel I'd come to again for the room, which was only okay for its price bracket, though the chair and desk for working were above average.
But the services -- an excellent gym, a decent pool, a superb restaurant and the excellent Club InterContinental -- are what really makes the hotel.
The Club in particular is the biggest draw for me: the views are phenomenal, the service is great, and (despite Sartre's bon mot, "hell is other people") it's a fantastic place to work, relax or meet.
Our reporter was a guest of the hotel.