For travellers seeking the experience of a traditional boutique hotel but with the backing and security of a worldwide chain, look no further than the QT Sydney hotel – under the Global Hotel Alliance umbrella along with other well-known brands such as Rydges and Parkroyal.
While filled with quirks sure to please the under-30 crowd stopping by on a weekend away, we put the QT Sydney under the microscope from the perspective of a frequent business traveller: here's what we thought.
Location & Impressions
Situated on Market Street in the heart of Sydney's CBD, the QT hotel is close to Pitt Street Mall, the Queen Victoria Building and both the Town Hall and St. James train stations. Arriving at the hotel proved somewhat awkward – on stepping out of our car we were approached by a male wearing a casual blue shirt that didn't appear part of any recognisable uniform with an offer to have our bags sent to the room.
Given that the gent also wasn't wearing a name tag and had nothing to identify him as a hotel staffer, this could realistically have been anybody waiting on a busy Sydney street and looking to dash off with someone's luggage, so naturally the offer was declined, but we later verified that he was indeed an employee.
The female door staff, on the other hand, are much more visible with their signature red wigs and are quirkily hired as 'Directors of Chaos'... ... and once you make it upstairs, that new-age vibe continues with a funky lounge area open to all guests: The lifts also scream 'not your average hotel' with sensors counting how many people are inside which then adjusts the music accordingly. Solo riders may hear Me, Myself and I, duos can get Just the Two of Us while larger groups are treated to a more party-like atmosphere.
Two wings separate the hotel – some rooms are on the State Theatre side while others are on the Gowings side which requires climbing stairs from the lobby and taking a different lift when you arrive.
However, once checked in Gowings guests can come and go via this otherwise-unmarked door on Market Street using their hotel key card. Nobody told us, though – we only discovered the shortcut when later exploring the hotel. Credit card payments also attract a surcharge, but rather than a blanket 1.5% fee as you'd expect of every Accor, Hilton, IHG and Starwood hotel in Australia, the QT levies a whopping 3.5% for American Express and Diners Club, reserving the lower 1.5% for Visa and MasterCard.
Assuming a two-night stay at $400/night and without any additional food and beverage charges, that adds $28 to your final bill versus a lesser $12 at the standard 1.5% rate.
While credit card transactions can be costly to process, even the reception staff volunteer that 'everybody complains about it' – and frankly, we don't blame them.
This L-shaped QT Executive King room begins in a corridor with a mirror and coat hooks... ... opening out to reveal a modern room with suspended hats which double as desk lights... ... comfy chairs for kicking back with a good movie – all of which are surprisingly free on the hotel's in-house entertainment system... ... a bathroom with a separate shower and oversized bath... ... and which features sliding doors behind the sinks to welcome in natural light from the window opposite – helpful if you're shaving in the morning. That window provided a view atop the Queen Victoria Building... ... but if you'd prefer to watch TV you'll find a range of free-to-air and Foxtel channels at your disposal – all in HD where available – with the TV also packing in a neat video recorder. It's a great feature for business travellers and one we'd love to see in more hotels, as guests can simply hit 'record' on their favourite shows and catch up when it suits their schedule.
More low-tech is an adjustable bedside reading light... ... a music dock with a connector that only accommodates iDevices from the pre-2012 era and which didn't actually work when one was attached... ... and a small analogue clock which proved of no use during the night or early in the morning unless switching on the bedside light, and which also ticked rather loudly – tempting me to take a page from the book of Mr Bean... ... but instead moved it to the bathroom for the duration of the stay.
While there are bedside power outlets for your own gadgets, when the music dock doesn't play music and the clock doesn't tell the time when you're most likely to be looking at it, it's time to replace these with a single device that's up to the task.
With no business centre, travellers can instead make use of free WiFi which averaged downloads of 7.25mbps and uploads of just 0.58mbps during our visit: on-par with basic ADSL.
For faster speeds, plonking your laptop on the desk and connecting the Ethernet cable improves things considerably, taking the connection to an impressive 82.87mbps down and 92.27mbps up – what you'd otherwise expect of the most expensive NBN household fibre plans.
However, the supplied chair is far too low for the desk itself and isn't height adjustable. While it's hard to show in photographs, your hands are close to shoulder height when trying to type... ... but dragging over one of the room's (higher) ornamental stools solved the problem.
Our first taste of the hotel's food and beverage was at Parlour Lane Roasters on the ground floor – a café with casual dining – but on trying to order a late lunch at 2:55pm, was told that the kitchen had already closed despite the printed menu showing that food was available until 3:30pm.
Coffee was ordered instead, which the staff completely forgot about in favour of chatting among themselves, and when 'reminded' of the order after 20 minutes simply replied "I'll get on that and bring it out" with no apology, and which disappointingly came both bitter and burnt.
A more pleasing experience was had over dinner at Gowings Bar & Grill with tasty hot spanner crab cakes to start... ... a tender 250g steak au poivre for the main with steamed vegetables and mashed potato on the side... ... and a comprehensive cheese board for dessert: The restaurant is rather pricey – a dinner for two with wine came to $242 (plus credit card surcharge) – but joining the free Priority Guest Rewards program saves you 20% on the total bill when staying in-house, with the discount boosted to an impressive 50% for Black-tier cardholders.
Gowings is also the go-to for breakfast in the mornings (not discounted – nor is room service, mini-bar charges or buying drinks without food)... ... where everything comes à la carte rather than self-serve via a buffet: great if you're tired of the typical hotel-style scrambled eggs, sausages and bacon bits that seem to be the norm.
The coffee here proved more palatable than downstairs and the Eggs Rockefeller – a variant on Eggs Florentine but with caviar and on a brioche bun – came fresh and delicious, although the caviar didn't seem to overly-enhance what's otherwise a breakfast classic. Nespresso machines are also provided in the guestrooms and additional coffee pods can be collected from the front desk at no charge.
Have time to yourself? Head to The Barber Shop for a straight-edged razor shave, beard trim or haircut or to SpaQ for a relaxing massage. There's also a gym on the State Theatre side of the hotel, but which requires a separate key from reception, is poorly signed and is tucked away behind a fire door... ... and then up a flight of stairs: It's relatively basic yet with decent-enough machines to power through your workout... ... and if you'd like something more comprehensive or a little better-looking, guests can also stop by reception to collect a free single-use pass to the nearby Virgin Active gym.
On the whole, the QT Sydney is certainly a very nicely-designed hotel – gym excluded – but with numerous faults covering many aspects of the stay, they combine to significantly detract from the overall guest experience.
At a bare minimum, guests shouldn't need to reconfigure the furniture to properly make use of a room's desk, nor should they have to move appliances around to get a good night's sleep.
The eatery specialising in coffee and food should also pay more attention to the former and actually serve the latter during the printed kitchen hours – and if these have changed since the menus were created, it's time for a re-print.
On the plus side however, the Internet came lightning fast, the in-room TV offered free movies on-demand and the bed was most comfortable: three things that frequent travellers are sure to notice and appreciate.
Chris Chamberlin was a guest of the QT Sydney hotel
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