Airports and hotels can go through complete transformations and emerge as just right for today. That is certainly what the gal experienced on arriving back in Sydney. Instead of the long immigration lines of yore, this time the ePassport do-it-yourself kiosks, and having only handbaggage, meant it was a mere ten minutes from disembarking the plane to getting into the waiting car. And then, all the way in to what is now The Langham Sydney, driver Graham gave a running commentary on the forthcoming metro transport line, opening in ‘two weeks’, and the chaos getting ready for new tram lines, opening ‘whenever’. By the time we reached the hotel, a complete précis of Sydney and its economy and New South Wales and its politics had been shared.
What a transformation is being achieved, too, at the hotel. The Kent Street exterior remains but inside the 96-room hotel is barely recognisable from what was, before, The Observatory Hotel, ruled over by Orient-Express and its very-English onsite high commissioner, and local Justice of the Peace, Patrick Griffin. Great Eagle bought the building in 2012, gave it to its Langham division to manage, and now French globalist Gaylord Lamy is in charge. I arrived around 8 p.m., and I was immediately struck by how GA International has transformed the main floor public areas from floral-antiques to modern champagne sleekness (though I did miss the real Mont Blanc pens at one time provided for check-in). I went up to room 325, and ordered up dinner. My steak sandwich was an instant reminder that Australia has what I call ‘real breads’ equalled only by California’s.
Rooms still have their original, 1993-vintage heavy wood doors, now with proximity-pad access, but GA International’s interiors follow the champagne colour scheme, with the pale pink highlights that are the Langham signatures, from covers for room service and other collateral through to pens. The fitness, open from 7 a.m., and with its ongoing coterie of A List local members, has upgraded LifeFitness equipment, but the pictorial murals at the end of the adjacent indoor pool fortunately remain. The view across Kent Street is, of course, exactly the same as always (see the view from suite 325, above). The location is also the reason the new-look restaurant, designed by Wilson Associates and opening 1st August, will be called Kitchens on Kent.
Why kitchens-plural? Gaylord Lamy was like an excited pre-teen as he explained the new restaurant, which of course has an outside entrance, has six separate live cooking stations. Yes, there will be six chefs cooking at once. This will be the culmination of the transformation of what is now the gorgeous Langham Sydney. I must mention some ongoing features, both high points. First is chief concierge, a New Zealander, Michael Anderson, who went beyond the call of any duty in contacting 26 jewellers to see if anyone had ‘big bold plain gold’ earrings – none did. Next, the art is memorable, with several Sidney Nolans: pieces of the collection are continuously featured on a changing display between the two elevators, at ground floor level. A clever touch. AND HERE, BELOW, YOU HAVE ROOM 325