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Review: Ace Hotel Sydney

The focus on both the creative and First Nation communities of Sydney place this designer outpost of Ace above the rest.
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Image may contain: Flooring, Lobby, Room, Indoors, Living Room, Wood, Building, Rug, Housing, Floor, Furniture, and CouchImage may contain: Room, Bedroom, Indoors, Living Room, Dorm Room, Furniture, and FlooringImage may contain: Interior Design, Indoors, Shelf, and ShopImage may contain: Room, Bedroom, Indoors, Dorm Room, Furniture, Living Room, and BedImage may contain: Flooring, Furniture, Floor, Wood, Chair, Couch, Room, Indoors, and Hardwood
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Why book? The focus on both the creative and First Nation communities of Sydney places this high-design newbie from Ace above the rest.

Set the scene There is a fair amount of cachet that comes with Surry Hills, long the creative hub of Sydney’s inner suburbs. The Ace is at home amongst the coffee shops and galleries that make the neighborhood a draw for the whole city. Tattooed creatives already flock to Brooklyn Boy Bagels and will no doubt be back for the opening of the anticipated rooftop restaurant, Kiln, and its adjoining cafe, Good Chemistry. In the lobby bar, an older group in rock band tees chat to the backdrop of the DJ in the window which helps keep the cool kids streaming through, all while bellhops in red coats attend to a steady stream of check-ins and check-outs.

The backstory Even the enfant terrible of hotels has to grow up. With more attention on design, fine art, and the finer details, Ace Hotel Sydney shows the brand aging gracefully alongside its core, early clientele of 23 years ago when it started in Seattle in 1999. Ace is promoting ideas that are newish to the Australian hotel scene by luring the broader community in with music, artist residencies, talks, workshop activations in the adjoining alleyway (known locally as the laneway), and Pride parties on the cards—Sydney is the capital of Gay pride for Australia. The hotel has partnered with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman, Nina Fitzgerald, of social innovation agency, The Impact Lab, to manage a First Nations’ artist-in-residence program. Lobby Bar features several of Girramay, Yidindji, and Kuku Yalanji artist Tony Albert’s iconic Aboriginalia ashtray series while, elsewhere, keen art eyes will spy sizable works from other boundary-pushing artists.

The rooms Ace is located inside a former brick factory, called Tyne house, and design firm Flack Studios have been careful to pull its history into its present iteration. Rooms have terra cotta tile floors and muted colors like ochre-orange, forest green, rich maroon, and mustard throughout. The palette is retro but helps create a warm, natural space. The molded concrete walls have the knotted tangibility of timber, and red and gray marble mottles the stairwell, the bar, and the kitchen bench tops in select rooms. Everything is made exclusively for the hotel from name brands including the looped woolen yarn blankets by New Zealand’s Stansborough, and the long linen robes by the Byron Bay-based Deiji Studios (bonus—it’s all for sale). Records for the turntables come courtesy of taste-making Melbourne label Efficient Space while suites even have D’Angelico guitars. Don’t hold back on your late-night jam session—walls are made with the same straw paneling commonly used as soundproofing in recording studios. Rates from $150 per night.

Food and drink  The yet-to-open wood-fired restaurant, Kiln, will be helmed by chef Mitch Orr who’s known for his Japanese and South East Asian flavors. The rooftop restaurant has 360 views of downtown Sydney—not the typical water views chased after in this city—which lends a nice, on-brand urban edge. On the ground floor, LOAM does classic Aussie breakfasts (avo toast, excellent coffee). Later in the day, pair good beer with Bloody Mary-salted fries and a cheese-and-kimchi toasted sandwich. The natural wine list is not to be missed either.

The neighborhood Once, the iconic terrace houses of Surry Hills (you’ll see a row of them out your window on the building’s east-facing side) brimmed with bohemian art school students and graphic design studio grunge but, these days, the area’s prices are better suited to stylish young families working in the corporate world. Despite its gentrification, the neighborhood has kept its individualistic creative spirit. This part of Surry Hills borders downtown Sydney so you can walk to landmarks such as the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Museum of Contemporary Art, and the ferry wharves. But you don’t need to roam that far. Main artery Crown Street is packed with pubs, bars, clubs, and great eateries. Walk the strip; see what appeals. There’s also theater (Belvoir Street), film (Golden Age), art (White Rabbit, China Heights, and Brett Whiteley’s studio), vintage shopping, music stores, and famous gelato joints (Messina). The Ace is very close to the legendary pub venue, Hollywood Hotel, and restaurants such as Chin Chin (South East Asian), Longrain (Thai), and Shwarmama (Middle Eastern) as well. In other words, you are right where you want to be. Good thing too, as Sydney has a really limited public transport system though Uber can get you everywhere.

The service  In typical Ace fashion, service from the bellhops to the general manager who may just swing past your breakfast table to see how it’s going is easy, cheery, and attentive which vibes nicely with Australia’s trademark friendliness. Just don’t count on this being the concierge who will score you the hardest table in town to book for dinner. They are more likely to give you something far more valuable—the best bars and coffee spots locals actually go to themselves.

For families  Totally possible, though better for children by day as it gets pretty boozy by night. Families who want separate rooms should ask about the corner suites which are separated into two rooms. The bar menu has kid-friendly food—just beware the adult flourishes such as Bloody Mary salt or kimchi. Older kids can exercise in the gym, while the sound-proofed rooms mean littler kids can be noisy without bothering other guests. Ask a bellhop to remove the minibar condom, alcohol, and sugary snacks (there are a lot) from your room if they’ll cause friction.

Eco effort The usual stuff: No plastic bottles in the room, towels and (organic cotton) sheets changed only if you signal for it, reverse cycle air-con that can be switched off to sleep, and a master key slot by the door so the power shuts down when you leave. Does it count that in one of the smaller rooms we legit couldn’t find the light for our shower cubicle so we lathered up in the dark?

Accessibility Fully accessible and given a *chef’s kiss* in an early stay by Paralympian, 2022 Australian of the Year, and massive hottie Dylan Alcott. 

Anything left to mention? The hotel is an eight-minute walk from Central station. Train and Ubers are best because self-parking is a five-minute walk away at 175 Liverpool Street and will cost $50 a day, even with hotel validation. Both in-room dining and in-room coffee were pending when I stayed and (for me) the latter was a bit of a trial. If you can get up and groomed without a caffeine hit, Single Origin on Reservoir Street is amazing and serves pour-over, cold brew, and espresso—as well as authentic Portuguese tarts. It’s in a laneway too; an exciting glimpse into the future for Good Chemistry, which will have beer and wine on tap, too. 

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