Review: The InterContinental Sydney


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There are two InterContinental properties in Sydney but with the InterContinental Sydney Double Bay being the less central of the two properties, it was a straightforward decision to choose the InterContinental Sydney as our second hotel on this visit to the city (the first was the Sydney Harbour Marriott).

InterContinental Sydney

The Cost

I booked this property at a time when the free night certificates that come with a couple of the Chase IHG Rewards credit cards were still valid for any property worldwide (they’re restricted to properties costing 40,000 points/night now), and when it was possible to make a booking for a stay past the certificates’ expiration dates.

This four-night stay cost 2 Chase free night certificates…

…and 120,000 IHG Rewards points (60,000 per night).

With my Chase IHG credit card costing me $49/year, this stay essentially cost $98 + 120,000 IHG Rewards points.

The Location

The InterContinental Sydney is located between Sydney’s beautiful Botanical Gardens and Circular Quay, so it’s well-positioned for anyone looking to explore the city.

InterContinental Sydney Location

One thing that’s worth noting is that the property sits on a hill which rises up sharply from Circular Quay – if you’re not fully mobile the very short (but steep) walk from Circular Quay to the property may be an issue.

Arrival/Check-in

We arrived at the property at a little past 3pm and the first impression offered wasn’t great – there was no one manning the elite check-in desk and there appeared to be too few staff members available to deal with the number of guests wanting to check-in/check-out.

InterContinental Sydney

Eventually more staff arrived and we were checked in by a smiling and pleasant front desk agent.

My InterContinental Ambassador status was acknowledged, and I was careful to ask the staff member to make a note of our request for a 4pm check-out so that there were issues when the time came for us to leave.

It was explained to me that, as this was a points/award booking, a room upgrade could not be offered and so we would not have access to the InterContinental Lounge (and complimentary breakfast) on the top floor.

None of this was an issue as none of this was news to me, but it does shine a bright light on just how limited the benefits of IHG Rewards status (I have mid-tier Platinum status) and InterContinental Ambassador status are.

Still, to the hotel’s credit, we were offered our choice of rooms (out of 2) and we made sure we chose the room as far away as possible from the significant building works going on just outside the property.

King Cityside View Room

Our room was located on the hotel’s 17th floor and was far enough from the floor’s main elevator lobby to mean that we missed out on the noise that elevator lobbies generate but not so far that a walk to the elevator could be classified as a work-out of its own.

InterContinental Sydney

First impressions of the room were positive as it was bathed in sunlight and was quite obviously a reasonable size.

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

There is a small hallway between the door and the main part of the room (as there is in most hotels) and the king-size bed is surrounded by a work desk and a chaise longue…

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room
InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room
InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room
InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room
InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

…and a cushioned bench under the window.

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

In this particular room, the view out of the window looked south towards the rest of downtown Sydney, but it was high enough up in the InterContinental to ensure that it wasn’t overlooked.

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room
InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

Both sides of the bed have various light and blind controls…

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room
InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

…but the room lets itself down with a distinct lack of power outlets.

There were no power outlets by either bedside, so the only useable outlets were by the desk…and two of these were taken up by a light and the in-room alarm clock (which were both quickly disconnected!).

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

The room has a reasonably sized closet with all the usual amenities…

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room
InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

…and an in-room safe which looks like it dates back to the ’80s!

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

With a little bit of innovative positioning, the safe will take a 15” MacBook…but that’s at the very limit of what will fit inside.

The age of the safe drew my attention to a few other things in the room, and it turns out that it isn’t the only thing that looks like it’s from another decade.

The room’s TV is certainly not a recent addition…

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

…and aspects of the bathroom are definitely a throwback to times gone by.

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room
InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

The cover to the power outlets and switches could be from the 1960s…

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

…and although the bath and shower fittings may be newer than their design would suggest, they’re certainly not contemporary.

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room
InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

On a more positive note, there were plenty of useful toiletries and amenities on hand…

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room
InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

…and there’s a narrow vertical panel that can be opened (between the bathroom and the sleeping area) to allow in some natural light if/when required.

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

Back inside the main area of the room, there are tea and coffee making facilities together with a selection of over-priced snacks on top of a cabinet…

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room
InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

…which itself holds the mini-bar and some mugs and saucers.

InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room
InterContinental Sydney – King Superior Cityside Room

Overall, the room is a good size and the bed is comfortable but the overall feel that it gives off is one of being dated.

As you’ll see a little later in this review, the public areas of the property combine the beautiful inner architecture of the building with a contemporary feel and décor, but the rooms just feel like they’re a little out of date.

Dining

The InterContinental Sydney has a number of dining options (outside of the InterContinental Lounge) and all are, more or less built around the property’s impressive and beautiful central atrium which is over 3 levels high.

InterContinental Sydney- Dining Options

On the ground level and right at the heart of the atrium is a bar/informal dining area called “The Cortile” which is open between 07:30 and 22:30 daily and serves “all day light dining” as well as the usual mix of wines, beers, and cocktails.

InterContinental Sydney- Dining Options
InterContinental Sydney- Dining Options
InterContinental Sydney- Dining Options

A few yards from The Cortile is one of the hotel’s two main restaurants called “The Meat & Wine Co.”

As the name suggests, this is a steakhouse (primarily) with a pretty good wine list, and its small bar area and subdued lighting make the establishment feel a lot more intimate than its size may suggest (it’s a lot bigger than you realize when you first walk in).

InterContinental Sydney- Dining Options
InterContinental Sydney- Dining Options
InterContinental Sydney- Dining Options
Click to enlarge

On the first level of the property (still adjacent to the atrium) is “Café Opera”, the second of the InterContinental’s two main restaurants, and which is open between 06:30 and 10:30 and 12:00 and 22:00.

InterContinental Sydney- Dining Options
InterContinental Sydney- Dining Options
InterContinental Sydney- Dining Options

This is where breakfast is served and where, in the evenings, you can enjoy an “international buffet of seasonal produce”.

All three of the dining establishments make good use of the building’s beautiful interior architecture with the Meat & Wine Co. making the most of the vault-like feeling of this one-time Treasury building while the Cortile and Opera make the most of the amazing central atrium and the abundant light that it allows in.

Unlike the rooms at the InterContinental, the dining establishments do a great job of marrying the older feel of the architecture with a modern and contemporary feel.

Club InterContinental

Club InterContinental is the property’s version of what a lot of other hotels call the Executive Lounge except that Club InterContinental is harder to get into.

Top-tier IHG status (Spire) doesn’t grant access to Club Intercontinental and neither does InterContinental’s Ambassador status.

To access the lounge you have to either…:

  • Have invitation-only Royal Ambassador status
  • Be booked into a room which comes with access to the lounge or
  • Pay for lounge access on a day-by-day basis at the property*

*With access to the lounge costing over $150 per day per room, guests will almost always be better off paying extra for a room that comes with Club InterContinental access rather than paying for access on a day-by-day basis.

The lounge is situated on the 31st (and top) floor of the property…

InterContinental Sydney- Club InterContinental

…and offers a variety of services throughout the day:

Click to enlarge

The lounge has an evening dress code and restricts access to ages 12 and over after 5pm…

InterContinental Sydney- Club InterContinental

…and is open between 06:30 and 22:00.

InterContinental Sydney- Club InterContinental

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I didn’t have access to the lounge on this visit but the property kindly allowed me a brief look inside (it was very nice) and I got to see the small deck attached to the lounge…

InterContinental Sydney- Club InterContinental

…and the truly fantastic view the lounge has of Sydney Harbour.

InterContinental Sydney- Club InterContinental

The Gym

The “Odyssey Health Club & Spa” at the InterContinental Sydney is located next door to the Club InterContinental on the property’s 31st floor.

InterContinental Sydney- Gym

As hotel gyms go, this one is pretty well equipped, and with access available 24/7 this could be a great place to work off any jet-lag.

InterContinental Sydney- Gym
InterContinental Sydney- Gym
InterContinental Sydney- Gym
InterContinental Sydney- Gym
InterContinental Sydney- Gym
InterContinental Sydney- Gym
InterContinental Sydney- Gym

As well as offering all the usual Spa treatments the Odyssey also has a small indoor pool which overlooks sections of Sydney Harbour, but I don’t have any images to share as I find that people using a pool generally frown on strangers taking pictures of them as they swim 🙂

Check-out

Check-out didn’t involve the same kind of wait-time as check-in, but it was far from a smooth experience.

The first issue that I noticed was that the property hadn’t applied my InterContinental Ambassador food and drinks credit to the bill (AU$25) and then, after that issue was eventually rectified, I noticed that the front desk had charged my credit card in US Dollars rather than local currency without letting me know (you get a terrible exchange rate when this happens).

Having the transaction reversed and then reapplied in Aussie Dollars was apparently far from straightforward and it took 20+ minutes and the intervention of two other members of staff before it was all finally sorted out – not an impressive end to our stay.

Final Thoughts

Negatives:

  • The property can be slow to act when the number of people wanting to check-in/check-out starts to build up. As it’s not hard to work out when peak times are going to be, there’s no real excuse for this issue.
  • The rooms feel a little dated and, at a supposed higher-end property such as this one, that’s not good.
  • It shouldn’t be up to guests to ensure that any credits due to them are properly applied (it should be automatic).
  • There’s no excuse for billing a guest in a currency other than local currency without letting them know first. Considering what a terrible exchange rate is applied this is a big fail.
  • The lack of power outlets on either side of the bed is something that needs to be addressed.

Positives:

  • The location is very good (but take note of my warning about the steepness of the hill upon which the property sits)
  • The older part of the building is beautiful (especially on the inside) and the Cortile is a very nice place to have a few pre-dinner drinks.
  • The King Cityside rooms are a reasonable size and should be spacious enough for most people’s needs.
  • The Club InterContinental Lounge looks very nice and the views of the harbor that the lounge affords are simply spectacular – If I was to return (and if pricing wasn’t too bad) I’d book a room that gives access to the lounge just so I could enjoy the views.

Bottom Line

The rooms feel like they need a remodel and bringing up to date and that’s probably the biggest issue that I have with the InterContinental Sydney – it’s not a huge issue but it’s not a small one either.

It’s entirely possible to combine a beautiful older building with stylish modern rooms and if the property wants to be considered one of the better choices in Sydney that’s what it needs to do.

As always, the question that I come back to is “would I stay here again?” and the answer to that is “possibly”.

At the right price I’d stay here again because the location is good and, despite the occasional bit of incompetence, the staff are friendly too…but the nearby Sydney Harbour Marriott is better value and would still be my first choice when visiting Sydney next.

1 COMMENT

  1. You point out the big flaw in IHG award stays – NO status. As an Ambassador I have worked a two night stay with a paid 1st night w/ lounge access, then a free night cert. I’ve gotten either a upgrade to 1 bedroom suite with supplemental for 2nd night Club access or no upgrade but no Club supplemental for 2nd night

    The Club is Fabulous Great views and great food selection with a friendly staff!

    I’d stay again!

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