Upon our recent trip to Sydney, my boyfriend and I had the pleasure of staying at the historic Harbour Rocks Hotel in the heart of the city.
The hotel is part of the MGallery Collection — a group of over 75 Sofitel hotels around the world that have been chosen for their historic character and luxurious boutique design. Each location also hosts a particular Memorable Moment that is inspired by the local culture and setting. At the Harbour Rocks, guests have the option of booking a three-course dinner held under the stars on a private balcony overlooking the Sydney Harbour and Sydney Opera House, while being serenaded by a string quartet. This package was designed to celebrate the hotel’s unique location in one of the oldest parts of the city, called The Rocks.
Upon our arrival, we could immediately feel the sense of history emanating from the exposed brick and stone walls that are visible throughout the building. Over 200 years ago, the area was the city centre of the newly established penal Colony of New South Wales. The remnants of that time period are marked by cobblestone streets and heritage architecture that is visible throughout The Rocks.
As the settlement evolved into a vibrant port city, its first hospital was established in the central area. In 1916, the hospital was relocated and the site became a quarry for the next 70 years. Around 1886, a local lawyer by the name of George Evans purchased the land and converted it into a series of stores in the Victorian Italianate Style. During the next century, the structure became a gallery and then a hotel. Now, this chameleon-of-a-structure gracing the sidewalk of Harrington Street is known as the Harbour Rocks Hotel.
We arrived late in the evening, so the hotel was quiet. Several elegant ladies were relaxing on the couches in the lobby, which doubles as a cozy living room-style space where guests are encouraged to spend time with a book picked from the adjacent wall-length bookshelf.
A lovely young woman quickly checked us in and after only a few minutes of chit chat made us feel right at home.
We stayed in the Heritage Queen Room from which we could see the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The room was spacious with a large modern bed, TV, desk, armoire and a stylish leather chair in the corner. The décor was burnt orange, and lights were dim with a warm glow highlighting the bed.
Wanting to fully enjoy the ambiance of the room, we put on the terrycloth robes hanging in the closet and opened a bottle of wine to pair with the latest episode of our favourite Netflix show. I had noticed the carefully chosen selection of snacks in the room like sea salt popcorn and organic cola, and decided to try the organic dark cocoa and coconut nectar chocolate bar to go with the wine. It was absolutely delightful!
Thinking that the quiet midnight hour would be the perfect opportunity to take some unobstructed shots of the hotel lobby, I went downstairs. I was pleasantly surprised to find a new but equally friendly receptionist, in conversation with a couple of staff members enjoying some after-hours’ drinks at the bar. They quickly struck up a conversation with me and poured me a complimentary glass of delicious white wine, so that I could join them. I was so distracted by the great time I was having that I completely forgot the hour, until eventually my boyfriend came down looking for me having feared that I had naively walked out on the streets to take pictures and had somehow gotten lost. The encounter with the very friendly and hospitable staff made me forget all the stress of the long day and, for me, this was one of the highlights of our stay.
The next morning, we had a big decision ahead of us: where to head for breakfast. Luckily, the Harbour Rocks Hotel offers a variety of options.
Scarlett Restaurant is located past Eric’s Bar and down a set of stairs. It has a warm atmosphere, with antique stone walls and modern white and brown furniture. The heritage theme continues here with various accents, such as the century-old brass fire extinguisher hanging in the corner. For breakfast, it offers a selection of à la carte menu items, as well as a continental buffet.
If you prefer to start the day by enjoying a coffee outside, the hotel has a lovely Garden Terrace overlooking the historic Nurses Walk. It’s an intimate but bright space, decorated with a wall of greenery and architectural orb-like light fixtures that hang from the ceiling.
For our breakfast, we chose the adjoining Creperie Suzette. I had been there once before with a friend visiting from Canada. We came across it by chance and, in fact, had no idea that it was owned by the hotel. As we had both previously lived in francophone Montréal, we had very high expectations for crepes and were not expecting to be impressed by the Australian version. Nonetheless, Creperie Suzette blew us away!
The restaurant has a simple menu of seven sweet crepes and seven savoury galettes, along with a variety of coffees and drinks. The options encompass both traditional flavours such as la sucre et citron with fresh lemon juice and sugar, as well as modern twists like la biquette with goat cheese, fresh pesto, vine-ripened tomatoes and rocket. The commitment to authenticity is noticeable everywhere, from the crepes made on machines imported from France, to the French-speaking man making them, to the picturesque vintage décor of the cafe.
I’m glad to say that my second visit to the Creperie Suzette was just a delicious as the first. Also, since the galettes were made from buckwheat flour, my boyfriend who is gluten-free was also able to enjoy them.
We also later enjoyed complimentary brownie and homemade strawberry-flavoured iced tea offered to all guests. After checking out, we left luggage safely at the hotel, and quickly discovered the convenience of The Rocks location, as we were able to go to view the Tatsuo Miyajima exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, take the ferry to the scenic Watson’s Bay and attend the A Flea in Her Ear play at the Sydney Opera House, all within a few minutes’ walk from the hotel.
Staying at the Harbour Rocks Hotel had been one of the best parts of our trip, and we can’t wait to return to Sydney again soon!