There’s something grand about Sydney’s newest and still largely unknown CBD hotel, Primus Hotel, from the minute you walk into the lobby. It feels like no other accommodation space in the city – reminiscent more of the well kept, classic hotels of London and New York, than the modern hotels that the city is used to seeing pop up. In the case of Primus, though they only opened last Christmas, they have positioned themselves in the heritage listed former Sydney Water building on Pitt Street – a stunning 1939 property they have embraced to produce a five star hotel with beautiful modern touches, while embracing an art deco sensibility.
The design was overseen by Woods Bagot – appointed by the hotel’s parent company Greenland Australia – who have done an amazing job of restoring the building to its former glory, while embracing the modern technologies you would expect from any five star hotel. In essence, they have renewed the space, and have made use of the building’s 1939 design to create unique room layouts – including some which curve with the building – a striking rooftop pool and bar and of course the lobby, with the room’s original partitions kept in place to form their restaurant, The Wilmot. The building’s original red soaked marble columns serve as the centre point of the design. Modern lighting features, which can be seen above the front desk, are some of the small touches that take this World War II era building into modernity and make you feel comfortable from the moment you check in.
I stayed in an Executive King room, which included a buffet breakfast at The Wilmot, and found the check in experience a painless one – the staff both friendly and accommodating. You could tell the room was new from the minute you walked in – it still had that fresh smell. The design of the room – from the carpet to the pillows on the couch, fit into an art deco inspired modern design – weighing towards the latter with a desk and a flat screen TV on the other side of the room. There’s a mini-bar, a Nespresso machine, and alongside the standard amenities there’s even a flashlight in the wardrobe that turns on automatically and charges in the wall. The windows don’t open – as is the case for all CBD hotels – but the adjustable air conditioning keeps the room more than comfortable.
The bed has been designed to cater for international tourists, ensuring it’s firm but comfortable, with fantastic pillows amazing and a comfortable doona to keep you warm at night. The flat screen TV serves as your information portal for the hotel, with a diverse dining menu accessible 24 hours a day and a customised welcome notice once you come in the room. There’s also a handy note to press the touch button for privacy if you want to be left alone, an approach that moves away from the usual “hang the note on the doorknob” situation.
In case just about everything in room is adjustable by touch buttons on the wall near the entrance and by your bed. It could be a bit finicky, however – for one reason or another it wasn’t possible to just turn on the side lamp. You had to have all the lights in the room on, or none. A bathroom nightlight that bled into the main room was a nice touch, as were the lights on the back of the TV that illuminated the wall like an artwork when the TV was turned on.
The large bathroom showcases the building’s rustic design at its best, with the red and white walls reminiscent of the Ace Hotel in New York, which had a similar approach of renewing an existing building to create a unique space in the heart of Manhattan. APPELLES Apothecary has supplied the high end soaps, body washes and shampoos you’ll find the in room, and the comfortable robes are must after a soak in the massive bathtub.
They offer 11am check out (it’s a plus for any traveller when the time is later than 10am), but they make it easy to ask for an extra hour – which you may want given the lap pool on the roof. By the time I checked in at 4pm the sun had already disappeared behind the buildings and it wasn’t nearly as nice as it was the next day when the sun was creeping through. Towels, showers and lockers and readily available on the roof in case you want to clean up before you head back to the room. The whole rooftop has a fantastic design, with a comfortable feeling to it, while you can order meals and drinks to pass the day away. We were even given some free snacks while we enjoyed a whiskey, which was most welcome.
Walking through the hotel literally feels like moving from past to present. Some areas are refurnished from the original design, while most hallways are given the modern feel that is passed on to the rooms – while the numbers on the door carry on the art deco sensibilities. Meanwhile, energy saving lights in hallways that dim until you walk through, showcase the best in current technology.
The inclusive breakfast buffet at The Wilmot in the lobby is exceptional, with outstanding hot and cold selections, fresh “design your own” juice station and egg chefs who will furnish you fresh omelettes or poached eggs. There are Hokkien noodles designed for the Asian guests – amongst more standard hot breakfast choices, including crispy bacon that should keep American visitors happy. And plenty of chili and sauces, of course. An impressive dried fruit selection with cereals and breads.
The hotel have a superb menu that runs through the day, with the Executive Chef behind the menu, Ryan Hong, also has introduced a High Tea (which you read more about HERE), which is available everyday between 3 and 5pm and runs between $45 and $65 depending on the selection of food and beverage. Look out for an performances from the Tinalley String Quartet alongside the high tea this weekend – Saturday May 14.
Born in Korean to European parents, Ryan Hong’s unique menu fuses Asian and European cuisine, with items such as as green tea and raspberry mousse cake and Peking duck pancakes featuring the menu. Hong is no stranger to the Sydney food scene either, having previously worked with Rockpool Bar and Grill, Black by Ezard and ABODE. The restaurant is open to hotel guests as well as visitors looking for a good meal – or a well positioned spot for a meeting. Located just around the corner from the George Street Event Cinemas and the Metro Theatre, the hotel finds itself very much in the heart of the CBD’s entertainment district.
All in all, the Primus has quickly positioned itself as one of the city’s finest hotels, taking on a stunning 1939 building and making it their own. With so many buildings being knocked down, or left to ruin, in this city, it’s great to see such care placed to renew such stunning architecture. You won’t have a hotel experience like this anywhere else in this city.
To book yourself a night at the hotel, and for more details about their High Tea and other experiences, head to their official website.
The writer stayed as a guest of the hotel. All photos by the author.