Aiden Darling Harbour
Superior King Room
- Sparkling and still water on tap
- Complimentary WiFi
- Limited all-day dining menu
- Work desk in room far too narrow
- Hand-painted murals in every room
- High quality interior finishes
Housed in a beautifully remodelled Art Deco building at the end of Pyrmont Bridge, Aiden Darling Harbour is one of Sydney’s newest boutique stays – an intimate 88-room hotel opened to a flurry of interest earlier this year.
History permeates every corner of the building, a 1930s former woolstore. There’s plenty of modern appeal too, like mobile check-in and free WiFi, hand-painted murals in each room, and a golden chandelier floating above its lobby bar and cafe.
A surprising fact to many, it’s also a Best Western Hotel – the first to sport the Aiden moniker – and it’s a breath of fresh air for the long-running brand. Read on for why.
Location & Impressions
Across the road from the Australian National Maritime Museum, on the Pyrmont end of the bridge, the family-owned hotel boasts a good location for business and a great one for leisure.
The smorgasbord of waterfront bars and restaurants lining Darling Harbour and Barangaroo are an easy stroll away, while The Star, Lyric Theatre and Sydney International Convention Centre are also just down the road.
That said, nearby transport options are quite limited: Pyrmont Bay ferry is three minutes walk, while Town Hall train station can be accessed in around 15 minutes. As a result, taxis or Ubers will probably be the most common transport options.
Paola, the ‘host’ as the Aiden’s staff are known, is also on hand to offer assistance and sign me up to its Best Western Rewards loyalty program (no pressure though), in addition to manning the Wayfarer cafe.
Discounted offsite parking is available for $40 per day at Wilson Parking Harbourside Car Park – this can be pre-paid when you make your hotel booking, or paid on check out.
Inspired by the travels of co-owner Nicholas Chen and his property developer father Frank, who both had a hands-on role in its design and interiors, Aiden Darling Harbour’s mantra is offering ‘everything a guest needs and nothing they don’t’. It certainly meets that mark.
Entering my Superior King – the second largest, below the Superior Balcony – there’s an open wardrobe with a pale blue-grey bench seat, ample hanging space and a steam iron, plus a couple of shelves and slippers. An in-room safe is hidden in a drawer.
In addition, there is a fridge, pod coffee machine and kettle, plus a variety of cups and glasses on the shelves above, but no minibar.
Instead, pre-made SYP cocktails are available at reception, with staff recommending guests visit the supermarket round the corner for other items.
As part of its green efforts, Aiden has removed most single-use items (pod coffee capsules are a notable exception). Two large glass bottles are provided in the fridge, with chilled still and sparkling water available from a MODA fountain in the hallway on every level.
Peering out the window, there’s a great view across the Maritime Museum to the city skyline.
Rounding the wardrobe, the rest of the room and its most striking feature comes into view: a mural behind the bed – hand painted by artist Jessica Le Clerc, who’s also behind the lobby art and a 25-metre atrium mural which many of the other rooms gaze out on.
A sapphire blue bed head and industrial-looking black lamps contrast the organic nature of the mural, guiding your eye down the king-size bed. At its foot is a low-set grey lounge facing the TV (casting functionality is a welcome addition) and narrow desk beneath it.
The bathroom feels surprisingly high-end, with a stone-look bench, smoky tapware and an oblong mirror with a brushed metal finish. In fact, the whole room is impeccably finished.
Once again limiting the single-use items, the ‘Rituals’ toiletries are supplied in full-size bottles designed to be left in the room. Bottles can be purchased, if you like.
A rain shower and handheld showerhead complete the picture.
Although only a four star, the quality throughout the room gives some five stars a run for their money.
Superior Rooms are the only category to include a desk, in addition to a swivel chair and stool.
However, a built-in shelf below the TV (which doesn’t appear to serve a purpose beyond aesthetics) severely impedes the useable space and my laptop barely fits.
Instead, I recommend venturing downstairs to use the lobby workbench. Power outlets are provided for guests settling in at the bench for an extended period.
There’s also a low coffee table and lounges nearby, ideal for informal meetings, or you can use the Wayfarers Cafe dining tables (also with powerpoints) lining the window.
Complimentary WiFi is provided throughout the hotel.
As part of the Best Western family, guests can enjoy exclusive rates and earn points and status through the Best Western Rewards loyalty program. A no catch status match is also available to elite members of competing programs.
Wayfarers Cafe serves a la carte breakfast from 6:30-10am each day, plus a limited menu of all-day bites including waffle fries, olives, and arancini balls, plus a few sweet treats.
There’s also a curated drinks menu, including wines and three signature cocktails – the same SYP cocktails available in room – plus nine classics from margaritas to a negroni.
It’s ideal for pre-drinks before heading elsewhere in the city, or a late night tipple.
Given the lack of a full onsite restaurant, the hotel instead invites guests to pick up dinner from one of the nearby takeaway restaurants and enjoy it seated in the lobby. The team will even bring cutlery and crockery for you to enjoy a proper meal. It’s a nice touch.
Aiden Darling Harbour doesn’t have its own gym or spa. Instead, it has relationships with local businesses, encouraging guests to explore and be part of the neighbourhood.
Hosts in the lobby are on-hand to offer recommendations, while the compendium also includes detailed recommendations for where to go, what to see, and where to dine.
Aiden Darling Harbour is a fine addition to Sydney’s boutique hotel scene, a curated experience. What it lacks in a full restaurant, pool or spa, it more than makes up for it with tech-savvy enhancements and the inviting communal feel in the lobby, not to mention impressive interior finishes.
It’s also a huge leap forward for Best Western, elevating the experience while still offering that trademark local feel the group is known for. Fingers crossed it’s a blueprint for future ‘Aiden’ properties, though hopefully with a few more business-minded additions.
While my room is certainly quite snug (though much larger than most other rooms on offer) it contains almost everything needed for an enjoyable stay. It’s a hotel I’d gladly return to.
The writer stayed as a guest of Aiden Darling Harbour