Horizon Opera House City View - King
- All rooms offer harbour views (some better than others)
- Fast, free WiFi
- Great cocktails and dining at Blu Bar on 36 and Altitude Restaurant
- Weak air conditioning and lack of power points in the Horizon Club lounge
- Take in one of Australia's most iconic views
The Shangri-La Sydney hotel tempts travellers with 565 guestrooms – all of which have Sydney Harbour views from at least one window, including the 'city view' rooms – along with an expansive Horizon Club lounge, complimentary WiFi for all guests and a range of dining options to suit all tastes.
Australian Business Traveller puts one of the country's best-known luxury hotels to the test from the perspective of a Horizon floor guest: here's how Shangri-La Sydney stacked up.
Location & Impressions
Nested on Cumberland Street at The Rocks, Shangri-La Sydney is at the Circular Quay end of the CBD, being within walking distance of the Circular Quay and Wynyard railway stations – connected to the airport line – and easily accessible by car.
Its location affords some of the best views of Sydney Harbour, including the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge: particularly appealing to international visitors.
On first impressions, the lobby appears rather small with the check-in desks not far from the entrance – but as you wander further around, you'll discover a winding cafe and bar area for which the design affords more privacy than your typical hotel lobby, which many guests will appreciate.
As to the room itself, we found Shangri-La's signature welcome awaiting our arrival, being fresh fruit plus a more guilty box of chocolates for the sweet tooth:
Credit card payments attract a 1.5% surcharge for all card types – including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners Club, JCB and China Union Pay – to be expected of most Australian hotels, and lower than its main competitor, Four Seasons Sydney, which applies a higher fee of 1.9-2.0% on the same.
We'd booked a Horizon Opera House City View - King room, and were lucky to have been assigned a corner location which offered both city views, as described...
... and also a sighting of the Sydney Opera House amid Sydney Harbour when standing close to the window (although the Sydney Harbour Bridge was out of sight).
Greeting us at the entrance was a sitting room with views towards the city and dedicated TV – making the space perfect for hosting meetings or small presentations without splurging on a much larger suite or a conference room...
... with the bathroom the next stop along the hallway, offering a large bathtub, separate walk-in shower (not pictured)...
... a vanity basin with forward-facing lighting from the mirror in front, a separate adjustable shaving mirror for the gents...
... and an array of toiletries, with amenities by L'Occitane en Provence:
Follow the corridor further along to reach the bedroom, which offers a dedicated working desk nearby a Nespresso machine.
When seated at the desk, we found easy access to both AC and USB power, along with a thoughtful international travel adaptor for overseas guests...
... followed by more AC and USB power outlets beside the bed, and an iPhone-friendly clock radio with both the newer Lightning plug and the older-style 30-pin adaptor, just in case you're still carting around an older phone or iPod.
We appreciate the attention to detail, which continued with the housekeeping staff. On performing the nightly turndown, the clock would be rotated to face the bed (so that the time can be seen from the pillow), with an extra bottle of water making an appearance.
Booking a room on these floors also includes one complimentary suit or dress pressing per stay, while the bedroom itself offers a second television – and as in the loungeroom, a variety of Foxtel channels are available – but this screen allows for easy connections for your own devices via an accessible HDMI port, with a handy USB power source nearby to keep your gadget powered-up.
Combine them, and you can run your laptop or tablet through the (much larger) television: the perfect way to watch Netflix, or other video streaming services like Stan, if you're already a subscriber:
Sure, you could work from the desk in your room, but a key advantage of staying in a 'Horizon' room is access to the Horizon Club: Shangri-La's upmarket take on the typical hotel executive lounge.
Spanning from one end of the building to the other and with a multi-storey atrium in the centre, you can perch yourself at a seat near the windows to take in the iconic view...
... or, for more peace and quiet, venture left to the far corner of the lounge for a less 'iconic' view, but one still picturesque, nonetheless.
Another advantage of sitting by the windows is that some – but certainly not all – of these seats have AC power outlets nearby...
... although we'd love to see far more of these installed – along with USB power points, where practical – to give guests a little more freedom in their seating choices, and to avoid international travellers having to pack an overseas power adaptor just to charge their smartphone.
The existing power points can also be in high demand, even during off-peak times. We'd been using them during one of our visits, and the moment we'd started to pack up, another guest approached our seat and politely asked if they could take our spot, before anybody else jumped in.
We could understand that during busy times, but with fewer than 10 guests in the lounge, those types of requests shouldn't be necessary on their part: our fellow traveller should have simply been able to take an available seat and plug in, rather than needing to hunt down those few spots which offered access to power for their laptop.
It should also be said that while the view here is great, the same can't be said of the lounge's air conditioning system, which struggles to offset the heat from the morning sun, even mid-year.
A visit at 10am on a clear day in August found the space hot and stuffy, although the staff insisted that the air conditioning was on maximum power. We roamed around and found the far left corner to be the coldest, although did observe the warm temperature of the lounge decreasing throughout the day to something more comfortable.
Fortunately, that corner of the Horizon Club is also where you'll find a private boardroom, which Horizon floor guests can use for one hour per day at no charge:
Advance bookings are recommended via the lounge's reception staff, who can also assist with concierge services such as onward flight and hotel bookings, and basic translation services.
Complimentary wireless Internet is available throughout the hotel, including in both the guest rooms and the Horizon Club lounge, with download speeds consistently measuring around 14Mbps throughout our stay – on-par with a good ADSL2+ connection or an entry-level NBN fibre plan at home – with uploads ranging between 2.1 and 14.5Mbps, and ping speeds of 3ms.
In other words, the WiFi was fast enough to be usable for tasks like web browsing, sending and receiving emails (including with large attachments) and video streaming, including Netflix HD, which is all most guests need.
Along with being a business hub and working space, the Horizon Club also serves complimentary breakfast from 6:30am until 10:30am (11am on weekends), afternoon tea from 2-5pm, and evening drinks and canapés from 6-8pm, to Horizon floor guests and Shangri-La Golden Circle Diamond cardholders staying in any room type.
Our afternoon arrival found a selection of pastries, scones, sweet treats and fruits...
... and in the evenings, a much more substantial spread including pies, samosas and meats (bottom left), among many of the choices – plus an open bar with the staff providing table service. In the morning, there's a good variety of breakfast food too, over and above your typical 'Sydney hotel breakfast' with favourites like prawn dumplings and siu mai making an appearance (bottom right), along with barista-made coffee.
If you're lounging and peckish throughout the day, food and alcoholic beverages can also be ordered to your seat at an extra charge, with the club sandwich a solid choice. Non-alcoholic drinks remain complimentary outside the normal service times too, so there's no payment required for a barista-made latte or a Diet Coke, regardless of when you indulge.
Elsewhere in the hotel, 'Blu Bar on 36' serves up an extensive range of cocktails with views of Sydney Harbour...
... our picks being The Devil – a mix of Belvedere Vodka, Malibu and lychee with horns atop – and Blu Bar's take on a traditional Espresso Martini, trading the usual Vodka and Kahlua for Hennessy VS Cognac and vanilla liqueur, in addition to the expected coffee shot for a sweeter sip that still hits the mark.
Directly next door is Altitude Restaurant, offering the same views but from a quieter and more sophisticated space, where contemporary Australian fare is served. After sunset, the venue is intimately lit which creates a nice atmosphere...
... but does make food hard to photograph later in the evening for our purposes. Out of consideration for other diners, we chose not to use bright camera flashes here, so do forgive any darkness in the images below.
We began with an amuse-bouche of octopus with pistachio and cauliflower purée, followed by a modern take on fois gras: both of which were enjoyable...
... continuing on with the chef's special of duck breast smoked with apple wood and roasted with honey lavender, burnt apple, kalettes, native warrigal greens and pan juices – a delightful dish with a lovely 'earthy' tone, which we're pleased to see has now made it onto the menu proper; followed by a simple palate cleanser of pineapple sorbet and ginger...
... beef succulently served three ways, and chocolate for dessert in a similar style.
The restaurant service itself was attentive without being intrusive, and we particularly appreciated the extensive selection of wines available by the glass and half bottle among the 25-page wine list, allowing diners to enjoy perfect pairings with each course, without settling for 'the white' or 'the red' in lieu of a full bottle, as can often be the case elsewhere.
Also available at the hotel – but not tested as part of this review – Café Mix, offering both buffet and a la carte dining, and the Lobby Lounge, where you'll find sweet treats by the 'punk princess of pastry', Anna Polyviou, as seen on MasterChef Australia.
Just note that TV favourites such as Anna's Mess and Firecracker aren't routinely served here, but if your visit coincides with the broadcast week of Anna's MasterChef challenge each year, you might be in the right place at the right time to try one for yourself.
Spent too much time in the restaurants, bars and lounge? There's a comprehensive gym waiting for you with an ample range of equipment...
... including cardio machines – a great way to get your heart pumping after a long flight...
... and plenty of free weights, too. This gym could easily pass as a standalone health club, but is an impressive amenity reserved just for hotel guests.
There's also an indoor swimming pool for your daily laps...
... but, for many guests, the best relaxation will likely come from the view: whether enjoyed from their room, the Horizon Club or the bar and dining venues on Level 36.
All in all, an enjoyable stay and one almost deserving of AusBT's five-star rating, if not for the air conditioning and power point issues in the Horizon Club, making it still a well-earned 4.5 stars from us.
Chris Chamberlin stayed as a guest of Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney.