Sydney’s eastern suburbs has a boutique five-star hotel once more with the InterContinental Double Bay opening today. The 140-rooom project brings the former Ritz Carlton site back to life.
The hotel’s owner, Peter Wilding, managing director of Royal Hotels Australia, told Business Insider that the total cost of the project, including a year-long $25 million refurbishment, was close to $100 million. It’s the company’s first hotel in Australia, alongside four in Singapore and one in Kuala Lumpur.
It heralds a remarkable turnaround for the exclusive enclave’s grand old dame, which hosted the wedding of Bob Hawke and Blanche D’Alpuget nearly 20 years ago, as well as celebrity guests, from Bill Clinton to Princess Diana and Madonna. Later this month will mark 16 years since Michael Hutchence’s tragic death. And yes, room 524 is still there.
After closing down several years ago – under the banner of the Stamford Plaza – developers tried to knock it down, only to have the plans rejected by the local council. Many feared the existing building would be converted into apartments, but last year Wilding’s company saw their chance and grabbed the site.
“We felt it was a reasonable buy at the time and seem to have picked the market very well,” Wilding said. “We saw opportunity in the five-star luxury market, especially outside of the mainstream CBD hotels. People will look at this as a luxurious sanctuary – you can come to Double Bay and enjoy something very different in a village atmosphere.
Wilding worked with designers Bates Smart Architects to restore the hotel’s former glory, from the original Italian white marble and grey-green marble fireplaces to the 500-person grand ballroom, combining tradition with a modern decor.
The Stillery houses a seven-metre-long marble and leather-clad bar with a collection of gins from locally crafted spirits to rare imported bottles. The rooftop pool, lounge and bar with its private cabanas and harbour views also offers outdoor dining. The hotel has just one restaurant, Stockroom, with two dining spaces – a spaciously smart-casual dining area and a European pantry-style internal room, featuring bar stools at marble-topped chef’s tables. There’s also 24-hour in-room dining.
Additional external dining options will be rolled out when the street level is completed, including Henley’s Wholefoods and an outpost of The Rocks restaurant Sake.
Wilding says he hopes the restaurant will be a haunt for locals as much as guests.
“We are encouraging the local market with arms wide open,” he says, adding that domestic users, rather than international visitors stand to gain the most from the opening of the InterContinental Double Bay.
“Everyone here in Double Bay is so well-travelled. They expect the best hotels in the world-type service and that’s our approach here,” he said.
His hotel group purchased Singapore’s Sentosa resort last year, rebadging it as Sotifel, and are now set to refurbish that site.
He’s also looking for another site in Sydney.
“We feel it’s a strong market, as well as various areas in Asia,” Wilding said.
“There’s real opportunity in Australia, especially if you offer the service expected at that level, because then you can expect to charge a premium.”
The InterContinental Double Bay is offering opening rates from AU$390 a night, including breakfast.
Peter Wilding’s five favourite things at the InterContinental Double Bay
1. The rooftop lounge, with its Los Angeles feel.
2. The new bar and restaurant. They’ve been designed as stand alone, so locals have a new dining option in the neighbourhood.
3. The technology investment in the rooms. It’s friendly for business travellers, but not confusing for leisure guests.
4. The use of local artists and photographers to decorate the hotel. We commissioned photographer Richard Freeman and he brings the space alive.
5. The kosher kitchen. We’ve embraced the importance of offering a genuine kosher meal.
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