Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay

More than a decade after Sydney's Ritz-Carlton closed its doors, the landmark harbour property has reopened as the Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay. Plenty of surprises await behind the revamped mock-Regency façade, including a bar dedicated to gin (be still our beating hearts), a courtyard club lounge and - the ultimate Sydney accessory - a rooftop pool and bar complete with billowing-curtained cabanas and millionaire views across the harbour.

The 140 rooms feature smart touches such as curtains that open automatically when guests enter, bijou balconies overlooking village or water, and fragrant lemon verbena bathroom amenities by Agraria of San Francisco. The Royal Suite, which hosted Bill Clinton, Madonna and Princess Diana in a former life, is now a staid, serene space with dining for eight, parquetry floors and a walk-in robe with shelving for 80 shoes.

Opened as the Ritz-Carlton in 1991, the hotel never quite recovered after INXS singer Michael Hutchence's death here in 1997. It closed in 2009 (it was rebranded as Stamford in 2001) and languished unloved until Intercontinental engaged Bates Smart to bring it back to life 12 months ago.

As well as a gym, bakery and health food store, the hotel houses a branch of Sean Presland's Japanese diner Saké, and the elegant first-floor Stockroom restaurant overseen by executive chef Julien Pouteau. His all-day dining menu will be a "testament to Australian produce, using what's in season and best in class", with plenty of on-trend pickling and fermenting. Pouteau also has a Japanese robata grill to play with - "Lots of charcoal and smokiness," he grins.

The seven-metre marble bar of the Stillery stocks a collection of rare and vintage gins and offers a daily High Martini session - a sort of high tea for the drinking classes. "We are aiming to have the biggest gin collection in Australia," says bar manager Aaron Gaulke. We'll drink to that.

Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay, 33 Cross St, Double Bay, NSW, (02) 8388 8388 or 138 388; rooms from $390 a night.


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