Hip yet hospitable, both contemporary and classic, Sydney's hottest new hotel, The Old Clare, places its guests in the thick of the city's action.
For a city that otherwise punches so far above its weight in hospitality, Sydney is home to surprisingly few hip hotels - which makes the arrival of The Old Clare Hotel all the more welcome. A designer hotel in the living heart of the city, it's a property envisioned with ambition and realised with verve. It's quirky without being twee, modern without being cold, and put together in a way that sees aesthetics complement comfort. Best of all, perhaps, it's the sort of hotel that can be enjoyed by Sydneysiders as much as their guests - a gleaming addition to a quarter of the city that's on the up.
You have to give it to Loh Lik Peng. In the four years since the project got under way, Chippendale, the Singapore-based hotelier's neighbourhood of choice, has gone from being an inner-urban dead-zone to one of the most talked-about parts of town. Loh knows Sydney well, and he likes Chippendale because it puts guests in the thick of things. "I just wanted to be part of this scene. The real grittiness and energy of the area was exactly right for the type of hotel I love to do," he says. "We build them to be a part of the neighbourhood, and so have their own sense of place."
Structurally the hotel comprises The County Clare, a pub built in 1940, and the older former administration building for Carlton & United Breweries (and the old Kent brewery before that), which have been linked with glass by architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer, forming a lobby decorated on high with vertigo-inducing scraps of old fire escape stairs. "The building had so much character with the brick, huge windows and steel," says Loh. The pub's old poker-machine room is now the reception, its bar is still a bar, and the 62 rooms are spread across four levels of the larger building.