There's an Alice in Wonderland feel to this 1915 wharf conversion – it's old but it's new, it's big but manages to operate on a human scale. New this year is a "plant-based" restaurant, Alibi, run by American chef Matthew Kenney (with a wine list by sommelier Chris Morrison) styled to lend an epicurean edge to the mezzanine lobby beneath a four-storey vault. In rooms, the odd cramped angle of the wharf's heritage bones is offset by a riot of playful décor, from bedheads printed with classic Australian tableaux to flying ducks on the walls. Tying it all together is the unmatchable view; most rooms capture snapshots of Sydney's sparkling harbour, some from private balconies.
There's generosity in the free minibar restocked daily, free local calls, daily happy hour, and guest loans of yoga mats, Xbox and Wii consoles, and more.
The breakfast buffet is light and fresh: breads, cheese and the likes of soba and kale salad. Hot dishes can be ordered at extra cost. The proximity of the wharf's fine-dining strip means even hotel staff suggest eating out rather than in, but if you're craving a late-night snack they'll deliver a meat pie from Harry's Cafe de Wheels.
Happy hour from 5.30pm, which is restricted to guests who book their room online, covers beer, wine and vegetarian platters. The free minibar is stocked with beer and a white-wine blend.
This review was made independently for the Gourmet Traveller Hotel Guide. The guide's reviewers visit unannounced and pay their way.