It's been two years in the planning and an intense four months of construction, but the transformation of the much-loved Observatory Hotel is complete and it reopens today as The Langham Sydney.
It's a thoroughly luxe addition to Sydney's dress circle of harbour-view hotels and, with a $30 million refurbishment that includes lavish touches such as a million-dollar marble foyer, it's a bold piece of positioning.
London's GA Design, which has an impressive hotel-design pedigree (including Langham's Hong Kong and Chicago properties), was briefed to bring in the light. There's an art collection curated by Sotheby's in the foyer, alongside a series of splendid marble fireplaces and a soft, modern palette of amber and grey. "We wanted a grand transformation," explains general manager Sonia Lefevre, "And we got it. It feels light and luxurious - and expensive."
One thing that remains untouched is the size of the rooms. The Langham still lays claim to the largest rooms and suites in Sydney, with windows that actually open (a rarity in the over-conditioned world of big-city hotels) and balconies and terraces opening onto either a skyline or inner-harbour view.
Dining options are approachable rather than austere. The menu at Kent Street Kitchen, overseen by Est-trained chef Daniel Rudolph, opens with a generous charcuterie and raw-fish offering, seguing into the modern Australian likes of wagyu rib with daikon, sesame and roasted onion, and buckwheat risotto with heirloom carrots, asparagus and haloumi.
And, although the tearooms have changed, The Langham's famed afternoon tea endures. The Palm Court, its new home, is destined to be a Sunday favourite. Radically renovated with large-scale windows that take in the westerly view up Sydney Harbour, it's just made for sundowners. "This is where I want to be when the sun goes down," says Lefevre. "Welcome to Sydney's most exclusive address."
The Langham Sydney, rooms from $635 per night, 89-113 Kent St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9256 2222.