As I arrive at the Finger Wharf in Woolloomooloo, I realise I am not only in a distinguished part of the city but I'm also standing in front of one of the most impressive timber heritage buildings on Sydney Harbour.
I’m checking into Ovolo Woolloomooloo, an outpost of the Hong Kong hotel brand that has steadily increased its Australian presence since opening its first property in the country in Melbourne in 2013.
The part of the New South Wales capital the award-winning 100-room hotel now calls home is not only picturesque but also full of history. Built between 1910 and 1916 by the Sydney Harbour Trust, during its working life the Finger Wharf mainly handled wool exports. It also acted as a staging point for those being deployed to the World Wars, and a disembarkation point for new migrants to Australia.
Today, it boasts an exclusive restaurant precinct, a hotel and a residential apartment complex. After spending a few moments outside admiring the building’s teal-trimmed Edwardian facade, I make my way into the lobby and am immediately impressed by the exposed timber and clever use of space. As the check-in formalities are taken care of, swiftly and in a friendly manner, my eyes dart between the timber beams overhead, the spacious-yet-beautifully modern set-up at its core, and the old-school wool-sorting pulleys that have been worked into the design.
Far from the wool shed it was back in the day, the landmark that’s a hop, skip and a jump from the city’s best-known architectural triumphs — the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House — has been transformed into a place to see and be seen. Privately-owned restaurants like Italian eatery Otto Ristorante, China Doll and Kingsleys, line the wharf with many tables facing the marina, while inside, the Alibi — the hotel’s sole all-day dining option with a plant-based menu focus.
Guests can choose from a selection of bar snacks like marinated olives, tacos and guacomale from A$9 (Dh22). For those with business meetings on their agenda, the eight-course dinner tasting menu at A$80 per person is ideal. The best thing about the eatery, apart from the free daily social hour it offers in-house guests, is that it provides patrons with an impressive number of lounge-room-like sitting areas and private study nooks that are comfortable spaces for remote working, business catch-ups or casual breakfast meetings.
Breakfast is served here too but it is an underwhelming affair so I’d suggest bypassing the barely-there continental spread and opt for an a la carte offering like the smashed avocado on toast with eggs your way for A$16. Believe me you’ll be a whole lot more satisfied.
I’m booked into a Deluxeroo Double Double room on Level 3 of the five-floor property for my one-night stay. It’s one of the eight room categories that include the Superoo, Deluxeroo King, Deluxeroo Loft, Ultraroo, Cityvoo King, Cityvoo Loft and Cityvoo Double Double.
As I head to my room with the bellboy in tow I’m not sure what to expect, mainly because I know that Ovolo has a reputation for fun and frivolity and this is a historic space. But as I get inside, the first thing I notice is that just as they are downstairs exposed beams are at the heart of the room’s design. The mostly black-and-white styling is bang on too and there are pops of colour in the right places giving it the Ovolo personality and pizzazz without diluting the heritage appeal.
There are two double beds, dual sitting areas as well as a small desk and an expansive bathroom with spa bath, shower and his/hers sinks.
The view is as equally impressive and I appear to have secured myself a front-row seat to the glittering city skyline and neighbouring marina. The technological offerings appear to be first rate to — the Alexa voice service doesn’t miss a beat as I put her through her paces and the iPad appears to have the rest covered. I tinker with the blind and curtain control switches I find on the far wall by the window, they’re easy enough to use but leave me wondering why they’ve been put so far away from the bed, which is one of the most comfortable I’ve sat on let alone slept in.
In terms of facilities the hotel has a small pool and sundeck on ground level behind the Lo Lounge — the hotel’s savvy networking space — a gym and a free self-laundering area. There are also a number of event spaces — the Piper Room is an industrial chic style set-up and the only part of the wharf in its original condition, think wooden floorboards, high ceilings, outdoor terrace etc. Then there are some smaller more flexible meeting rooms that offer plenty of natural light and all the mod-cons.
Just 15-30 minutes’ drive from Sydney’s international airport and 15 minutes by foot from Martin Place train station. the hotel successfully provides visitors with a comfortable, luxurious space from which to work and bed-down. It also offers a taste of the Sydney of days gone by, in fact there are old photos and historical notations that paint a historical picture.
One thing I suggest doing before you pack your bags and check out is to stroll to Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, the popular pie cart that’s been an institution in the harbour city for decades. It’s a five-minute walk from the hotel and the ideal way to bid farewell to Woolloomooloo when the dealings and work is done.
The writer was a guest of the hotel. For more information or to book go to https://ovolohotels.com.au/ovolowoolloomooloo