Grandeur. Elegance. History. A number of Australia’s finest hotels can claim the first two. But history? Melbourne’s Hotel Windsor may be the country’s only surviving 19th-century grande dame. But it is only the InterContinental Sydney that can claim a link to our earliest settlement.
Australia’s first wine grapes were grown at what is now The InterContinental Sydney’s lobby bar and high tea destination the Cortile. On January 24th, 1791 (a mere three years after the arrival of the First Fleet), two bunches of grapes were cut in Governor Phillip’s Garden.
Located on Sydney’s Macquarie Street, the InterContinental is built in and above the colony’s 1851 Treasury Building – Australia’s first purpose-built government office. Accordingly, the hotel is also the site of Australia’s first vault and the oldest heritage lift in the Southern Hemisphere.
The soaring sandstone and brick interior give the Cortile a particularly grand ambience; just the place for ‘secret’ assignations or perhaps ‘’dangerous’ liaisons. If you want to do High Tea in style this is the place to come. I went behind the scenes to where the magic happens – the pastry kitchen – to see up close how High Tea ‘InterContinental Style’ is prepared.
From the dedicated pastry kitchen of Simon Veauvy, High Tea or High Coffee is a delightful way to while away an afternoon or mark a special occasion. Simon comes to the InterContinental via Seoul, New York, Tokyo and of course, Paris, where he worked for Pierre Hermé – the ‘Picasso of Pastry’.
From managing the chocolate and macaron stations at Pierre Hermé he went onto head the company’s Parisian cake production. Simon has brought his impressive repertoire to the InterContinental Sydney where he works with Elliot Roussel to create sweet moments on a daily basis. Ronnefeldt tea blends have been matched with a selection of sweet and savoury delights – some with a tea twist. There is chocolate, pastry, delicate confections and a few different riffs on the traditional High Tea menu.
Start with a glass of Bimbadgen Sparkling NV, and elegantly tuck into sandwiches like a classic Club with roast chicken, bacon and tomato that sit happily next to a Jasmine Gold tea crème brûlée and lemon, lime and bitters macaron. The Pierre Hermé training is evident here with the finest macaron TML have ever tasted – the ideal amount of creamy filling to cushion the light as air ‘biscuit’.
There are delicious caramelised onion and goat’s cheese quiche and the most remarkable buttermilk vanilla scones served with whipped cream and cherry jam. There is little room for the French predilection for ‘le moderation’ with such an amazing range of flavours, textures and colours. This is an experience to be savoured.
When staying at the InterContinental Sydney, the Executive rooms are a must. Not only are the rooms spacious with magnificent harbour or city views, Club guests enjoy the incomparable rooftop Club InterContinental. This is more than an executive lounge that many hotels feature. This is meticulous service, fine food and wine with the harbour city’s most breathtaking views. The bonus? You can enjoy the views outside too as the InterContinental is Sydney’s only hotel with a wrap-around terrace.
From eggs, as the sun rises to late night drinks, it is hard to tear yourself away from these views. Twilight canapés are served with a range of cocktails and prestige wines. Service is an absolute standout with the charming staff remembering names and most importantly, your favourite tipple. There is a buffet selection of cheese, salad (and more of that sensational macaron), as well as hot canapés like dumplings, served to your table. From 9 pm Wednesday to Saturday the Lounge becomes the Supper Club with a selection of 27 champagnes.
The InterContinental Sydney delicately balances its leisure and business traveller mix. With a slew of awards, it proves you can be everything to all people, successfully. Location, comfort and attention to detail are just part of the equation. Luxury without a focus on people isn’t luxury. Uncompromising service is what sets the InterContinental Sydney apart from all the rest.