Cityvoo King at Ovolo Woolloomooloo, Sydney, Australia

Ovolo Woolloomooloo
Sydney, Australia


When we checked into Ovolo Woolloomooloo, the 2015-opened, five-starred Sydney hotel that seeks to ‘do things differently’, we expected to find an unconventional take on luxury hospitality informed by contemporary interiors and fun mod-cons. What we found was just that – but much to the delight of our tastebuds, we also came upon our favourite new restaurant in town here.

The name is a mouthful. So much so, in fact, that even our taxi driver, who had only just moved to Australia, had difficulties pronouncing it. He didn’t even seem to recognise the name of the hotel, though when the GPS displayed the location of Ovolo Woolloomooloo on a map, this changed quickly. ‘Oh, the cool place down in the Finger Wharf Building!’, he exclaimed, as he took another look in the rear-vision mirror, presumably to check for social cues of coolness and hipsterdom in us (which, owing to the fact that we’re a little too old to be cool and that in any case, we’d given up all pretence following 24 hours of non-stop travelling, he couldn’t have possibly found).

The heritage building the hotel is housed in has no doubt made a mark on Sydney’s history since its 1912 opening, though thanks to new life having been breathed down its seemingly never-ending central corridor (a former passenger terminal), the Finger Wharf is perhaps more on the map now than ever before. Ovolo Woolloomooloo has played a significant part in that, alongside a small number of restaurants and very desirable private residencies, all offering harbour-side views of the Sydney skyline.

Now under the 2002-founded, Hong Kong-based Ovolo Hotels group, the property was brought into the 21st century by architecture firm Hassell Studio, which transformed many of its spaces into boutique-style accommodations that helped make Ovolo Woolloomooloo a Small Luxury Hotels of the World member. The shared spaces are equally as original, and upon walking past a rather tempting candy dispenser in the lobby after checking in, our eyes were immediately drawn towards a large, kinetic art clock by Swedish design studio Humans, as ABBA and David Bowie oozed from speakers all round (they call it ‘Radio Ovolo’, and it’s here to banish much-dreaded elevator music once and for all).

In contrast, our ‘Cityvoo King’ was a lot less bustling, which is a good thing in our book. From its industrialist-chic interiors made homelier by colourful cushions, bold artworks and a bed frame featuring a kissing fish motif (now there was a first!), to modern tech that’s actually useful – think electric blackout curtains and Apple TV – we relished each second in our private lodgings. In fact, we found that our room had been expertly set up to provide maximum comfort post our day-long journey to Australia: for one, there was the ‘Wonderbar’, an elevated mini bar packed with unique snacks and concoctions by popular Sydney cocktail bar Maybe Sammy. And beyond that, intuitive light switches meant we didn’t have to play the old ‘now where do I turn this thing off’ game, and the bath salts by our enormous tub were of the quality you’d associate with far more luxurious resorts in far more tropical climes.

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While you’re Out There
Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden is a mere five-minute walk from the hotel and you couldn’t miss it if you tried. What’s a little more under the radar, however, is the heritage-listed Government House within said gardens, which can be visited Friday through Sunday, from 10:30-15:00, offering a glimpse not only into the building’s history but also into the life of the residing Governor of New South Wales. Remember to bring an ID or a driver’s license to register!

This, we thought, must be where the ‘doing things differently’ comes in: while you’d appreciate reasonably nice bath salts in an urban five-star hotel, you’ll love the divine type at Ovolo Woolloomooloo, and you’ll smile at the humorously named toiletries in full-size bottles awaiting you in the shower. Our room was rather spacious, too, although guests staying in the hotel’s ‘Ultraroo’ top suite get extra bragging rights for its loft-style layout featuring a circular bar and a reading nook and ‘play area’ (make of that what you will). Our room didn’t have a designated play area, although our AC got surprisingly loud at night, and certainly could’ve done with getting, ahem, serviced.

In search of relaxation, guests gravitate towards the indoor pool and jacuzzi at Ovolo Woolloomooloo, although we generally found this part of the hotel not to be particularly busy, as most who’ll stay here make use of the hotel’s location within walking distance of so many of Sydney’s top sights instead. It took us a minute to find the pool the first time we went for a dip, not least because the aforementioned central corridor of the Finger Wharf building is a little daunting to navigate. Thankfully, however, a staff member eventually found us and showed us the way – the team, as you’d expect from this noticeably friendly lifestyle brand, is kind and approachable, offering a brand of service so genuine, it feels like a friend is helping you out.

Our most treasured memory from our stay at Ovolo Woolloomooloo has got to be dining at the hotel’s popular Alibi restaurant, spearheaded by chef Shannon Martinez, whose vegan Mediterranean-inspired recipes nearly had us stop dead in our tracks with amazement. The feta-stuffed crispy mammoth olives? Delicious. The padrón and parmesan croquettes? Heavenly. The spanakopita with nigella seeds, sesame and lemon ash? Gospel-inducing (and those were just the starters!). Each dish we tried during our stay had been prepared to mouthwatering perfection, with generous portion sizes and sun-kissed flavour profiles that nod to Martinez’ Spanish heritage. At breakfast, too, vegans are well catered to with peanut butter, scrambled tofu, coconut yogurt, chia seed bowls and the like.

Being herbivores ourselves, we often struggle to find original, plant-based food at hotels and resorts, and even the world’s leading hospitality brands frequently underperform in this regard. With this in mind, we loved seeing Ovolo Woolloomooloo proudly showing off its ‘Veg Pledge’, which states that the group is ‘crazy passionate about vegan and vegetarian-led cuisine’. Commitments like these firmly place the brand in a league of industry disrupters that goes beyond just filling a hotel with eye-catching artworks and Rock ’n’ Roll music. This is a brand that’s willing to take risks and challenge the status quo in an effort to create something different from what’s out there. And to many a modern traveller, they’re creating something better. |

Photography courtesy of Ovolo Hotels

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