When I told a friend I was going to be checking into a new boutique hotel in Sydney he wasn’t all that interested until I said the O word.
“Ovolo?!” He suddenly perked up. “You’re going to love it! I stayed in the one in Melbourne and they’re gorgeous. They have a free mini bar and snacks, and you can get free drinks and cookies and lollies downstairs anytime.”
Yes, it’s funny the things your friends talk about first.
There may be a few stylish boutique hotels around but Ovolo are the only ones I know with so many extras thrown in. Here not only is the mini bar complimentary but they put on free happy hours for all hotel guests in the bar complete with canapés.
Other things that are free include the continental breakfast, unlimited (and fast) WiFi, self-service laundry, in room and in lobby snacks, a waterproof tote bag, local calls and a 24-hour gym to try to work off some of those free snacks in.
Between the location, how gorgeous the hotel is and all that free stuff I did a double take when I realised you could get a room at Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour for around $250 a night.
While Ovolo may be new to Sydney with Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour opening in November 2015 and Ovolo Woolloomooloo opening a matter of weeks later in December, Melbourne has had the first Australian Ovolo in its laneways since 2012.
Founded in Hong Kong in 2002 by entrepreneur Girish Jhunjhnuwala, there are now eight Ovolos between Hong Kong and Australia and more on the horizon.
So what are they like to stay in? I’m glad you asked.
Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour Style
It was raining cats and dogs when I first dashed through the door to the warmth and safety of Ovolo 1888 but I think even if the sun had been shining I still would have felt the strong desire to check in and stay in all day and night.
The heritage Wool Store building in Sydney’s historic Darling Harbour area was built back in 1888 (hence the name) and has been transformed into a stylish, modern space without losing its sense of history.
Exposed brick and reclaimed ironbark beams mix with pops of colour, with every room featuring a colourful piece by Australian artist Jasper Knight.
All of the rooms have Apple TV and an iPad which is loaded up with information about the hotel including the room service menu and tips for things to do and places to go, from nearby restaurants and bars to shopping and spa treatments.
As I looked at the selection of things to do nearby I was relieved that I wasn’t in a new city for a few days, but instead could simply stay in the hotel and relax, guilt free, all afternoon and evening.
My busy schedule was going to involve getting into a cosy robe, ordering room service, firing up the Apple TV and opening the bottle of red wine from my not-so-mini bar as I watched the rain fall outside. Heaven!
From a Shoebox Room to Shaken and Stirred Suites
There are 90 rooms in the Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour starting at the Shoebox (that’s what they called it, not me!) which is a more compact option best suited to a solo traveller, then it goes up to a Queen, a King, a King Deluxe, a Loft room and a Junior Suite before you get to the two suites – Shaken and Stirred.
Shaken is split-level and ground floor with its own private street entrance, a big bathtub and a little outdoor area. It’s also fully licensed and can be hired for parties, product launches and even used for a pop up store.
Meanwhile Stirred is the penthouse suite and was my home for the night.
Stirred may not have a bath but it does have a lounge area, a kitchenette and a private patio. As it was still bucketing down I wasn’t able to sit out in the fresh air but thanks to having floor to ceiling glass on three sides of me I was able to feel very happy and cosy as I watched that rain fall from my bed.
While the mini bars in the other rooms include mini bottles of wine along with beers and soft drinks in the suites those bottles were full sized and included a sparkling, a white and a red that happened to be named the Travel Writer which put an extra smile on this travel writer’s face.
There’s a coffee machine and a separate kettle for tea lovers like me who don’t enjoy having to figure out how to get hot water out of coffee machines without a coffee taste to make their tea.
And speaking of tea I was very happy to see T2 teabags, including some of my favourite varieties, French Earl Grey, Gorgeous Geisha and Sleep Tight.
And sleep tight I did. After watching back to back episodes of Transparent, having dinner and drinks in bed and sharing hotel snaps on Instagram (the hotel knows it’s so photogenic it has an Instagram sharing section on its website) I curled up in that big comfy bed, listened to the rain and fell into a very happy sleep.