The leafy affluent suburb of Double Bay is the home to Sydney's latest luxury hotel development. What used to be the Ritz Carlton has been transformed into the InterContinental Double Bay with a completely new look for this stunning hotel. And it's full of surprises from the spacious suites to what has to be Sydney's best value afternoon tea. Value in Double Bay? Yes!
Things that you see in Double Bay:
Little dogs being walked (a preponderance of pure breeds and manicured poodles)
Men in shorts and boat shoes with sweaters around their shoulders
And now the upmarket suburb's only 5 star hotel has transformed from the Ritz Carlton to the InterContinental in Sydney's latest hotel development. Many including me were curious about the changes. I had stayed here when it was the Ritz Carlton. Today the hotel is worlds away from its former life. The new look has plenty of dove grey and Italian Carrara marble with modern Boiserie panelling.
It just happens to be the perfect sunny spring day in Sydney for our staycation and although we are just 15 minutes away from home it does feel like we are on holiday. Check in is at 3pm but the best way to extend your time is by booking afternoon tea at the hotel's bar called The Stillery which is available between 13:30-4pm.
And please allow me to share with you a little Sydneysider's tip: the martini high tea has to be Sydney's best value afternoon tea and value not usually a word you hear much of in Double Bay. For just $65 you get four tiers of food as well as three cocktails! Just for comparison's sake and because champagne seemed appropriate we also try the Perrier Jouet afternoon tea. The food is the same in all afternoon teas but this one comes with a flute of Perrier Jouet and a choice of TWG tea.
Our tea stand arrives and it is the savoury course. There is a cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwich on dark rye. On the bottom layer are thin baguette slices with olive tapenade, prosciutto and finely grated reggiano. The third bite is beetroot cured trout on brioche. This needs a bit more moisture as the brioche is a tad dry but the trout and roe is luscious on top.
The matching cocktail is the delicious French 75 made with gin, sugar syrup, lemon juice and topped off with champagne and a maraschino cherry. The Stillery is a gin bar so a lot of the cocktails feature gin. The champagne is crisp and perfectly chilled.
Service from our waitress is very sweet but quite unsure. We aren't sure whether we can order tea and she has to check on this and we find that at times staff are a mixture of experienced and novice. The second course arrives with our tea and Spring Splash martini. This is the sweets course with a warm, crisp waffle, a delicious almost biscuity cranberry scone and a tray of condiments including Nutella, honey, strawberry jam and chantilly cream. The only criticism is that there isn't enough jam and cream. I pretty much had all of the cream and jam with my scone Mr NQN could have eaten double that with the scone.
The top sweets layer is made up of a madeira cupcake topped with citrus curd, a raspberry and cream filled macaron sandwich, a chocolate and cardamom tart, a coconut and lime marshmallow and a a créme brûlée served on a pain d'épices biscuit base. And then there's the last cocktail: an affogato espresso martini! Yep three cocktails in one afternoon tea so grab your besties and cab it in because it's a great way to spend the afternoon.
Next door in the promenade arcade is Trumps Spa, a stunning award winning spa that has been operating in the city and other locations for 40 years. This four month old spa has already received awards and the design is gorgeous with a modern Moroccan/moorish theme to it with cut out panels and plenty of candles.
My therapist Ciara leas me to the gorgeous, darkly lit treatment room. She explains that she will be performing a facial using Payot products. I place my jewellery in a jewellery box and disrobe. The facial features a range of gorgeous scents from both the products and atomisers that she uses at the beginning and ending.
There is a large massage component to the facial which is always my favourite part and she does one of my favourite things, the Indian hair pulling technique that is said to release endorphins. Groggy and blissful I rest in the relaxation room where honey and ginger tea or cinnamon and ginger tea is served.
It's a full house this evening at the hotel and we make our way to our suite, #427 one of the bay view executive suites with gorgeous views of Double Bay from one of the suite's two Juliet balconies. There are 140 rooms and 15 suites. It is spacious and elegant with plenty of whites and creams, cut glass with occasional pops of colour.
The executive suites also have access to Club InterContinental on the second floor where there are all day refreshments, free wifi, a private check in and check out, complimentary garment pressing and turndown.
The sitting room has a large flat screen television, a two seater lounge as well as a single seater and a dining table for two. The mini bar and fridge is housed discreetly in an armoire and features on-trend designer nibbles (raw chocolate, coconut water) although as expected the mini bar isn't inexpensive with a small bottle of sparkling water at $7. There is a Nespresso machine and TWG teas in four varieties.
The bedroom features a king sized bed and a day bed. Two little things that I like in bedrooms are easy to operate light switches and an easily accessible plug by the bed to power up devices while you sleep. All of the switches are clearly marked and blinds are automatic and also sensor operated, that is once you tug them closed, they will close themselves.
The view from the fourth floor
There are two bathrooms, a visitor toilet and shower right near the front door as well as a larger bathroom past the working desk (this is a little dark and tucked away) and the cupboard. I would have perhaps made this a walk in closet area with luggage rack and put a working table out in the main sitting area but perhaps the guests here are more leisure guests that don’t require a working desk.
The Carrara marble bathroom has a separate bath and shower. There are double sinks and the amenities are by L’Occitane. It’s a comprehensive selection even including a razor and toothbrush (although there are no cotton buds and cotton pads for makeup removal). The bin is a slide out bin with two compartments tucked away in a lower drawer. The toilet is through the door and this is where there is the main shower with larger sized L'Occitane products.
The rooms are located around a central French style square courtyard on the second floor. Above this on the 6th and top floor is the rooftop pool and bar. Come Summer it would be a very popular place to park yourself although there is still a bit of chill in the air at the time that we visited in early Spring and cabanas don't come cheap with a $500 per cabana minimum spend on food and beverage, for up to 6 people for 4 hours. There are two cabanas here where you can lie back, order drinks and soak in the sun’s rays. The pool alas isn’t heated and it’s still a bit chilly to go in. There are also areas for eating and drinking.
Around 6pm we head downstairs to the club lounge for some drinks and canapes. There is enough food here to actually eat dinner but we remind ourselves not to go too overboard as we have a table booked for 7pm at Stockroom. The staff here are friendly but it's a little quiet here and it feels as though everyone can hear each other's conversations.
We choose some wine which they pour for us and snack on some hot nibblies like noodle wrapped prawns, arancini balls and puffs that Mr NQN liked so much he ate both. I go for the selection of dips and buttered bread. There is also smoked salmon and cheeses available as well as one sweet dessert option and fruit.
Dinner that evening is at Stockroom, the restaurant alongside the Stillery. We enter past displays of food prettily laid out and the restaurant is also the location for the main breakfast. The restaurant seats 70 in the main room and 20 in the private dining room and there are cream booths on each far side as well as regular tables and chairs. We’re eating from the Taste of Robata menu this evening which has 5 courses for $95. Executive Chef Julien Pouteau is on hand and is excited about the new Robata grill.
"Grilling is part of Australia's history, so I found it naturally the best way to cook outstanding produce and to bring Australian producers to the table. At Stockroom, we are grilling pretty much everything, from our bread to our fish, meat and even desserts. A popular dish at the moment is robata grilled banana split. Stockroom also has a selection of quirky glazes and sauces which we make in-house. I absolutely love them as they add a really tasty sticky element to quality ingredients - a great example of this is the Jack and coke sauce for our O'Connor New York steak," says Julien.
The first course comes out and it is the bread. Their bread is somewhat of a signature item here there are two kinds - a flatbread plus a “damper” which is more of a southern style biscuit, all buttery and soft. It comes with a little bottle of peanut bacon barbecue sauce and Pepe Saya butter. I finish mine and immediately try and beg Mr NQN for his. Nope. He wasn't giving it up.
The next course is halloumi that perfectly squeaky, addictive cheese (or at least it is for me Dear Reader!). I like to date my life from Before Halloumi (B.H.) and After Halloumi (A.H.) because I love this cheese so much. It is paired with a maple grilled eggplant, green olive and rosemary oil.
The salmon comes out next and it has a gorgeous crispy skin and is deliberately cooked rare in the centre (but cured first) which means that it is very luscious. It is paired with a turmeric sauce and beetroot textures from raw thin slices to roasted baby purple beetroot.
Now I have to be honest here. As an omnivore there aren’t may instances where the vegetarian dish is my favourite. But then again I do love cauliflower. This cauliflower steak is caramelised and served with a delicious goat’s cheese cream sauce made with one of my favourite cheeses, Holy Goat La Luna with calamarata pasta. Very little of this makes it back to the kitchen and I wish I had more bread to mop up the sauce but one of the waitstaff took the bread mistakenly (again there is that mix of novice and experienced in the restaurant).
BBQ lamb belly
The final savoury course is the barbecue lamb belly, an unctuous cut of meat. Here it is smartly paired with sides that bring the richness a good acidity from white carrots, red onion and pumpkin puree.
Caramel and pumpkin semifreddo
Usually there is one dessert choice but they gave us two so that we could try things. The first dessert is a caramel and pumpkin semifreddo with a very tart pomelo, orange and lemon granita on top and praline on the side. You can make this as sweet or tart as you like with the amount of granita that you scoop up.
The other dessert is three chouxs filled with praline and salted caramel creme patissiere. The chouxs are beautifully crisp and the filling silky and creamy.
After a good night's sleep we make our way to the club lounge downstairs for breakfast. Usually guests can go to the Stockroom for breakfast but as it was Father's Day it would have been quite busy and noisy so we went for the calm and privacy of the lounge. The food selection is the same as it is in the Stockroom, just in a smaller volume.
Mr NQN busies himself with a fruit bowl with yogurts while I help myself to the range of macadamia, cashew and almond butters and the jam selections. There are also eggs freshly cooked to order and you can get either a regular or egg white omelette, scrambled, benedict, fried or boiled.
I go for an omelette once I see that chorizo filling is offered and add onion, cheese and chilli. "Could I please get extra chorizo?" I ask greedily. What comes out is perhaps the perfect omelette with a generous amount of chorizo, gooey, melted cheese, spicy chilli and onions that puts a smile on my face for the rest of the day.
So tell me Dear Reader, what did you think of the afternoon teas? Which would you have chosen? Have you ever had the Indian hair pulling technique? Do you tend to book club rooms if you can?
NQN and Mr NQN stayed as guests of the InterContinental Double Bay.
InterContinental Double Bay
33 Cross Street, Double Bay, Woollahra, New South Wales 2028