Two months and three weeks ago there were four of us sitting in the lobby of the Primus Hotel having afternoon tea. We were having such a lovely time that the afternoon tea segued a bit into late afternoon early evening and we talked about how nice it would be to have a girl's weekend staycation at the hotel because we were curious to see what the rooms would be like.
Fast forward two months and three weeks and we find ourselves at what seems to be Sydney's best kept secret, the Primus Hotel. It's not exactly a secret, the location at 339 Pitt Street is certainly part of the CBD but ask a Sydneysider about the hotel and you'll probably be greeted with a blank look. Because the latest 5 star hotel to grace Sydney has done so quietly. Greenland International Hotel Group (GIHG) from China are the hoteliers behind The Primus Hotel. Most of their hotels are in China with one in Germany and this one in Sydney.
It's an elegant building that was originally home to the Sydney Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage. Built in 1939 it has been restored by design firm Woods Bagot and heritage architecture firm GBA Heritage. Even today some of the original building can readily be seen especially in the public areas.
The lobby is imposing with high ceilings and red scagliola marble columns. These were hidden away in the past years behind fit-outs and Italian master craftspeople were tasked with restoring these to their original shade of pink, a task made harder because the mercury originally used to obtain that shade is now banned.
It retains the Art Deco look throughout the common areas. They have kept many of the original features including the water bubblers that would have serviced employees in the building to the metal framed windows, bronze work, glazed terracotta tiles and restored terrazzo corridor flooring. Service is genteel and very accommodating. In fact this was one of the things that we liked so much about our afternoon tea and the fact that we were made to feel very welcome. Nothing was ever too much trouble.
Check in is at 3 o'clock and is smoothly executed with a minimum of fuss. Valet parking is $70 so it is pricey but it's the city where parking can run higher by the hour. I go to my room #318. It's a Deluxe Suite, a spacious two bedroom suite about 70 square metres in size. It opens into a living space with two lounges which is ideal for visitors so it ends up being where everyone meets when they arrive.
There's a desk in this room as well as a mini bar, television and a guest bathroom. These suites are corner suites so they hug the curves of the round edged building and a door separates the bedroom and bathroom from the sitting room.
The bedroom has a long, curve angled desk and another large television. The king bed has a hard mattress which may suit some although I had a bit of difficulty getting to sleep.
The bathroom has a frosted glass window between the bath and the bedroom. Robes and slippers hang on the back of the door and there are two sinks so this room is ideal for a couple with the additional space. It is stocked with a premium selection of Appelles toiletries and there is a large, separate bathtub and shower (and hooray for showers with thoughtfully placed taps).
I had a suite facing Pitt Street which is a busy street but the double glazing was effective at blocking much of the sound out. It was a bit noisy around 11pm with car horns but it was quite muted given how noisy the street is.
Wifi is free and there's a couple of things that I could suggest with the room. The air conditioning isn't very effective in my room and Alyson's. The rooms maintain a chilly edge to them no matter how you adjust the thermostat. Also there aren't a lot of plugs to charge items although at the back of the phone there's a handy phone charger but I have no idea where to charge my laptop apart from by the bedside (but sometimes you want to write on the work desk).
Also there is a dusting of crumbs near the mini bar (and no it wasn't me raiding it I promise!). The mini bar is a bit pricey with a 500ml bottle of San Pellegrino at $9. Also two of the rowing machines in the gym (the treadmills were taken) weren't working.
The other girls Alyson, Belinda and Cheryl are in Executive Rooms, around 40 square metres and they're very happy with those rooms although Alyson finds her too cold. The layout of these rooms is cosier and they're well appointed.
At 3:30pm we make our way down to the lobby and take a seat at the bar. The lovely bar staff still remember us from the afternoon tea (I promise we were well behaved) and we order some cocktails.
Red Velveteen and Sakura cocktails, $24 each
My favourite is the Red Velveteen with vodka, frangelico, cranberry, lemon and lime which is sweet and very drinkable. There's also the complex flavours of the Sakura with house infused vodka, Benedictine, elderflower, liquid gold tawny and sparkling wine. This comes out from underneath a cloche with a cloud of smoke.
We pair these with bar snacks as everyone is getting peckish for dinner. There's lamb croquettes, fried chicken wings with hand cut chips. You see last time we visited they had these amazing hand cut chips. Alyson had arrived at the hotel at 2:30pm and had a coffee at the bar before asking about said chips. They told her that they were no longer on the menu.
Clockwise from left: Lamb croquettes, chicken wings and fries
"This can't be happening, I've been working out for 10 weeks to eat these chips. This is a disaster," she says because she has been dreaming about these chips. We all have. The lovely chefs are accommodating and whip her up some chips.
The croquettes are meaty and substantially filling while the chicken wings have everything that I love from a crunchy coating to soft, juicy meat inside. They pair perfectly with the herb mayonnaise on the side.
It feels like just 4pm when we realise that it's time to move into the Wilmot restaurant. That's the thing about chatting to your friends, you barely notice the time passing. The Wilmot led by executive chef Ryan Hong has an open kitchen and the restaurant is outfitted with comfortable leather chairs and royal blue banquettes. We sink into a banquette and take a look at the menu. It's surprisingly reasonable-you can get 1 course with a glass of wine for $30, two courses for $45 including a glass of house wine or 3 courses for $55 including the wine. There is also caviar and oysters that you can add onto your order.
They start with warm, house made ciabatta rolls and butter-Cheryl appreciates having her own butter although she quickly orders another pat. And then we choose entrees from a list of six entrees and six mains.
The heirloom tomato features three types of heirloom tomatoes. The tomatoes are not as sweet as they are in summer but they provide a nice freshness to the range of the dishes. These are served with labneh yogurt, za'atar and crunchy black quinoa.
The hiramasa kingfish is served with white lemon powder, dabs of avocado puree and chilli. The fish is fresh and the whole dish has a good fresh cleanness about it from the lemon powder.
South Australian Octopus
I must admit that this was my favourite because it has tender pieces of South Australian octopus with coconut jam (which is really more like coconut cream), chorizo, chilli and peanut crumble with green papaya salad. The flavours are a bit Asian and a bit Spanish and I don't really think it needs the coconut cream but the garlicky chorizo and tender octopus that was sous-vide at 78°C for 12 hours are fantastic together.
Split Australian King Prawn
The prawns are served head on but split down the middle and grilled with coriander and chilli marmalade as well as a dusting of shichi-mi tōgarashi.
How much do we love a Scotch egg? Scottish Alyson hasn't had one for years and we love the soft centred egg that smells so good. It's coated in a veal and pork and served with a tarragon aioli and a garden salad on the side.
Humpty Doo Barramundi Fillet
The mains arrive and they're substantial. The barramundi fillet has a moist fillet and crispy skin. It's served on a bed of blue swimmer crab risotto and a herb salad. It's a mild flavoured but definitely not bland comforting dish with perfectly cooked fish and moreish risotto.
18 hour braised short rib
I really love beef short rib and this one has a sweet, sticky sauce and is served on top of mashed potato with charred spring onion and roasted carrots. The rib is soft and the mash is buttery in texture.
Wagyu Top Sirloin $10 supplement
My favourite main is the steak, a gorgeous sirloin fillet with a porcini puree, a fabulous enoki chive salad and a slice of king brown mushroom. The star is of course the succulent steak that melts in the mouth but I also like the unusual accompaniment, beyond roast vegetables.
The gnocchi needs a little salt but it comes with a potato and leek sauce and green peas. They're soft little parcels that have been pan fried for a crispy outer texture.
Sticky date pudding delice
And this is where we all pick a different favourite dessert. The sticky date pudding is Alyson's favourite. It comes as a slice with a thin chocolate top, warm caramel sauce and a vanilla ice cream and is an upmarket take on a traditional basin dessert.
Chocolate and brioche pudding
The chocolate and brioche pudding was Belinda's choice. We were actually expecting a bread and butter pudding. Instead the chocolate and brioche pudding is more like a chocolate fondant with a chocolate sauce and coffee crumb. It's rich and gooey and no doubt would satisfy chocolate lovers but the name does suggest something perhaps quite different.
Honeycomb and berries
This was the prettiest dessert an the one that Cheryl swooned over. It's a honeycomb parfait slice with a pretty selection of fresh berries, edible flowers and blackberry cream quenelles as well as pieces of honeycomb.
Mandarin and lime
And this was my favourite dessert. After a big meal I tend to prefer light, refreshing desserts. This is a mandarin custard on top of a buttery biscuit base with a scoop of lime sorbet and brown sugar meringue biscuit pieces and freshly grated lime zest. At first glance it might sound perhaps a bit too citrusy or sharp but it isn't at all.
We're the second last table busy talking and the subject segues into ghost stories and having ingested many cocktails and wine we go to our respective rooms and promise that if someone gets scared, we will go in and hold their hand.
Breakfast is served back at The Wilmot restaurant and we adjourn there at 10am as it finishes at 11am. There's a fairly standard hotel breakfast selection broken up into two areas: the continental selection of pastries, fruit and juices (the tiny chocolate muffin with a centre of Nutella is really good as is the carrot, apple and ginger juice).
Another section is the hot buffet section with a side of congee. I get a bowl of congee and order an egg white omelette with cheese, chorizo and chilli. It's not bad although I should have probably specified how I like my chorizo (big pieces rather than very finely chopped).
As always we're the last table in the restaurant and we don't even notice it. We're too busy talking and end up staying and talking until 12noon or checkout time.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever go on Staycations? How about girls weekends? Had you heard about this hotel before? And do you like your hotel room cold or warm?
NQN stayed as a guest of Primus Hotel but all opinions remain her own. Dinner was included but cocktails and snacks were independently paid for.
339 Pitt St, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 8027 8000