Capella Sydney Stands Apart From The Rest
Set within a heritage-listed sandstone building, the newcomer embraces its baroque grandeur — a welcome departure from the modernity surrounding it.
Let’s cut to it—Capella Sydney sets a lavish new luxury agenda for hotels in Australia. It feels alive and vibrant. It holds a sense of history, unashamed to share these stories, while playing in its own unique and captivating ways.
A debut Australian property for the award-winning Singaporean Capella group, the complete sensory allure of the property follows an eight-year, $300 million renovation of the heritage-listed Department of Agriculture and Department of Education (1912).
It sits square in sandstone Edwardian Baroque grandeur among the CBD’s more modern towers of finance, a block back from the water at Circular Quay.
And it stands alone, a showcase of what can be achieved when exemplary architecture and design align; proof that Sydney is a city growing up and looking beyond its long-held fascination with things shiny and new (or being told to).
The feeling Capella offers its guests—and to be here is to have all senses triggered—commences just beyond the main doors on Farrer Place. And it begins with a scent, a wafting we later learn (via a four-page document, no less) is the “Capella Scent”; a fragrant nose of freshness that is immediately transportive to South-East Asia (in a good way).
Up the steps and you’re pulled directly through a sleek and expansive reception area and into the public lounge Aperture. A glassed courtyard framed by seven-metre green walls and a smattering of seating and tables, the space is brought to life by piercing natural light and what is a dominant, mesmerising robotic light installation—Meadow, by Dutch outfit Studio Drift. Here you can sit and watch the comings and goings and be entranced by hypnotic inverted flowers that hover above and float like jellyfish.
Capella boasts 192 rooms and suites. Those on levels one to six rest within the heritage-listed aspect of the building, while those on tiers seven through to 11 inform the new build that sits above. Rooms are spacious and well-appointed—beds pillowy and vast, baths freestanding and deep within spacious bathrooms. The design that carries through is a contemporary slice of Art Deco. It works—an immediate welcoming hug and a place to happily lose some time. A tablet is easy to navigate to operate curtains, lights, AC and more.
The mini-bar is well-stocked and boasts an Archie Rose “Capella” single malt and wines, with non-alcoholic beverages (inclusive Capella bottled water, restocked daily) and cookies that come gratis. Further in-room supplies include shoe trees and polishing kit, clothes brush and shoehorn.
Much has been made of a luxury Sydney hotel that has limited Harbour views, but what Capella crafts is a new narrative, a thoughtful, designer take on what can be achieved within the tight confines of heritage. And there are indeed rooms and suites that provide aquatic vistas—sure, some acting as little more than cameos—and they’re found across the more elevated floors. Of them all, the 235-square-metre, one-bedroom Capella Suite on the ninth floor delivers most, with eastern views across Woolloomooloo and beyond.
Each evening at Capella, between 5-7pm, is a gathering built on storytelling. The Echoes of Eternity, held by staff in the guest-only, library-cum-exclusive retreat, celebrates with a free cocktail (a cold brew coffee liqueur made by Sydney roaster and distiller Mr Black) and an enchanting story— that of Sydney local Arthur Stace who, for 35 years from the 1930s, penned the word “eternity” on the footpaths and streets of the city. Open to guests outside this time, the area is a boastful and welcome escape for free coffee, some quiet time, work or to simply read or play a game of chess.
Further Sydney and Australian stories cover the various walls and spaces at Capella. A series of works by Waayni artist Judy Watson unfurl across the main entrance, while absorbing murals by indigenous artist Otis Hope Carey are presented in the lavish downstairs McRae Bar (so named after the building’s original architect). It’s worth wandering the property to find other artworks and various objets d’art that dot lower floors and corner spaces, just as it’s imperative to avoid the lifts at least once and ascend via the original marble staircase with its iron scrollwork balustrade.
Capella’s showcase, and sole restaurant, Brasserie 1930, is tucked to the right of the main entrance, across from McRae’s Bar. It’s a continuing play on the property’s contemporary Deco design; wood and brass flourishes; geometric floor patterns; lavish corner booths.
From Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt of the Bentley Group, the restaurant comes into its own for dimly lit dinners—menus that not surprisingly evoke a modern French brasserie, one elevated by exquisite Australian produce and a robust and deep local and international wine list.
Culinary standouts here include a starter of spanner crab with sea urchin sauce, and a shared main of whole roasted duck served with crisp-skinned breast, neck sausage, roasted plum, fennel, spinach and glazed eschalot; the concluding cheese trolley is also a must. It’s easy to understand how Brasserie 1930 achieved two hats mere weeks after opening.
Another highlight—and it’s not often such is said—is the sixth-floor indoor pool. The area, under a glass celling of light and framed by curling colonnades, is another nod to the design work that sets Capella apart and is an easy oasis in which to escape (the adjacent gym—airy, large and littered with Technogym equipment—is, arguably, its antithesis).
Capella Sydney—a stunning new heartbeat for the Harbour City.
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