Crystalbrook Albion should be your Sydney go-to.
Here’s a holiday hack to feel a part of the Sydney in-crowd – check yourself in for a stay at Sydney’s newly reimagined boutique hotel, Crystalbrook Albion.
In a postcode-envy neighbourhood that is all about hidden surprises, the 35-room Surry Hills hotel will excite modern travellers thirsty for unpretentious luxe. Weaving heritage with contemporary design, the former 1903 school convent oozes clubhouse feels, perhaps inspired by the sophisticated chic of a private social club with its understated street appearance, eclectic art displays, rooftop oasis and redefined hotel services. Think craft gin happy hours, honour bar system and an open-door policy for your furry friend. These hotel creature comforts are hard to live without once they have entered your life.
More than just a pitstop to shower and sleep, it’s a welcomed respite: an urban retreat in Sydney’s exciting social hub. And without the need for membership, just keys to a hotel room, I quickly found excuses to linger around the new kid on the block.
I felt instantly cool when I entered this hidden art house along Little Albion Street from its discreet alleyway entrance. If you weren’t on a mission to find it, you would be oblivious to know this gorgeous Surry Hills sanctuary even existed.
The reception area is via a courtyard, a secret solace to make the most out of Sydney’s sunny days – or magical starry nights with fairy lights crisscrossing the air. Speaking of crossovers, the hotel seems to have a fixation with zigzags with zebras featuring throughout the lobby walls and windows – a snazzy touch.
But besides the presence of the hotel’s unofficial black and white mascot, the hotel is hardly short on colour with its trendy décor and intimate spaces primarily inspired by 1920s and 1970s design. It is also perfectly reasonable to think you have booked a night at an art gallery after journeying its four-storey stairwell filled with oversized portraits of Sydney’s past questionable characters. As someone who regularly goes to art galleries, I was in my element.
Up on level five is the hotel’s most serene escape of them all: its rooftop retreat. The rooftop offers 360-degree views of Surry Hills and beyond and features Parisian-style table and chairs to appreciate the elevation. I found it easy to forget that I was in the thick of Sydney with the sounds of birdsong darting through the rooftop plants replacing the urban scenescape below.
For a small, narrow hotel, don’t expect rooms to be ample with space or sunlight. But what it lacks is made up for with its upmarket Ikea showroom on what to do with cosy nooks.
The pokey room’s furnishings and trimmings are a mishmash of art deco designs and are simply tres chic. Light pink and dark green robes greeted me as I opened the door to the room, the first of many pops of colour tastefully executed in a small space. Its pink and purple floral curtains, lone blue velvet chair and bathroom feature wall of dark green triangles were also visual delights. The bedhead is a standout, perhaps inspired by its location, an ode to the Sydney Opera House with design an abstract version of the global icon.
But its open-plan bedroom and bathroom design was a winner in my eyes, with its freestanding bathtub in full view of the bed. The bathtub is positioned under a slither of a window, shining light to the room’s evident luxury. (No wonder why the robes are in full view as you enter.)
The hotel is a leisurely stroll from Surry Hill’s main drag, Crown Street and 10-minutes from Central Station. Don’t make a beeline for the buzzing streets just yet; there are plenty of other gems only moments away, if not on the doorstep of Crystalbrook Albion, so you can be forgiven for sticking to your holiday bubble.
For early risers, head to Surry Hill’s breakfast-brunchtime darling Reuben Hills, just outside and across the street from the hotel’s Albion Street entrance. It’s the place to go for a casual yet flavoursome feed with breakfast burritos, burgers and tacos, all tasty carb-filled options.
Next door to the hotel is hip street eat Middle Eastern restaurant, Shaffa. Like Crystalbrook Albion, it is also cleverly hidden, sandwiched between a 120-year-old church and the heritage hotel down a narrow alleyway. The restaurant oozes Middle Eastern market vibes, and its countertop seating to observe the chefs at play in the open-air kitchen is a cultural experience in itself. The friendly chefs are up for a chat, even a recommendation if you are struggling to make a choice with its cosmopolitan style cuisine. If you want to pay street food prices, visit at lunchtime with a handful of dishes, including the chef’s favourite, chicken shawarma, for under $20.
Keeping in theme with having a colourful stay, have a boujee night out by wining and dining at neon-lit Chin Chin. The Melbourne eatery juggernaut now resides in Sydney, with the eatery ever-popular with locals for its Asian-inspired share menu. It is strongly recommended to make bookings.
Walking around Surry Hills, you will discover its hard-pressed to be short of options on where to kick back, relax and unwind. And if all those options do overwhelm you, you know which rooftop to recharge.
Crystalbrook Albion – 21 Little Albion St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Julia travelled as a guest of Crystalbrook Albion and all thoughts and opinions are of her own.
Feature image: Crystalbrook Albion
See more: NSW travel