The Google Map view of the front of the hotel taken in 2009 gives a not-so-nice impression of the hotel, which obviously had a makeover and changes to shop fronts since then. It now bears the name ‘Castlereagh Boutique Hotel’ instead of ‘Masonic Club’. Historically, it was a Masonic building constructed in early 1920’s and functioned as such until a new Masonic Club was built further down the road in recent years. It is still owned by the Masons but I hear a big hotel chain is going to buy it. Masons and members of the club can still get a discount when staying here. The hotel is conveniently situated for all the major sights you would visit in Sydney – Hyde Park, Sydney Tower, Botanical Garden, Government House, Museum, Queen Victoria Building, old and new shopping centres, Darling Harbour, The Rocks and Opera House. They are all within walking distance, with a few only a street or two away, including bus and train stops. It is well served by the St James’ Park and Town Hall train stations which are less than 5 mins walk away in opposite directions. Getting to and from the domestic or international airport is a cinch for less than A$16 and around 20 mins travel. Trains run every 10-15 mins. Usually, the train runs directly from St James’ Park to the airport but currently, one need to change at Central Station due to track works. Apart from an additional 10 mins, it was not a problem with changing platforms for me as it was on the other side of the same platform. This may not be the case for other days or times of the day. Lifts are available at all stations if you are burdened with heavy or multiple cases. For a dollar or two less, you can book a coach from the hotel to the airport but it will take a couple of hours more of your time, which may be better spent at an iconic site.
Castlereagh Hotel is a 10 storey high building with sandstone frontage and Art Deco architecture and entering the lobby sends you back to a time of old world charm. The rooms start from the 6th floor upwards. The furnishings, carpeting and interior decorations form the look and ambience of the period and are in very good condition. Look out for antique chairs with carvings of duck or goose forming the arms. Also an old telephone on a small display table that looks like an ancient Greek musical instrument. Sepia prints of old Sydney line the walls of corridors and rooms. One could spend half a day looking at these photographs and review the growth of early 20th Century Sydney. The most amazing room in the hotel is the heritage-listed Cello’s Grand Dining Room on the 4th floor which was faithfully restored to its former glory. I can visualise gorgeously dressed women and formally attired gentlemen having high tea at tables with starched, white table cloths and plates of crustless cucumber sandwiches and pots of tea, and musicians providing soft music from the balcony. A cello now sits up there. High tea is available on Wednesday to Friday in there if you wish to have that experience, with live piano and jazz on the Friday. Dinner is also available. There is another dining area on the 2nd floor which I did not have the opportunity to use. Looking through glass panes of the locked door, it looked nice too.
As this is a narrow building that stretches backwards, only rooms on the front (and maybe in the back) of the building have views of the streets. The rest look out to blank concrete walls of adjacent buildings. The standard double room I had was the right size for one person, and probably a bit less spacious for 2. It accommodated a double wooden bed, carved side tables with drawers on both sides of the bed, a small table and 2 ornate chairs and a TV/minibar fridge cabinet with a large flat screen TV. All the Australian free-to-air digital channels were available. I don’t remember seeing paid channels like Foxtel on offer. Tea and coffee were complimentary. The bed and pillows were comfortable to lie on. A large mirror with ornate frame hangs on the wall. The built-in wardrobe had space and a stand for a luggage bag and a safe, which may require a key and payment from the reception desk. Two spare pillows, a wool blanket and about 6 hangers were kept here. I did not see an iron or ironing board but the website mentions a guest laundry service. I did not need to use an iron so did not check it out. The bathroom was narrow with a glass-screened shower. The towels were white, thick, clean and fluffy with hair drier, soap, shampoo and conditioner available. The shower head was the largest I have ever seen with a super flow of water! It took several minutes for the hot water to come through the sink tap, but it was quite instantaneous for the shower. I couldn’t think why there is a difference apart from them being serviced by different hot water systems. The whole room and bathroom were clean and there were lots of power points. The lighting in the room was a bit dim but can be supplemented by the brighter bathroom light. The room temperature can be adjusted to your liking by a wall-mounted controller. The room I had on the 8th floor was very quiet and I did not hear any noise from the busy streets even with the window ajar. The noise isn’t apparent in the lounge/lobby either. There were road/pavement works right in front of the hotel whilst I was there.
The people at reception and dining areas were helpful, friendly and courteous. They were of different nationalities and age range. I was always addressed by name and in a formal manner. Room service for meals is available up to a certain time and the cost of the food is reasonable – similar pricing to a mid-range restaurant. For example, a curry and rice was $19. The selections are adequate as room service menu goes. If you should miss the time line, there are several different types of food restaurants/cafes within a block. Breakfast is in the Grand Dining room and costs $15. Not much more than you would pay in a café (I saw one a few doors away for $12). But you get to eat all you can and in rather elegant surroundings. You need to pay for a voucher at the reception beforehand. A good selection of self-serving cereals, hot food, fresh fruits, fruit juices, breads, tea and coffee are on offer. The chef will cater to your special requirements to a certain extent – eg poached eggs instead of scrambled eggs. Complimentary newspapers are on hand if you are used to reading at the breakfast table. There is a large bar and sitting area in the lounge which is open to the public, as are the other dining facilities. Again, there are opening and closing times. During my weekend stay, I didn’t see many hotel or public clients about the hotel. Left luggage is available for free and there is an ATM machine in the lobby. There is no on-site or street parking. Paid parking is available close by.
From their website, normal rate is $169/night regardless of day of week until mid-October. After that, high season rates apply and it increases to $280/night. I had a discounted rate, booking through a hotel booking agency and stayed for 2 nights. This has been the best hotel I have stayed in for the price that I paid. Considering what I have to pay for other bland and uninteresting accommodation in Sydney or other cities in the world, this has been a great value-for-money boutique hotel. The architectural and historical aspects of the hotel are definitely worth a stay. Apart from the view out of the window (I was out all day anyway and it is beyond the control of the hotel) I only have positives to say about this hotel or the people working there. It has such beautiful and interesting décor that I spent quite some time photographing them. Check out the hotel’s website for a gallery of pictures of the hotel and interior, although a standard double room is not featured. This hotel will now be my choice whenever I go to Sydney again in the off season, and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who wants to visit Sydney.
Sydney had spring-like weather on the 3 days I was there, which pleased me no end and made it a fantastic, memorable stay all round.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Castlereagh Boutique Hotel is an elegantly restored, heritage-listed property ideally located in the heart of Sydney's commercial, retail and entertainment centre. The Castlereagh Boutique Hotel has a variety of public bars and dining areas to suit the needs of casual visitors and hotel guests. No stay at the Castlereagh would be complete without dining in the splendor of Cello's Restaurant, our Grand Dining Room, one of the last of its kind. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Castlereagh Boutique Sydney