Time Out says
History and hospitality go hand-in-hand at this luxury boutique hotel in the heart of Surry Hills
Converting an existing building into a hotel usually requires some degree of problem-solving. Add in heritage-listed status, and the puzzle becomes even trickier to crack. The risk is that a development either obliterates whatever historical charms were originally there with luxe mod-cons, or else ends up creating a hodge-podge of awkwardly shaped rooms and shoe-horned facilities that fail to meet the expectations of paying guests.
However, when done right, a heritage hotel can be a transformative mix of modern hospitality and fascinating storytelling, where a building’s past can reach out to the present without overly intruding on your comfort. This careful balance is struck with distinctive flare at one of Sydney’s more inconspicuous boutique accommodations. This 35-room hotel gathers together a kaleidoscope of design cues that, far from feeling anachronistic, honour the many style revolutions this building has bore witness to. There’s a ‘60s-inspired sunken lounge, an honour bar that Gatsby would covet, flashes of Deco chic in the pink terrazzo floors and brushed-brass room numbers, a bohemian roof terrace with ecclesiastical views, and a ‘70s-worthy lime-green patterned carpet that wouldn’t look out of place in the Overlook Hotel.
Over 120 years, this former convent, women’s refuge and hospice has seen the transformation of Surry Hills from a dank slum, poverty striken and rife with organised crime, into one of the bougiest hoods in the city. In an area that has undergone such top-to-bottom gentrification, it seems apt that a building that was once a moral stronghold in the heart of Sydney’s most nefarious corner should be reborn as a plush, boutique bolthole for an elite clientele.
And yet, the echoes of history still resonate here. For much of its existence, the property at 84 Albion Street has been a house of care, offering safety and shelter. It’s very much in this spirit that its current incarnation, run by the Crystalbrook Hotel group, operates. Service here is all about ease and intimacy, heroing local knowledge and a profound pride for the 2010 postcode. Staff are warm and extremely erudite about the neighbourhood’s highlights. Need a coffee? You’ll be directed to Surry’s best baristas just minutes-walk away. Hungry for a fancy feed? The area's best eats are on the tip of the Albion team’s tongue.
One of the biggest hurdles with a converted hotel is figuring out how to deliver a consistent experience on a footprint that may have rooms of many shapes and sizes. The Albion leapfrogs the issue altogether by embracing the building's changing dimensions, offering six different categories of rooms, each suited to a different type of traveller. Smaller rooms have been turned into ‘crashpads’, perfect for business trippers looking for a comfortably compact place to lay their head. Need a little more space? The 'cosy' is the ideal overnighter, while the classic and master rooms are better suited to longer reservations. For a more indulgent experience, the hotel’s spacious suites channel all the luxury of Sydney’s best five-star accommodations, while preserving the whimsical creativity so central to the boutique vibe, all at a competitive price point for the city.
But Sydney is blessed with its fair share of great boutique establishments, so if you need a tie-breaker, the Albion's secret collection of original artworks hanging in its main stairwell could well seal the deal. A series of specially commissioned portraits of Surry Hills’ most infamous residents, including razor gang leader Kate Leigh and her arch-rival Tilly Divine, by Australian artist Ann Cape, offer a window into the extraordinary social history that was written in the shadow of the Albion’s gothic facade. If there's a more touching and insightful intermingling of hospitality and history in Sydney, we haven't heard of it.