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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

MGallery Harbour Rocks Hotel Sydney: in Scarlett’s and Eric’s footsteps

The Harbour Rocks Hotel Sydney is a 4.5-star boutique-hotel in The Rocks, Sydney’s historical quarter, and in a perfect spot facing the port and the city’s grandiose Opera House.

The building, on the site of Sydney’s very first colonial hospital, was originally a warehouse then an art gallery and is brimming with centuries of secrets and stories… and a mysterious romantic ghost lurks in it. We toured this MGallery Collection flagship hotel with Director of Sales & Marketing David Lowe.
You can recognize the hotel’s façade a mile off. It dates back to the days when the hotel was a warehouse,” David Lowe explains. The stone and iron building is imposing. It was built where the city’s first tent hospital once stood, in the historical quarter where the first English settlers landed. The Harbour Rocks Hotel takes you on a journey back in time. The massive bookcases in the lobby feature books about the city’s history. “Customers can borrow any of the books, including a copy of The Unauthorized Biography of Sydney to read in their rooms and travel through time.” Or they can sit back and relax on a lounge for a while.
A wool store in times gone by
The Harbour Rocks Hotel was built as wool store (warehouse), known as “The Evan’s Store” —in 1887. The stones came from the quartz mines around Sydney, and you can still see the hand-chiseled flowers on the arches, double windows and four pediments with a motif depicting the sun on each one across the façade today.

Entirely refurbished in 2012
The building has been a hotel since 1989, and was entirely redeveloped in 2012 when it joined the MGallery Collection. “We wanted to bring back the original features, unveil the structure, stonework, beams and sandstone walls.” The 59 rooms and suites each have their own distinctive style and decoration. “It’s a blend between contemporary design and Australian heritage, with brick walls, exposed stonework, modern bathrooms and minimalistic lighting.” The impressive chandelier in the lobby catches every guest’s eye. It is 10 meters high, half way between a sculpture and a light fixture, peppered with dozens of candles, and was made to order by an Israeli artist and is the keystone feature for all guests as they arrive.
A ghost roams…
Eric’s Bar on the ground floor is named after a late-19th-century seafarer. The legend goes that he was enamored of Scarlett, the madam in a nearby house of ill repute, and steadfastly beseeched her to wed him. The young woman finally agreed to marry Eric on his return from a cargo voyage to South America, but, alas, Scarlett died of tuberculosis shortly after Eric sailed for South America. “On his return, he was told of Scarlett’s death and was devastated. Eric himself died 2 weeks later of a broken heart… And now a ghost, who apparently looks a lot like Eric, has been sighted several times on the street outside the hotel, still searching for Scarlett” David Lowe reports, half-jokingly, half earnestly. This intimate, sleek bar can serve up to 20 patrons. Most of them are regulars who enjoy the quiet atmosphere. It is steeped in light from the large windows, and provides a pleasant backdrop to enjoy a hot drink, glass of wine or its famous cocktail, “Scarlett Fever”, made of lychee liqueur, pineapple juice, crème de cassis and Bacardi.

Exploring the past 
You can’t miss the large antique map hanging in Eric’s Bar. It is 2 meters high by 2.5 meters wide, and depicts the neighborhood back in the English days, in the 1880s. “You can see the first buildings, and a few roads that are still there today. Customers really enjoy musing over it while they sip their drink. They see another side of Sydney.” The owner, a history buff, did the rounds at many auctions to find it. The restaurant, “Scarlett”, serves dishes made from local produce in season, often including fish. “The private indoor terrace is a fantastic spot to just enjoy the silence.”
Sydney’s most beautiful suite
This hotel’s highlight is the Harbour View Suite. It stretches across an entire floor and looks out onto a spectacular view of Sydney Harbour. It spans 120 sqm, and has a private entrance and a terrace on the roof. “Cinema and music stars often choose to stay there because it gives you the impression you’re on top of the world—literally. And the view of the famous Opera House and Harbour Bridge is grandiose & majestic. There’s nothing quite like it!

Home from home 
At the Harbour Rocks Hotel, guests are much more than customers: “We welcome them as friends,” David Lowe explains, “We take care of them as if they were staying with us, in our home. We know some of them by their first names (with their permission of course) because we have known them for so long! They are part of the Harbour Rocks Hotel family”. The 32 men and women on the hotel team also feel they are part of a close family: “We enjoy working together. We believe in respecting each other, helping each other out, and sharing the successes and the advancement of this amazing hotel. We all treat each other like a big family. That’s why the working atmosphere is so pleasant and exciting. That’s clearly an advantage!”
Memorable moment 
Lastly, in the tradition of Memorable Moments by MGallery, the Harbour Rocks Hotel treats guests to an epicurean experience in a class by itself: a Starlight symphony. In the Harbour View suite, six patrons dine to the Sydney Classical String Quartet playing exclusively for them. And that’s something you want to do at least once in a lifetime!
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