25 September 2023

A hotel that’s right for train buffs

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By John Rozentals.

The Mercure Sydney … purpose-built as prestige accommodation.

The old goods line tunnel that used to connect Sydney’s Central Station with the Darling Harbour shipping port rolls right under the Mercure Sydney and the hotel is just about next to Central — within easy walking distance — so it’s little wonder that the property has borrowed lots of names, emblems and photos from the city’s railways.

An obvious one is that the hotel’s premier restaurant, Platform 818, takes its name from its historic address, 818 George Street, Sydney.

Outlook from the Mercure Sydney … a seemingly ever-changing skyline.

And in the range of high-ball cocktails served in glasses heavy enough and sturdy enough to stand the rigors of train travel.

The restaurant has been cleverly designed so that evening diners and imbibers are largely unaware that the restaurant doubles each morning as a breakfast venue for a far-from-intimate 300-odd guests staying at the hotel.

The effect is gained by a series of drop-down partitions that hide the presence of the breakfast bar and paraphernalia.

Platform 818’s bar … a great after-work or before-dinner venue.

And those accessing the city’s — and, indeed, state’s and nation’s — rail systems have every reason to consider calling the Mercure Sydney home for at least one night, especially if, like me, they have to board a Victoria-destined vintage train at 5am.

But the hotel, whose new-look room I sampled recently, has plenty to offer guests apart from that old real-estate adage of position, position, position.

The beds are super-comfortable, the décor is swish, there’s ample hot water and the water-pressure is great.

Something for just about everyone … a range of dishes from Platform 818.

In fact it ticks all the boxes except for accommodation’s perennial bugbear of marginal lighting. Side-lighting can only compensate so far for inadequate overhead lighting.

During daylight the lighting is splendid, especially if guests can take their minds away from the — in my case, anyway — the super outlook right up George and Pitt Streets to Sydney’s CBD and a seemingly ever-changing skyline.

As for the restaurant it is something to just about everyone.

Drinks at Platform 818 … plenty of variety and colour.

It has plenty for meat lovers like myself, something for fans of seafood — occasionally, via the signature steak and half-lobster, for both at once, and plenty of choice for vegetarians.

The latter are well catered for via entrées such as steamed bao buns and honeyed haloumi; and main dishes such as rotollo (made with spinach, sage beurre noisette, Persian fetta, baby pea tendril) and southern antipasto (made with slaw, bbq jackfruit, southern-style cauliflower, pickled watermelon rind). There’s certainly more than the mere salad offering sometimes made.

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