November 28, 2023

Ten years on, flagship Sydney hotel still feels cool and fresh

By Jane Reddy
November 28, 2023 — 3.47pm
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The hotel

QT Sydney


Unapologetically and refreshingly busy and brash. Pictured: The foyer.

It’s been just over a decade since the red-wigged, red-lipped, leather-clad ″⁣Directors of Chaos″⁣ first enticed guests into the new QT Sydney, a riot of a hotel housed over the floors of the former historic Gowings department store and above the State Theatre, both of which opened their doors in 1929.

Years later the flagship QT property is still no shrinking violet. Directors are now in costumes of high-waisted sateen pants, pussy-bow blouses and capes by fashion house Romance Was Born and music continues to be piped through the lifts that transports guests up and down the hotel’s floors. Fisher’s Losing It (they’re playing my song) transports me to reception where designer-patterned bucket chairs sit alongside walls of vintage suitcases, clocks and digital art by New Zealand-based artist Daniel Crooks. It’s unapologetically and refreshingly busy and brash. Keeping it calm are the super-efficient staff who have me on my way to my room within minutes.

The look

Parlour at QT Sydney has kept the original glass vitrines of Gowings department store and continues to house fashion.

The hotel made a virtue of its history when it first opened, restoring Gothic features of the Gowings inter-war, commercial Palazzo-style building including the ticket booth on the ground floor which was remodelled from the original State Theatre design. The real-deal mosaic floor remains at Parlour arcade on ground level, which is open to non-guests. Find a leather banquette, order champagne or an excellent coffee and gaze at couture outfits from past collections of Romance Was Born, glittering in the original glass vitrines that once housed the latest designs from Gowings department store. It could be the stylish sitting room of your sassy grandma who’s popped into the kitchen to fix you both a martini.

The room


The Executive King room, QT Sydney.

Far from the musical lifts, my QT Executive King is a space of quiet refuge. Spacious with ample room for a desk, lounge chair and cocktail bar, the original window frames of the Gowings Building and floorboards underfoot are a reminder of this storied building. Next to the cabinet aglow with coloured glassware is a decadent bathroom of double vanity, hidden toilet, walk-in shower, bath, pump packs of Kevin Murphy hair and skin products and bathrobes with a marshmallow feel. Dyson hairdryers are in all rooms and straighteners are available on request. It’s one moody, low-lit space. The upside is that room lighting is a breeze to operate to prevent middle of the night missteps. A stay in the Gowings wing also allows for a French Exit through a door onto Market Street, bypassing second floor reception and another lift to ground level. Room service of a Not So Classic Club Sandwich is delivered in a nifty box, a refreshing change from the silver cloche.

The food

Gowings reopened in 2022, channelling New York’s steakhouse scene.

Main restaurant Gowings reopened in March 2022 under the culinary direction of Sean Connolly and inspired by New York’s Little Italy and steakhouse scene. All bums are on the terracotta orange seats on this school night including the Chef’s Table next to the kitchen for up to eight guests. Service is schmick. First awarded a Good Food Guide hat in 2023 and retained for 2024 at this month’s awards, steaks for “two or more” carved tableside is the heavy hitter among an extensive menu of snacks such as burrata with pickled beetroot and pistachio, hand-made pastas and liquorice gelato scoops. Be sure to hail the roaming waiter with the cheese cart.

Out + about

Trams that once ran past Gowings on George Street do so again thanks to the $3 billion light rail revamp that’s proved popular with Sydneysiders. Catch it to Circular Quay or, in the other direction, Randwick. Pack your sneakers for short walks to the Opera House (25 minutes), Hyde Park (10 minutes) and Royal Botanic Garden (20 minutes). Closer still is the grand QVB and Pitt Street Mall for shopping and the State Theatre for a rolling calendar of shows.

The verdict

Hotels can date in a decade, but QT manages to stay fresh thanks to its food and drink offerings and touches such as quality bathroom products in a building that honours its past.

The details

Rooms from $329 a night; Executive King which is fully accessible and wheelchair friendly from $389 a night. QT Sydney 49 Market Street, Sydney NSW 2000. Phone (02) 8262 0000. See

Our rating out of five


Highlight A decadent lunch from the French menu at Parlour.

Lowlight A blown fuse renders the hairdryer and iron inoperable. It’s fixed by the time I return that afternoon.

The writer was a guest of QT Sydney.

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Jane Reddy is the deputy editor of Traveller in The Age and The Sydney Morning HeraldConnect via Twitter or email.


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