Hotel review: Primus Hotel Sydney - An Art Deco icon reborn

Chris Ashton

Occupying the former home of the Sydney Water Board at 339 Pitt Street, Primus Hotel Sydney is the newest boutique hotel to enter the vibrant Sydney hotel scene. But what makes this hotel different from so many others entering the space is its willingness to preserve and celebrate it’s architectural past – not just erase it.

Built by Howie Moffat & Co back in 1939, the building is one of the most intriguing examples of Art Deco architecture in Sydney, though you may not realise it from outside alone. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve walked past it a hundred times and never given it a second glance. Behind closed doors is where the real action is.

The moment you pass through the hotel’s imposing front doors, you’re transported back in time to the 1930s - a golden age of Hollywood glamour. Towering ceilings, white marble floors and 8m-high red scagliola columns instantly set the scene.

The central lobby area. Photo: Primus Hotel Sydney

The soaring central lobby area of the hotel is stunning; it’s ostentatious yet equally understated. Plush velvet sofas and leather armchairs soften the scene, creating intimate seating areas for guests to relax and take in the Art Deco décor.

On the far side of the lobby is The Wilmot, a 120-seat restaurant with navy and wine coloured horseshoe booth seating, white marble partitions and block parquet flooring. The open kitchen will be a definite highlight for cooking show fans.

The Wilmot Restaurant. Photo: Chris Ashton

Historic images around the perimeter of the lobby celebrate the hotel’s past life as a working office, and also reveal just how much has been modified - very little. The building refit was very heritage-sensitive, with a team of craftsman toiling away for two years to bring the architectural gem back to it’s former glory - and then some.

A glimpse of the hotel’s past. Photo: State Library of New South Wales

Primus Hotel Sydney features 172 glamorous rooms and suites across six levels. Opening the door to your room, you might half expect to find Leonardo Di Caprio flashing his best Gatsby smile and handing over a glass of the French champagne. He won’t be, of course, but everything else about the room will meet your expectations.

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Each of the naturally light-filled guest rooms is furnished with royal navy and cream fabrics, dark timber oak joinery, and polished brass trimmings. In the ensuite, you’ll find handmade subway tiles, a deep soaking bath tub, and glamorous black tap ware. It’s a very tactile guest room, with every surface calling out to be touched.

Executive King Room. Photo: Primus Hotel Sydney

Creature comforts include free wifi, 24 hour in-room dining, a Nespresso coffee machine (a sign of a good hotel), flat screen televisions, and amenities by organic Australian skin care brand Appelles.

The same glamorous look continues throughout the hotel, including the hallways so often overlooked by other brands. Detailed plaques strategically placed near the elevators reveal the former use of the level you’re on. The third floor, for example, was once home to upper echelons of the SWB, such as the Engineer-in-Chief.

The chic ensuite bathroom. Photo: Primus Hotel Sydney

On the top floor however is where you’ll find the hotel’s crowning glory - a guests-only New York-style rooftop oasis complete with 20m lap pool, lounge seating, and a very trendy bar. When the sun is setting over Sydney, this is where you want to be.

Shining a light on the hotel’s history again, one of the more fascinating former uses of this rooftop was as a rifle range during World War II. As part of the local war efforts in Australia, the staff recreation area located on the building’s rooftop was, for a time, converted into a rifle range. Keep a look out for the historic photos.

Primus Hotel’s stylish rooftop pool and bar. Photo: Chris Ashton

Daniel Muhor, GM of the Primus Hotel Sydney, says the public response to the hotel has been overwhelmingly positive, with it’s connection to the past a key strength.

“A lot of people knew this building and its history, and they're curious to see what's it's become,” Muhor says. “We had one man come in recently, staff spotted him just staring into a corner and asked if he was alright. He replied that that corner used to be his office space. People are amazed how the building has been reborn.”

Looking towards the open kitchen. Photo: Chris Ashton

Primus Hotel marks the entrance of Greenland International Hotels Group into Australia and is the first completed accommodation offering from the group. The creation of a new laneway will connect Primus Hotel Sydney with its neighboring landmark tower, the Greenland Centre.

Though it’s still early days for the five-star hotel, given the response from guests so far, it won’t be long until Primus Hotel is recognised as one of the best in the city.

Learn more about Primus Hotel Sydney.

About Chris Ashton

Chris Ashton is a curious traveller always on the lookout for the new, bizarre and unusual. A fan of exploring ancient ruins, diving with sharks and getting lost in city streets, he believes travel expands your horizons and helps shape the person you want to become.

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