Civic reception ... the Mantra 2 pool looks over the skyline.
Bruce Elder finds space, location and a rooftop playground in the heart of the city.
There are so many hotels in Sydney's CBD that it is hard to choose one that has a unique collection of services and qualities catering for individual requirements. Each has its own benefits but how do you find a place that suits your specific needs?
We book at Mantra 2 Bond Street (part of the Mantra chain of hotels and apartments) primarily because of its central location. We're planning an exploration of the history of The Rocks (not the gift shop and gallery area) and we're booked on the Tribal Warrior Aboriginal cultural cruise from Circular Quay. As well, whenever we come to Sydney we like to take at least one ferry trip on the harbour and have a leisurely walk in the Botanic Gardens.
All these are no more than 10 minutes away, so the Mantra ticks all the boxes so far.
A quick browse on wotif.com unearths a "spacious executive studio with lounge/dining area, full kitchen and laundry, two LCD TVs, CD stereo, free DVD/VCR hire, free use of our rooftop heated pool, spa, barbecue and gym". The rack rate when we book is listed as $659 and we snap up a studio for $149. Now that's a bargain. Overnight parking - directly under the hotel and connected to the reception area by lifts - costs $50 but this still seems excellent value for money.
As an apartment hotel - in which you'd expect space and the kind of facilities needed by long-term guests - Mantra 2 Bond Street does not disappoint. Its 170 studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments - many with private balconies - are so close to Wynyard you could hop to the station on one leg and not work up a sweat. The hotel buzzes with the vitality of the CBD, fuelled by the constant ebb and flow of office workers on the street outside.
The Lobby Cafe and Bar in the foyer has a steady flow of passers-by and hotel guests. It serves coffee and light meals throughout the day and does room service and evening meals between 5.30 and 9pm (signature dishes are Szechuan salt-and-pepper prawns and steak and frites). It has a breakfast service that, unlike the dreaded bains-marie of so many hotels, allows the diner to order the meal size to suit - and a decent coffee. I tuck into coffee, juice and eggs on toast for $20.
The room layout is - how shall I put it - quirky. We enter on the upper level, where the bedroom and bathroom are. It is strange to open the door, find a queen-sized bed immediately to your left, a half-room divider housing a flat-screen television and, beyond, stairs descending to a lounge-dining area. The bathroom is small but adequate and without a bath.
Downstairs is a kitchen with a good-sized fridge, a microwave oven and a full-sized stove with a cooktop and an oven large enough to cook a Christmas turkey. The lounge area looks over George Street (which means it is pleasantly noisy - I like the sound of buses as they make their way down to the Quay). There is a large LCD TV, a couch and a dining table seating four people comfortably. The apartment is furnished in discreet, unremarkable apartment furniture.
The small rooftop pool is a treat. It has barbecue facilities and magnificent views of the city skyline, with glimpses of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.
Mantra 2 is more than a hotel room. This is an apartment where you can entertain guests, stretch out, relax and plunge into the life of the city below. It's as though you're part of the residential fabric of the city centre. And you are right in the thick of things. It's a pleasure to wander through the streets and alleys of The Rocks, walking up and down those narrow stairs at night.
I went searching for a historic hotel in Gloucester Street, a place known as the Ship & Mermaid Hotel, where the novelists Joseph Conrad and Jack London stayed when they visited Sydney. Sadly - and this is the story of too much of Sydney's history - the hotel has gone and the building has been demolished. Still, The Rocks after dark, away from the raucous tourist areas around George Street and along the shoreline of Sydney Cove and Campbells Cove, is hauntingly memorable and only a few minutes' walk from the Mantra 2.
Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.
Mantra 2 Bond Street
Address Corner of George and Bond streets, Sydney.
The verdict Large and airy apartments in the heart of Sydney's city centre.
Price We paid $149 for an executive studio apartment on wotif.com; at the time of printing, the Saturday-night rate for that apartment is $235. The hotel lists a rack rate of $248 for the same.
Bookings Phone 9250 9555, see www.mantra.com.au.
Getting there The hotel is about 300 metres from Wynyard Station. Vehicle access to Mantra 2's underground car park is via Pitt Street.
Perfect for Easy access to the Art Gallery of NSW, the Museum of Sydney, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the historical atmosphere of The Rocks.
Wheelchair access Yes.