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The Regent was the first of the modern luxury hotels built in Sydney, and this allowed it to grab what is now its greatest asset: the best location in the city. Australia's largest city was experiencing a growth spurt in the late 1970s when ground was broken on the Regent, which opened to much fanfare in 1982.
Everything worth doing in Sydney seems to be a stone's throw from the hotel. Leave the lobby and you are on George Street, the major thoroughfare. Turn left, and you are in The Rocks, the city's oldest district, whose narrow streets were once home to grog shops, brothels and rowdy sailors, but today feature restored nineteenth-century buildings that house the trendiest eateries and best shops.
A right turn places you in the heart of the business district, a few blocks from Sydney's stock exchange. A 15-minute walk leads to the Queen Victoria building, a beautiful Victorian upscale shopping complex; David Jones, Australia's version of Harrod's, complete with food halls; or Darling Harbor, home to Sydney's aquarium and maritime museum. A few blocks further lies Sydney's Chinatown, now home to Asian restaurants of every description.
Despite the great location, there are enough temptations to keep guests within the hotel. The 52 signature executive suites are corner rooms that offer great views; choosing the harbor corner allows you to overlook the Opera House from one window and the Harbor Bridge from the other. Guests without corner rooms can saunter up to the rooftop pool to relax in Australia's seemingly perpetual sunshine and take in the views from the top.
Kable's, the hotel's featured restaurant, is the Regent's heart and soul, and a perpetual contender for Australia's best restaurant. With a new chef, Terence Rego, the menu is modern Australian, with a strong emphasis on seafood, which this island continent has in stunning abundance. The country also grows every imaginable fruit and vegetable, and boasts high-quality beef and lamb. This abundance ensures that the choices on Kable's menu are made with market-fresh ingredients each day. A tour of the kitchen reveals a notable absence of freezers.
The Regent's humidor, located in the glassed-in wine cellar at Kable's entrance, features a comprehensive array of top-shelf Cubans, including Montecristos and Cohibas. If you can look past the humidor, you will find an impressive selection of international and Australian wines, including the nation's only complete vertical collection of the Penfold's Grange Hermitage, Wine Spectator's 1995 wine of the year.
The Regent has two other restaurants, The Lobby and The Mezzanine. The Club Bar is its upscale nightspot, and GSB, which also serves meals, is the hotel's traditional pub, complete with pool tables. It is a very popular after-work drinking hole. Despite their British roots, Australian pubs serve their beer very cold, and they serve a lot of it.
If the selection of great restaurants in the hotel and within a few minutes' walk are not enough, the trademark 24-hour room service is available at all Regent/Four Seasons properties. Likewise, guests familiar with the chain will recognize the plush bathrooms, with their oversized tubs, glass-enclosed showers, thick robes and towels, and vast expanses of marble. Travelers should be advised that The Regent is planning major renovations this year between May and October (Australia's winter), including enlarging many rooms, adding suites and redesigning the look of the restaurants.
While Australia's seasons are the reverse of those in the northern hemisphere, Sydney enjoys fair weather year round, and is the nation's top destination for U.S. visitors. The city is abuzz over the upcoming 2000 Olympic Games, but if you plan on attending, you will be disappointed if you call the Regent for a reservation. It seems the International Olympic Committee toured the city and decided to grab the entire hotel for itself.--Larry Olmsted
Larry Olmsted, who frequently writes about travel, golf and outdoor recreation, lives in Vermont.
The Regent Sydney
199 George Street
Phone (612) 9238 0000
Fax (612) 9251 2851
Reservations (888) 623-8747
Rates Single $A280-$A2,200 (about $US190 to $US1,500) per night, double $A310-$A2,200 ($US210 to $US1,500). Prices are lower in the off-season, April through September.