From clock towers to afternoon tea towers, The Fullerton Hotel Sydney lives up to high expectations.
Was there ever a drink more intrinsically linked to a city than the Singapore Sling? The pineapple, the maraschino cherry, the gin…
Mix it wrong and it’s a write-off of sugared-up cough medicine. But mix it right and you’re transported straight back to the streets of Little India flicking through saris in a street stall and photographing the eye-popping street art down hipster Haji Lane.
But what to do if you love the Lion City, yet can’t leave your own city, state or country? Happily, for those seeking a soft exit from isolation, The Fullerton Hotel Singapore now has a Sydney outpost.
Mirroring its parent, The Fullerton Hotel Sydney is also built around the city’s former GPO, at No. 1 Martin Place, Sydney.
The centrepiece of The Fullerton Hotel Sydney, which opened last October, is the city’s flamboyant Italian Renaissance general post office. Built from Pyrmont sandstone and granite, construction started in 1866, and was eventually completed with the clock tower in 1891.
Elegant corridor of arches and columns line the sides of the hotel – formerly the Westin Sydney – and the clock’s faces look down through a glass ceiling into the hotel lobby, bars and and restaurants.
The tower is undergoing maintenance and its first scrubbing down since 1963, washing away decades of pollution, while Australia’s largest mechanical clock receives a delicate recalibration. When complete in December, the Westminster bells will ring out again over the city, replicating the same call as its British cousin, Big Ben.
The hotel’s resident heritage guides run 90-minute tours through the heritage-listed building. Once the highest point in Sydney, the tower now shares the space with plenty of glass-lined skyscrapers, including the hotel’s own contemporary accommodation wing, which brings the total rooms to 416.
On a recent stay at The Fullerton Hotel Sydney, my room in the tower wing looked down on the clock. Pulling back the curtains, the entire wall of windows offered a rare view of its copper cupola and down into Martin Place.
But even if you’re not staying in-house, the best place to gaze at the 129-year-old clock tower is The Bar, where a Singapore-infused afternoon tea is served every afternoon. My advice: skip lunch and don your smartest, stretchiest pants.
There are afternoon teas, and then there are truly extravagant afternoon teas. As one who has devoured afternoon and high teas from London to Luxor, I can confidently report the Fullerton’s shames most comers.
We arrived peckish, and were welcomed to our sunlit table in the atrium with a very, very long glass of champagne from the world’s oldest producer, R de Ruinart, before the arrival of the tower of teatime delights.
The two-tiered tower needed to be super sturdy, laden as it was with duck rillettes, white truffle egg mayonnaise sandwiches, layered smoked salmon mille-feuille topped with caviar, and lobster cosied up in a Boston Cornet a l’Oriental. It paraded a profusion of mini bagels and perfectly cut sandwich squares, and a pretty green pandan kaya lamington in a Sydney-Singapore mash-up.
The spread glittered with gold leaf and twinkled with silver trims: tiny micro-herbs danced across savoury sandwiches while rich candied fruit and puffs of meringue were strewn across tiny key lime pies and pecan maple tarts.
Fittingly, loose-leaf tea is supplied by luxe Singapore tea brand TWG – with not the whiff of a tea bag – with a fine selection including French Earl Grey and the signature 1837 black tea, while you’ll find Royal Darjeeling and Imperial Oolong in the premium selection.
And yes there are scones – plain and with black raisins, arriving suitably fluffy, tucked into a cosy bed of linen napkins, guarded by pots of strawberry jam and rich clotted cream.
The one, last, wafer-thin pleasure was the tiny square of chocolate atop a cube of Fullerton fruit cake, printed in gold with the hotel’s historic façade. ‘It’s almost too pretty to eat,’ said my teatime companion. I couldn’t answer her, because my mouth was full of chocolate.
Afternoon Tea is served daily from midday to 6pm. Bookings recommended. Costs $58 per person with tea or coffee, $68 with a Sydney Sling included, or lash out with champagne on the Ruinart Afternoon Tea, $78 per person.
Heritage tours of the hotel are available for guests and non-guests every Friday and Saturday.