In a case of everything old is new again, the Old Clare Hotel has opened in Chippendale in inner-city Sydney, transforming the down-at-heel County Clare Inn and Carlton & United Breweries administration building into Sydney's newest boutique hotel.
It's the culmination of a complex five-year project by Singaporean hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng, restoring and linking the two heritage-listed buildings and installing three restaurants, two bars and a rooftop pool as the centrepiece of the rapidly gentrifying Kensington Street and Central Park precincts.
The Old Clare's lobby is a low-key extension of pedestrianised Kensington Street, designed to stamp the hotel "as part of the neighbourhood, a place for everyone", says hotel general manager Timo Bures. The hotel's reception with amber-glass accents shares space with the pub's restored front bar, with its original tiles, cornices and phone booth.
The hotel's 62 rooms in 26 different layouts have lofty ceilings, original windows and airy stripped-back interiors, featuring Danish mid-century furniture, industrial-style joinery, customised lights, and lamps fashioned from engine parts. "We didn't want to over-restore the buildings," Bures says, "so in some places the original features are stripped bare, and we haven't tried to match missing tiles. You can see the history of the place."
The old wood-panelled CUB boardroom is the most impressive of the restorations; now a suite with its original urinal incorporated in a sleek bathroom, the room was stripped and suspended while much of the building was demolished around it.
Expect sunrise yoga and sundowners beside a 14-metre pool and deck bar for 80 atop the old CUB building. The hotel's two bars will be run by British chef Jason Atherton, whose 120-seat Kensington Street Social is due to open in November on the hotel's ground floor. The 50-seat Silvereye on the second floor, and 60-seat Automata on the ground floor are due to open this month (see our story on the restaurants opening at The Old Clare for more).