This Sydney stay brings the spirit of Downtown Los Angeles to slick Surry Hills, with an acclaimed rooftop restaurant, happening lobby watering-hole and inclusive artist-in-residence program.
I am not cool enough for Ace Hotel Sydney, I know that much. I was never picked first on a team in PE, never wore a trend before it graced a magazine, and never discovered an artist months ahead of them being played on the radio. That doesn’t matter upon checking in though, because, as I’m later told, ‘This is a hotel for everyone’.
Ace Hotel Sydney is the inaugural Ace outpost in the Southern Hemisphere. Opened in May 2022, the hotel occupies the bones of Australia’s first-ever kiln, later the Tyne Building, on Surry Hills’ Wentworth Avenue. This heritage is nodded to throughout the new build, from the original brick archways downstairs to the laneway café, Good Chemistry. Melbourne-based interior designer David Flack led the new fit out, tasked with blending the site’s history with Ace’s brand as the original ‘hipster hotel’. The result is a bit grunge and a bit retro, akin to stepping into a New York warehouse apartment: a sunken lounge in the lobby, quirky light fittings, rich textiles, and a palette of earthy oranges and yellows, greens and browns.
My art aficionado credentials start and end with a one-semester class at university, but I still know enough to be impressed as I’m walked through the works strewn throughout the hotel’s shared and private spaces. A glazed James Lemon installation, of decommissioned kiln bricks, doubles as the lobby’s front desk. Above the staircase on the ground floor up to the first floor is a piece by Archibald Prize-winning Julia Gutman, made from clothes, blankets and sheets all used or worn by Gutman and her friends - the work is so large that Gutman didn’t see it complete until it was installed.
The culmination of Ace’s creative leanings is its Artist in Residence (AiR) program, first launched at the New York City hotel in 2014, which sees quarterly collaborations with different collectives and institutions. Artists hole up in one of the rooms for a month, with their subsequent works then exhibited and displayed in the hotel for all guests to take in. On the way up to my room I notice Jason Phu’s scrawls on the corridor wall. There are more on other floors too, each completely different and done when the artist, the first to stay in the hotel before it opened to the public, went roaming unsupervised.
There are 10 room types, from Small to the Ace Suite. Mine, a Medium Plus, has the soft croons of Triple J playing when I open the door. Music, not just the visual arts, is another space where Ace hits a high note. Guest rooms are a particular focus: a custom turntable, stash of vinyls (hello, Cliff Richards)
and acoustic guitar all lay in wait. There’s even blank sheet music for those so inclined to compose. The record collection in each room varies – a label on one sleeve outlines the source and sound of the records – and there are instructions on the turntable for guests unfamiliar with playing music on a device without a touchscreen. Upon setting my bag down, I opt skip my usual hotel routine – poking in every drawer and checking the pillow fluff-factor – to perch on the end of my bed, crook my leg like I’ve seen on so many CD covers and give the guitar a strum. As expected, my skills are best left behind closed doors.
In addition to its musical moxy, my room on the seventh floor is homey, comfortable and cool. Terracotta tiles in the bathroom are from the original build and the huge floor-to-ceiling windows offer a pretty outlook. A king bed and long green couch-slash-day bed round it out. The walk-in shower aces the temperature test; I take mine scalding and the water rises to the occasion. Bliss.
So what of Ace’s culinary clout? Ground-floor Loam is sister to the restaurant at Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles, with menus (all-day and dinner) taking cues from the seasons. Visit for prawn roll with shoestring fries or wellness muesli by day, or steak frites and Magra lamb backstrap with salsa verde at night. Another evening option is to head upstairs to Kiln, the rooftop kitchen and bar helmed by Mitch Orr and putting up seafood-heavy plates that are “Italian-ish” with Japanese and Southeast Asian influences. Even with a strictly no-seafood dining companion, options are plentiful, and modifications catered for. An anchovy-and-smoked-butter-topped Jatz is the ritziest cracker I’ll ever have, and the dry aged ribeye with sudachi ponzu is excellent – charred, butter-knife tender and gloriously savoury. Our pick of the sides is roasted eggplant with macadamia and crispy curry leaf. Bookings are strongly encouraged, and seating times are adhered too; we are politely whisked from our table to the bar before our desserts arrive, making room for the next wave of diners. Night owls can hang out at The Lobby cocktail bar and lounge for tipples, snacks and live music performances, happening every evening.
My time at Ace was short, sweet and stylish. And I'm delighted to report that this actually is a hotel for everyone: solo travellers, groups of trendy friends, curious couples and the self-proclaimed uncool. Like any good act, I’ll be back for an encore.
Ready to ace your next Sydney escape? Book Ace Hotel Sydney now.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.
Feature image: The Lobby Bar at Ace Hotel Sydney, supplied.