I have a theory that hotel bars hardly ever impress if they’re open plan. After all, a bar needs to feel secluded and intimate, it needs to have its own atmosphere. If not, then it can feel as if the hotel just slapped a bar counter on one level and threw in some chairs in order to tick off another feature for the travel catalogues.
This is why I never went to the Sheraton on the Park’s Conservatory Bar before – it’s open plan. Perhaps I’m taking snobbishness to new heights but I feel silly sitting in a hotel bar when I can watch families go up to their rooms or run to the hotel gym in their swimming togs. I like my hotel bars to feel like a destination in themselves.
Having said that, the Conservatory has recently been refurbished and, since the Amazonian Croatian and I like to pretend we’re part of the jet set, we dress up and head into five-star land.
Located next to the restaurant, the Conservatory Bar’s counter is designed for service rather than sitting at and is lit up with an aquamarine glow (see photo below). To continue my snobbish streak, I’m not convinced this is appropriate for a plush hotel like this – if I were staying here, I’d prefer a grand old wooden bar I could sit at.
As far as I can tell, the main difference since the refurb is the new furniture. There are now curved high-backed banquettes along the wall that aim to provide privacy by partitioning off small areas and to some degree they succeed – after a short while the Amazonian Croatian and I do feel like we’re in our own space that’s removed from the hotel itself. There are also chairs made from a range of materials, including faux snakeskin (or is it real skin?).
Both the Croatian and I are torn about the décor – some of it looks stylish (we love the copper lights) while some is arguably tacky – although the view of Hyde Park is partially redeeming and there is a terrace you can drink on.
Yet décor and layout aside, what does impress about the Conservatory Bar is both the service (the hostess who greets us is so genuinely friendly that it’s almost a shock – I’m used to indifference) and the quality of the cocktails.
The Croatian orders the Pina Margarita, which is like a normal margarita but with sage syrup and, as the name suggests, pineapple juice in addition to the traditional lime juice. The result is interesting: I swear the mix of sage, pineapple and lime juice tastes a little like butterscotch although the Croatian says I’m delusional. However, we both agree it’s a great cocktail that balances its sweet and sour flavours well.
However, what I really like is the Blenders Lounge, made from a mix of Johnny Walker Green and Johnny Walker Black, a dash of Grand Marnier and orange bitters. At first sip it’s the whiskey flavours that come through but then after a moment the Croatian and I both find ourselves tasting the citrus flavours of the bitters and Grand Marnier. In short, it’s a smooth and subtle whiskey cocktail that I’ve never had before.
Overall, I’m still not convinced about the bar’s layout – I think it would be great for functions but perhaps not for an intimate date – but the service and cocktails make this a winner.
Conservatory Bar / Sheraton on the Park, 161 Elizabeth Street, Sydney CBD. See the Conservatory Bar / Sheraton on the Park website. Open every night.
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate the Conservatory Bar?