Australia’s Hotel Restaurants Are Becoming Dining Hot Spots

hotel restaurants sydney Sydney Common

Not long ago, when you heard the words “hotel restaurant”, you’d think of microwaved meals, fluorescent lighting and drab décor. Often, these restaurants seemed to be an afterthought, added in for hotel guests only to easily grab a bite.

Around Australia, that’s changing, with hotel restaurants now frequented by locals and guests staying elsewhere. Jamie Robertson, head chef of Sydney Common, which opened on the first floor of Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park in February 2024, attributes the rising standard of hotel restaurants in Australia to overseas influence.

“Hotel restaurants in Europe, for example, particularly in London where I’m from, are often regarded with even higher esteem than their standalone counterparts,” says Robertson.

hotel restaurants Sydney Common
Image: Sydney Common

At Sydney Common, he uses boutique producers, including Baker Bleu, LP’s Quality Meats and CopperTree Farm, and has designed his menus around seasonal ingredients. Another Sydney hotel restaurant, Birdie Bar and Brasserie, which opened in January 2024 on the ground floor of Novotel Sydney City Centre, is also raising the hotel restaurant bar.

“Where else in Sydney would you be able to sit in a restaurant space inspired by the cocoon of a bird’s nest?,” says Ben Nicholls, portfolio food and beverage director at Birdie.

Its menu, Nicholls says, tells a story. Dish highlights include the Fremantle octopus, which uses koji sourced from Bondi, and a black sesame dessert that showcases a virtually extinct fruit. The cocktail list takes its inspiration from six native Australian birds.

In Melbourne, Japanese restaurant Warabi, opened in January 2022 in W Melbourne, was awarded two Chef Hats at the Good Food Guide Awards 2023. La Madonna in Next Hotel on Melbourne’s Collins Street, open since March 2021, was awarded one Chef Hat, in the 2023 awards.

hotel restaurants sydney birdie
Image: Birdie Bar and Brasserie

Other notable hotel restaurants around Australia include Peppina inside Hobart’s The Tasman, Garum in The Westin Perth and Lake House in Daylesford, Victoria.

In February 2024, Sofitel Sydney Wentworth announced plans to introduce a four-venue food and beverage offering, in partnership with House Made Hospitality. The hospitality group is also behind venues Grana, Lana and Apollonia at Hinchcliff House.

Sam Panetta, General Manager of Sydney Sofitel Wentworth, points out that people’s relationships with food have evolved significantly over the years. He says now you can have the best meal of your life at a local café. He agrees that the rising standard of hotel restaurants can be attributed to overseas influence.

“Hoteliers realise they can’t just focus on their internal guests but must create an attractive offering for locals if they are going to succeed,” he says.

hotel restaurants sydney birdie
Image: Birdie Bar and Brasserie

The restaurants’ settings within the hotels can be appealing for locals and non-hotel guests. Justin Newton, director at House Made Hospitality, says people attract people.

“The natural buzz of a hotel environment, which comes from guests checking in or out, conference attendees, as well as people stopping in for a quick bite or morning coffee, is a great asset,” he says.

Robertson at Sheraton Grand agrees, saying the hotel sees guests from all walks of life and all over the world staying. He says this creates a vibrant atmosphere you won’t find anywhere but in a hotel restaurant.

“There’s something special about walking into such a grand building,” Robertson says. “Whether you’re coming for a drink at the bar after work or a long lunch in the dining room, it just feels special.”

The rising quality of hotel restaurants in Australia will also extend to them adopting more sustainable practices and locally sourced menus, predicts Panetta. In Sydney, he sees upcoming hotel restaurants also embracing the trend of al fresco dining. Panetta agrees the rising quality will continue, but with sustainability as a big focus.

“All in all, I think hotel restaurants will be seen for what they truly are: pivotal to a hotel’s identity, infusing life, culture and vibrancy into each establishment,” he says.

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