Sydney is set to welcome a new luxury hotel with the opening of The Porter House Hotel Sydney– MGallery in August. The hotel is located in a heritage listed building from the 1870s, connecting the old and the new. General Manager Joleen Hurst told Ruth Hogan what to expect from the 122-room hotel.
There is a lot of history associated with this hotel. Can you explain a bit about this?
This hotel is very close to the signature of the personality who created the building. From its construction in 1876 until today, they have taken elements from everyone involved with this building through to the current design and restoration, which is amazing to see.
It’s so much nicer to see what we can do to restore historic buildings and take care of them rather than just tearing them down and building a new one. I am very proud to be part of it and to be its guardian for the future.
What is so unique about the design of this hotel?
It is a very bespoke building and the design is an integral part of the hotel’s history. There are two free-standing buildings that tie together the history of the Porter House and the modernity of new construction. There are Porter House elements, such as arched windows and curved glass, throughout the new hotel. It’s a brand new 10 story building with new hotel rooms, and there’s a real cross bridge between the old and the new that connects it to the Porter House itself, which is a place to eat and drinks with multiple outfits.
They took the archaeological finds from the construction site and used them throughout the building. For a client who loves a five-star experience, who loves a bit of history, this is a very unique space.
How do you communicate the hotel’s story to guests?
We are the curators of the building’s history, the custodians, and there are so many layers of history that we have the opportunity to share something new every day.
As guests walk down our entryway, there are coins and signs attached to them to tell this story. The team is immersed in history – we dug even deeper to find out more about the history of the hotel. This will be part of our onboarding training so they can tell this story. A large part of the team we have on board so far loves this historical aspect.
We also try to bring in some of the other stuff from Hugh Dixon who was the original builder of the site. He was a botanist and loved gardens, so we work with people from the Botanical Garden to orchestrate tours to take what he loved and bring it to life for the guest. We will consider doing historical tours around the hotel itself to highlight some of the features. We have 165 boxes of archaeological finds, so we have quite a story that we can show people.
How has it been building a new team in this difficult climate?
It’s a challenge, but we’ve been exceptionally lucky at this point in terms of the types of people we have on board. It’s about using different channels to reach the kinds of people we’re looking for – working with partners, contacts, using resources we probably never would have used in the past – and considering different longer-term incentives.
The most important part from Accor’s point of view is to provide them with a solid opportunity to learn, to train, to develop and to give them a longer term career, some stability and the possibility of re-launching their careers. . We were very lucky to have international team members, my Director of Guest Experience is an Australian who returned after spending about 15 years overseas with Fairmont, Raffles Rosewood, Savoy – therefore, excellent levels of experience.
Tell us about the food and drink at Porter House?
Porter House is a destination unto itself — it has five food and drink offerings, and every floor except the conference floor has a bar. We have Spice Trader which is our very cozy and intimate bar on the top floor, then we have two floors of conference space and one floor of private dining rooms.
Private dining rooms are very different; they have lounges, dining rooms, fireplaces and libraries. It’s almost like a home away from home in terms of lounge concept – a great place for a private dinner for 10, then enjoy gin in front of the fireplace. It’s very old – tin ceilings with the heavy wooden floors of yesteryear, tall wooden pillars in the rooms – back to how it was originally.
On level one we have the Dixson and Sons restaurant, a bit more brasserie-style with banquettes; then you go down to Henry’s Bread and Wine in our lobby. This is where our customers check in, but it’s also where we have a flower shop and a cafe that turns into a wine bar at night.
This interview was published in the August edition of HM Magazine.