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Break out of lockdown in posh London style without even leaving Sydney.

Remember hotel bath robes? Those fluffy white flagbearers of luxury hotels everywhere? Universal symbols of indulgence that wrap you with the intoxicating glee of knowing you have nowhere to be but pool- or spa-side.

What about blackout curtains? And air-conditioned, noiseless rooms with miles of triple-King bed space and legions of pillows cocooning your slumber from disruption. Better yet – remember being waited upon? Penguin-suited butlers smiling, nodding, pouring, bowing. Breezing about a room to float extra sauce, a wedge of lemon or another glass to your table.

You’re forgiven if you can’t picture it. Fancy holidays have been as rare as neckties in Zoom calls for the past 18 months. But unlike the 9-5 office workday, indulgent holidays aren’t gone forever. NSW is reopening after nearly four months of lockdown and that’s a solid reason to support local tourism and rediscover the thrill of staying in a bed you’ll never have to make.

As a Sydneysider who spent months working from home in a tight apartment, sustained by same-same home cooking and repeat 5km radius walks, I’m desperate to exhale in a new space. I’m still unable to venture beyond the greater city’s limits or cross interstate borders until at least November. Flights to London – while possibly a more realistic destination than Perth – are rather rare and expensive to come by. However, a similar experience of classic British hotel opulence is just a few kilometres, a QR-code check-in, and a vaccine passport away.

The hotel has long been a favourite for business travellers, well-heeled tourists and romantic staycationers seeking respite in a relatively hidden nook of the city.

It’s how I come to be wrapped in a fluffy white bathrobe, stupefied by a swig of champagne after soaking in bubble bath in a marble tub, at Sydney’s Langham Hotel in late October. The hotel has long been a favourite for business travellers, well-heeled tourists and romantic staycationers seeking respite in a relatively hidden nook of the city. Nestled on Kent Street, between the Rocks and Barangaroo, it’s just a short walk to each. My Friday night visit places me in prime position to rediscover iconic tourist attractions and fresh-out-of-lockdown bars like Palisades Hotel or the Lord Nelson Brewery. But I don’t fancy going far. The hotel itself is far enough from the banal to feel like another country.

That country could well be England. After all, the Langham brand bought this hotel (previously the Observatory Hotel, for its proximity to the Sydney Observatory) in 2012 and rebranded it with the characteristic British opulence of its 20-plus other properties across four continents. The redeveloped Sydney instalment has 83 sun-filled (until you draw those blackout curtains) rooms and 13 luxury suites – many of them with private harbourside terraces. All retain the same sophisticated glamour of the original London flagship: think plush upholstery, brushed velvet, polished brass and marble bathrooms.

I lose track of place while floating under a star-dappled ceiling in the indoor pool. Romanesque columns and tiles in this tranquil underground retreat take me back to similar luxe hideaways I’ve discovered in rainy London – where outdoor pools don’t usually survive and it’s common to pull up a lounge next to an underground spa.

The hotel bar – dubbed Observatory Bar and adorned with brass knick knacks including a telescope – has more giveaway British traits. Gin is the poison of choice, of course. Poured into colourful cocktails behind a prohibition-era bar in moody, velvety surroundings. The signature “Pink Rose” cocktail is a theatrical event involving billowing smoke and rose petals. It’s also delicious, and strong enough alongside champagne to send a gentle reminder the next morning of pre-COVID hangovers.

I’m savouring being able to drink cocktails from a non-takeaway glass when dinner in the hotel restaurant, Kitchens on Kent, gives me the greatest prod that holidays really are back. Remember hotel buffets? Banished through the pandemic, it seems the bain-marie is returning. The Langham’s buffet is different, though, combining items that are cooked to order from a short a-la-carte menu, with the choice offerings of multiple live cooking stations. The a-la-carte kitchen grills lobster for my table, while I watch a chef at the buffet station sear wagyu beef over a coal-fired robata grill. Staff also allow a slow adjustment to this now-foreign experience by taking care of the first course and sending a three-tiered seafood platter of prawns, crab, oysters and bug tails, plus incredibly silky sashimi, to each table. Remember overeating at a buffet? It’s back. Nature is healing.

Guests who are not quite ready to jump straight into crowded buffets can continue to enjoy a COVID-safe pastime that has boomed in recent weeks: outdoor picnicking. The Langham will help you explore Sydney’s most iconic landmarks via a picnic tour in its signature pink London cab. This includes blankets, bubbles, an indulgent hamper, plus a driver for up to eight hours. We may wish to forget a few aspects of the past 18 months, but Sydney’s newfound love for picnics is surely not one of them.


STAY: Prices for a deluxe room start from $448 per night.

INDULGE: The Langham is currently offering an array of holiday indulgence packages: including family “playcations” starting from $870, Christmas or New Year‘s Eve dining packages ($198), and spa pamper packages ($370). It’s also a pet-friendly hotel; treat your fur-babies with the Langham Pampered Pets Program ($698). A deluxe 1hr picnic tour in the Pink Taxi starts from $325.

The writer stayed as a complimentary guest of The Langham Sydney.