Geoff York, the chief executive officer of Crystalbrook Collections, the owner of the new Crystalbrook Kingsley five-star hotel at 282 King Street, Newcastle, did not have his tongue in his cheek on Wednesday morning at the hotel's opening when he said he had just seen a feature article last weekend that named the hotel's opening as number one of a list of "most anticipated hotel openings in the world in 2021".
The hotel's opening has certainly been anticipated in Newcastle and early bookings indicate strong curiosity from locals and Sydneysiders, who are more than eager for a weekend away.
Crystalbrook Kingsley, general manager Carl Taranto said, is off to a good start.
"Saturday, for what we've made available, is completely sold, which is fantastic," Taranto said. "But we're not far off the total capacity [130 rooms]. We're really healthy.
"We're in the booking window now. What we are seeing now is travel within that 14 days; that is what the market is doing, not just for us but across all our properties as well."
Forward bookings have been strong for New Year's, Christmas, and September-October school holidays, and Taranto is closely monitoring the possibility of a Supercars date in Newcastle in 2022.
THE menu at Romberg's bar on the ninth floor is concise: warm Adina Estate olives ($9), Port Stephens Sydney Rock oysters in pickled cucumber and finger lime (3 for $18), The King(sley) prawn roll with king prawn, Hallstrom black garlic, crisp shallots, baby gem, pork floss, native greens, brioche ($20), Chipotle basket croquettes of braised beef brisket, crispy panko crumb and smoked tomato relish ($20), Spicy Nudja bruschetta of nduja - a spicy pork sausage - grilled and marinated zucchini, eggplant, Burradoc Buffalo farmhouse mozzarella and lemon crumb (2 for $18), Chilli caramel pork bao with sticky pork belly, citrus and sesame slaw and toasted peanuts (2 for $16) and Tempura Balmain bug on a lemongrass skewer, urap coconut salad, chilli and lemon myrtle sauce (2 for $22).
The grazing plate is $35, the mezze plate is $25.
And, last but not least, a Chocolate forage of native inspired tarts, praline and macarons on textured chocolate bark ($25).
THE KINGSLEY SUITE
ROOM 708 is the Kingsley suite. It can be expanded to a two-bedroom suite through an adjoining door.
The Kingsley suite is the only room in the hotel with a bathtub, and it is a black, porcelain beauty in a smartly tiled bath suite of its own, which the hotel proudly boasts was done by Earp Bros of Newcastle.
The room also features the only armoire (custom-made) in the hotel which features a coffee machine and a glass-fronted bar refrigerator stocked with Hunter Valley wines - Tyrrells, Brokenwood, Krinklewood, Peterson House - and Mumm champagne.
In the top snack drawer, you will also find a bag from Cocoa Nib.
And the room also boasts a spacious, soft, suede lounge.
THE NEWCASTLE EXPERIENCE
"THERE are so many great producers and suppliers around here," says the hotel's marketing manager, Grace Redman. "It's great for us to work with them and show off Newcastle and all its great attributes."
The hotel is not here just for us. It's also our showcase to the outside world. That's certainly how the hotel sees itself; we're in this together.
Surrounded by slamming hammers and buzzing saws as the top floor restaurant in the hotel was coming together a month ago, Taranto said the most important ingredient in the hotel was its people.
He's been focused on the project for several months, overseeing the hiring of key staff, and lots and lots of details (he paid a visit to master wood craftsman Mark Aylward's Lambton workshop months ago to check on the progress of the elite blackbutt dining tables that were made for the hotel).
Taranto has been with the small, but growing Crystalbrook group for a while, previously working at their Cairns property.
The company's philosophy is clear in his mind. Back in May, when asked what the most important factor in deciding when the hotel would be ready to open, Taranto responded: "The enthusiasm and the attitude of the team, and the excitement."
What does that look like in Newcastle for the Crystalbrook Kingsley?
"When our guests walk through the door we need to be able to talk to the destination," Taranto said. "What it offers, what the experience is by staying in Newcastle. And the best people to do that are local people we've engaged to work for us."
MS MARY CAFE
MS Mary cafe on the ground floor seats about 80.
On a sunny day, the verandah seating that overlooks Wheeler Place would be beautiful.
Open 10am to 4pm, it features an all-day menu, as well as pastry treats from Covered in Crumbs.
Ms Mary house-made waffles with Urban Hum honey, whipped ricotta, burnt figs, pistachio and citrus ($21) sit at the the top of the menu.
The smashed avocado ($18) features Newcastle Greens salad fixings, edammae beans, minted peas, pickled onion, Binnorie feta and miso drizzled Baked Uprising carraway rye.
You will also find a Crystalbrook beef burger ($23), Tempura fish and chips ($24), Braised brisket toastie ($18), Kingsley gozleme ($16), warm farro salad ($18), seasonal soup ($14), The argy bhajis (like a fritter) with spicy onion and vegetables bhajis with turmeric and ginger coconut yoghurt ($16), and a native chicken ciabatta melt ($22) with Binnorie brie, smoked semi dried tomato, kale pesto and vegetable crisps.