The recently refurbished Metro Aspire Hotel, in the inner-Sydney suburb of Ultimo, is certainly a pleasant-enough place to stay.
It offers many of the mod-cons travellers take for granted these days — comfortable king-size beds, many rooms with large, private balconies, free in-room wifi, work desk, excellent lighting, plenty of hot water at good pressure, digital TV with YouTube and Netflix access.
The hotel’s dining area — the Gumtree Restaurant and Bar — is highlighted by a waterfall which cascades down a completely glass wall and appears to weave its way through a myriad of plants.
It certainly makes for a soothing spot in which to enjoy the buffet breakfast — and, from mid-April, also dinner.
The renovations have been tastefully done, successfully converting what was once little more than a suburban motel into a genuine competitor in the 4.5-star market.
But what I really like about the Aspire is its location. It’s only a block off busy Harris Street and its near-constant flow of traffic heading to the Sydney Fish Market in Pyrmont, the Harbour Bridge, and the city’s sprawling western suburbs via the Anzac Bridge.
Yet Bulwarra Road is a quiet, almost leafy location far removed from that bustle. I’ll even forgive it that the apartments across the street were once site of the NSW Bottle Company, where I slaved for several months in student days.
Ultimo itself is one of inner-Sydney’s largely unheralded treasures, though its main attraction, the Powerhouse Museum — part of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, which also includes the Sydney Observatory in the Rocks — is well known to most Sydneysiders.
It’s an easy place in which to spend at least a couple of hours, and its hands-on approach makes it a great place to take kids.
Though there are significant permanent exhibits, it’s far from being a static space. Right now, and until April 30, for instance, the Powerhouse is hosting Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives, in which visitors can directly confront six mummies from the British Museum’s collection.
Stretching from the Powerhouse to Central Station is The Goods Line, which separates Ultimo from Darling Harbour and Haymarket.
It was once a busy rail corridor that connected Central to Darling Harbour, but these days is an interest-packed shared footpath and cycleway running parallel to Harris Street and easily the most attractive way to get from Aspire to Central.
The walkway is also an important open space for the University of Technology Sydney as well as local residents, and even features open-air table-tennis facilities.
Among the highlights of the walk is the fascinating Dr Chau Chak Wing Building, a part of the UTS and designed by famous Canadian architect Frank Gehry. It is estimated that 320,000 custom-designed bricks were used in its construction and it has been described as looking like “a squashed brown paper bag”.
Right next to Ultimo, and within easy walking distance of the Aspire, is Darling Harbour, which is perhaps getting a bit long in the tooth but is still one of Sydney’s major tourist, entertainment, shopping and dining precincts.
Given the price differences, no wonder that more and more road warriors and tourists are settling on Sydney’s edge rather than in more highly rated digs in the CBD.
John Rozentals was a guest of Metro Aspire Hotel.
John Rozentals is a freelance writer whose passions are travel, food and wine. He lives at Molong in the Central West of NSW, from where he hosts Oz Baby Boomers, a lifestyle-resource for mature Australians, and Molong Online.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.