Sky’s the Limit
SkyCity Grand set the benchmark for five-star hotels when it opened in New Zealand’s largest city. Nick Walton discovers the Grand continues to define luxury travel in Auckland over a decade later.
I remember it like it was yesterday, or so the adage goes; the opening party of the SkyCity Grand was the Auckland party to attend in 2005, with celebrities, politicians and yes, even All Blacks in attendance. The new hotel, the first truly luxurious house of slumber to open in the city in an age, was the talk of the town, and everyone, from captains of industry to lowly journalists, were clambering to book a staycation or reserve a table at one of the Grand’s restaurants. So, it’s comforting that, more than a decade
late to the party, when I finally do arrive to check in, SkyCity Grand looks better than ever.
Nestled within a city block-sized complex that houses a casino, convention space, countless restaurants and bars, and a host of heart-stopping tourist attractions, all in the shadow of the city’s iconic 328-metre high Sky Tower, SkyCity Grand is what true five-star hotels are supposed to be, a destination in of itself. In fact, the hotel has helped revitalise the whole neighbourhood, with Federal Street, a narrow pedestrian-friendly lane that bisects the complex, now one of the hottest dining enclaves in the country.
There’s touches of the Big Apple in the Grand’s cavernous lobby, a space punctuated by bold New Zealand art, gleaming marble and dark leather – theeffect is modern without being ostentatious. The mix of guests making their way through the space run the gamut from couples visiting from out of
town, to corporates toting briefcases, to locals arriving for meals at the three restaurants located at street level. The vibe is cool, calm and collected without being fussy – just the way New Zealanders like things.
The bold, unashamedly modern lines of the lobby extend to the hotel’s 316 guest rooms, which are scattered across five categories. My Premium Luxury Harbour View Room is well-lit and airy, with blonde timber floors, beige carpets and captivating views west down the length of the Waitemata
harbour. There’s a king-sized bed, a spacious work desk with international power sockets (not as common as you might think), and a chic bathroom with bathtub and Puriri amenities. While
even the entry level rooms are a step up on anything else in the city, if you’re looking to splurge you can’t go past one of the hotel’s Grand Presidential Suites, with their butler’s pantry, dining table for ten, magnificent views and white marble-lined bathroom.
People stay at SkyCity Grand because they like to be close to the action, especially if they’re foodies. The complex presently boasts more than a dozen restaurants, ranging from casual grab-and-go to the city’s leading fine dining institutions. For a quick bite without the fuss there’s Andy’s Burgers & Bar; chef Al Brown’s Depot, home to charcoal grilled dishes; Gusto at the Grand, a rustic Italian restaurant; and
Federal Delicatessen, a take on an old school NYC Jewish deli that’s also one of the city’s leading houses of mixology. But SkyCity Grand is also home to groundbreaking eateries like multi-award winning Masu by Nic Watt; innovative Spanish eatery Bellota; and the lauded Grill by Sean Connolly.
But the hotel’s most exciting culinary venture opens this month in the form of Huami, a new Shanghainese restaurant that takes its inspiration from the heyday of the French Concession. Kiwi chef Nic Watt has collaborated with executive chef Jeff Tan to create an eatery that honours and innovates
on traditional Chinese fare, using the best locally-sourced ingredients, including New Zealand abalone and crayfish.
If guilt over your indulgences kicks in, you can head to the Grand’s fitness centre, or take a few laps of the 25-metre pool. Alternatively, East Day Spa Auckland, crowned the best hotel spa in New Zealand, is only steps away and blends eastern healing traditions with modern spa and beauty therapies. With any luck, at the end of your treatment you’ll look as good as Auckland’s true Grand Dame hotel.
SkyCity Grand, Corner Victoria and Federal Streets, Auckland, New Zealand; Tel: +64 9 363 6000;