The Shang Sydney CBD is already sited on top of a hill and when we got to Level 36, expectations were naturally high. Located above the iconic Rocks, the hotel group's only operation in the whole of Australia has to be distinctive and quality. Alas, there is no yum cha outlet as in its Asian hotels, but having fantastic look outs on to both Sydney Harbour and Darling Harbour does carry the weight of responsibility and imagination. At the literal pinnacle of this Sydney Shang, you come across the Blue Bar and the Altitude.
We were there for a cocktail and canapés function, surrounded on one side by a clear glass through-view of what Sydney Harbour is to the world's imagination - and in reality. The persistent rains and cloudy storms of the past week had passed this Saturday afternoon, to reveal why Sydney attracts visitors, especially on New Year's Eve and in summer - and also why the city has been named the fifth most expensive city in the world stakes last week (Singapore holds the dubious honour of the most expensive city this time around).
Lin, Sally and I were in the lobby cafe when we arrive too early for the function. I was impressed with the high standard of training and service of the Shang staff, whether at this cafe or at the Altitude. I did not meet the people who have given pain and angst when I read other reviews of this place in cyberspace. Each staff member can hold a conversation, naturally know how to manage most situations and echo the adage of you get what you pay for, perhaps. Although there was limited choice of food at the cafe that late weekend morning, attending staff were patient and made alternative suggestions from the menu or glass top display.
A wonderful idea of a private cocktail bar was provided at the Altitude function we attended. I asked the suited bar man to make me something which "you would recommend me" - and he eagerly made me Purple Rain, a good illustrative experience of how the staff can instinctively engage with the guest and make both enjoy the encounter. Table seating was also thoughtfully made available for an occasion, which usually elsewhere, is carry on standing and keep on drinking. The canapés were carefully chosen, with exquisite presentations of lamb, chicken and prawns, apart from the usual stir fried vermicelli and other Asian styled bites. Wine, juices and bottled mineral water kept the free flow of conversation - but we also enjoyed an innovative video presentation, fine speeches and a layered tray of cup cakes.
The wait staff, especially Lorenzo, were polished and discerning. Easily up to 80 guests, if not more, attended, with the boat and vehicular traffic of Sydney and its harbour side swirling below.
I enjoyed catching up with people, both those I have met before and those I have not. The official photographer took lots of group pictures. You are placed higher than the Harbour Bridge. You are brought down to earth by the down to earth attitudes of the hosts and some of the guests. You want to return to the Altitude at twilight, with dinner served every evening, except for Sundays.