Best Restaurant for a Business Lunch or Dinner: Cirrus, Sydney
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Ah, the complex needs of the corporate diner: great food (naturally), exceptional floor staff (of course) and that all-important but often elusive X-factor. With Cirrus, the hospitality dream team of chef Brent Savage and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt has delivered a restaurant with plenty of wow, from on-trend sustainable seafood tricked up with Savage’s signature finesse to consummate waitstaff. To truly impress the suited crowd, a venue also has to have a sense of place and this establishment at Barangaroo boasts one like few others: Sydney Harbour laid out in sparkling glory and a Pascale Gomes-McNabb fit-out that cheekily plays on the nautical theme without being a slave to it. If the spirit of the city could be distilled into a restaurant, this is it.
Best Hotel Club Lounge: Crown Towers Melbourne
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The challenge for any hotel club lounge is to balance the competing needs of business and leisure. Local hoteliers could learn much from the shining example set by Crown Towers Melbourne’s gleaming riverside hotel, which continually sets the benchmark for Australian hospitality. The third-floor Crystal Club successfully splits its personality between smart meeting spaces and a concierge desk up-front and a garden-party vibe on the alfresco terrace out back. It’s indoor-outdoor, work and play, night and day, in a sophisticated, light-filled setting that provides a refuge for the hotel’s special guests. Perks-wise, there’s everything you’d expect from a first-rate club lounge, including a separate check-in desk (for ease of entry to the 481-room behemoth), all-day catering (from breakfast and snacks to pre-dinner cocktails and canapés) and meeting rooms for impromptu powwows.
Best Venue for a Breakfast Meeting: Higher Ground, Melbourne
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The name says it all. When looking for the ideal place to talk business over breakfast, this king of the Melbourne café scene (and last year’s winner of this award) really does occupy the higher ground. From the architecture – a stunning remake of a 19th-century heritage-listed power station at the western end of the CBD – to a staff in lock step with the needs of its corporate clients, it breathes the exalted air. Yes, Higher Ground has it all: plenty of table space for laptops and work sheets, semi-private nooks and crannies on the mezzanine level and that all- important policy of taking bookings for breakfast on weekdays. Just add energising specialty coffee and a dazzling range of teas, along with a menu that proves breakfast is the new dinner, to complete this award-winning package.
Best Conference Venue: ICC Sydney
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We’re calling ICC Sydney to the podium to collect this award for the second time. The judges were again captivated by the soaring, light-filled entertainment and conference complex in the increasingly energetic Darling Harbour precinct. In just 18 months, the $1.5 billion centre has become a city landmark, housing three tiered theatres, 70 meeting rooms, Australia’s biggest ballroom and exhibition space and the largest kitchen facilities in the Southern Hemisphere. ICC Sydney is serious about looking after the community and the planet, too. Where possible, food comes from NSW producers that practise ethical and sustainable farming, while a partnership with Sydney Water allows conference organisers to give delegates re-usable bottles that can be replenished at chilled refill stations around the venue. Inside its first year, this targeted war on waste avoided the use of more than 775,000 plastic bottles – that’s 10 tonnes of plastic.
Best New Business Hotel: InterContinental Perth City Centre
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Originally a 1970s office block, this tower in the CBD emerged last year from an overhaul by global design studio Woods Bagot, with interiors by Chada and EDG Designs. Guests at the 240-room hotel enjoy its location on Perth’s corporate strip, its decoration with locally commissioned artworks and three smart dining and drinking options, including tapas bar Heno & Rey. A clever rethink of conference facilities delivers a dedicated floor of meeting suites and a lounge space that opens onto a terrace with a bar and barbecue for post-work gatherings. High-flyers get the VIP treatment at the penthouse club lounge, where the reward for a hard day’s work is sunset drinks with views of the city.
Best New or Improved Corporate Retreat: Elements of Byron, Byron Bay
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There are at least 99 fresh reasons why this coastal getaway at Belongil Beach is our favourite corporate retreat for the second year running. Since taking the award for Best Large-Scale Corporate Retreat in 2017, Elements of Byron has added 31 one- bedroom and 68 two-bedroom villas (able to cater for groups) and an adults-only pool (for post-work socialising) with cabanas, a swim-up bar and Mexican snacks. And the elements of its appeal for business escapists remain: great service, Osprey Spa (pictured above), almost a dozen spaces suitable for everything from oceanside dinners to Beach Club cocktails, and exhilarating team-building activities such as hot air ballooning and beachfront yoga.
Best Business Hotel: Park Hyatt Sydney
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It’s not just the million-dollar views from its private balconies that make Park Hyatt the Sydney inn of choice for moguls and movie stars. This premier harbour front hotel has also earnt a reputation for superior service and discretion that ensures corporate guests can concentrate on business while the staff focuses on everything else. On the work front, there’s professional support from its multilingual business centre staff and five spaces (two with direct views of the Opera House) that bring the wow factor to on-site events. For pleasure, there are 155 rooms and suites angled towards the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, a rooftop pool with cabanas and a sweeping panorama, 24/7 butlers and a concierge desk with sufficient superpowers to secure coveted tickets and reservations in one of the world’s most exhilarating cities. The Park Hyatt Sydney also took out the Readers’ Choice Award – Best Business Hotel.
Best Private Dining Room: Vue de Monde, Melbourne
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The elevator to the 55th floor of the Rialto building is a vertical expressway to opulent Vue de Monde restaurant, where the private dining room is the perfect realisation of chef Shannon Bennett’s incredible vision. With its other-worldly ceiling installation threaded with delicate lights and its kangaroo-hide table and chairs, the recently remodelled Dom Pérignon Room (capacity 18) will excite even the most jaded mogul. Double down on a meal to remember, which is matched, blow for blow, with vintage drops from the legendary champagne house. As for Bennett’s French-style cuisine, it’s an indelible taste of Aussie innovation, high in the sky.
Best Co-Working Space: Spaces, Melbourne
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Born of trailblazing Dutch co-working outfit Spaces, this branch in Melbourne’s Richmond was one of the first to open outside the Netherlands. Today, there are more than 120 Spaces (and growing) in the global network and membership includes access to all the Business Clubs. Co-working offices are sprouting like startups (this is a new award category) but the trick is to create something that’s more than a place to plug in a laptop and put on headphones. Around the world, Spaces’ locations are built on the same three pillars: diverse community (“sneakers and suits”), clean European design and an obsession with serving excellent coffee. You can opt for a range of desks, tables and booths or take longer-term office space. Non-members can hire the meeting rooms but membership is the norm, unlocking social events such as meditation mornings, beer and dumpling nights and inspirational talks.
Best Business Hotel (Asia-Pacific): The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong
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In business, it pays to aim high and The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong has the edge over its competitors by virtue of being the highest hotel in the world. Occupying the top floors (102 to 118) of the International Commerce Centre in Kowloon, the 312-room hotel dazzles with marble, glass and chrome finishes and spectacular outlooks over the Pearl of the Orient. Corporate cravings are met with two Michelin-starred restaurants, generous rooms and suites and the 24-hour Ritz-Carlton Club. This 116th-floor executive lounge has exceptional meeting and eating specs, including five meal services daily and live cooking stations in the evenings. Add the world’s loftiest bar, Ozone, and you have an invincible Asian business base.
Up Next: The Best Business Hotels in Australia 2018
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Reputation is everything in business and these hotels have earnt theirs by consistently outclassing the competition when it comes to looking after their guests. As a baseline, they offer great rooms and restaurants. Location and technology also count – as do design and amenities – but it’s always the service that leaves the most lasting impression. It’s pretty simple: you work hard and you want your hotel to work hard for you, too.