Banking on it : How Mrs Banks is part of the Paddington resurgence
The conversion of a heritage former Paddington bank branch into a boutique hotel is part of the neighbourhood's revitalisation, writes Lara Picone.
Paddington’s Oxford Street has been through a bit of an awkward phase in recent years. Fifteen years ago, on any given day, it was the place to be seen for an amble through the boutiques, a coffee catch-up, and come evening, debuting new outfits at the many gastro pubs and restaurants.
For a time, though, there were more For Lease signs in empty shopfronts than there were amblers of any sort. Then the signs came down and designer flagships were replaced by an odd jumble of cheap clothing stores and nail salons, mixed uncomfortably among the faithful stayers of the street’s halcyon days.
Slowly this stretch of road has begun to find itself again. Some great restaurants, some reinvigoration of the old, and a rethinking of the new have made 2021’s stretch of Oxford Street a destination once more.
Case in point: Mrs Banks Hotel, housed in a 1914 heritage bank building that, until 2013, still operated as the Commonwealth Bank’s Paddington branch. This elegant boutique hotel is proof that people have a reason to come back, and linger. Sure, it’s handy for football- and cricket-loving out-of-towners, but there’s more than enough going on in Paddo’s high street to justify tacking an extra night onto your stay. In fact, the hotel is often full of Sydneysiders, from nearby or the Northside here for a night of Paddington dining at Fred’s or 10 William Street and not wanting to bother with the Uber home.
We check into the hotel on a wintry night, and the bright welcome from the front desk is as warming as the stylish lobby, where a soaring gold, pressed metal ceiling presides over cool blue-grey hues with brass accents and luxe touches. While not exactly a destination in itself, rather more of a refined city crash pad, everything to ensure Mrs Banks fulfils the best version of that brief is present and accounted for. A relaxed 11am check-out (always appreciated); a complimentary light breakfast served to one side of the yawning lobby (much obliged); a 24-hour front desk (ever helpful), and in-room pod coffee on the house (perfect for those lazy lie-ins).
Although on the petite side, rooms are perfectly kitted out to provide a sleek home base from which to explore Paddington and beyond. The lobby’s soothing tones are repeated with handsome soft furnishings and artwork you’d actually want to hang in your home. It all comes together with a better-than-your-own-bedroom vibe. Apart from spending your mornings languishing in the large, inviting bed, you’re not going to spend an inordinate amount of time here, but when you are in residence, a rain shower, lovely Molton Brown toiletries and considerate details make it a place to which you’ll return contentedly.
Back on the street, every licensed establishment is splitting at the seams with overcoated, red-and-white-scarfed fans preloading before heading downhill for the Swans game at the SCG. The atmosphere is full of buzz and brio; it seems the amblers have truly returned to Oxford Street once more.
Mrs Banks Hotel,
259 Oxford Street, Paddington. Rates from $210 per night.