Hyatt Regency, Sydney, Australia

I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels, and I mean ALOT! Somewhere between 150 and 200 hotels over the years all over the world for both business and leisure.

This week I was in Sydney and the work travel booking site bought up the Hyatt Regency on Sussex Street as an option. That was cool, I’ve stayed at a couple of Hyatt’s, primarily the Hyatt Hotel Canberra which was a superb hotel and I would stay there again any day I was in Canberra.

To those who’ve travelled to Sydney for any reasonable amount of time you’ll know that the Hyatt Regency used to be the Sheraton Four Points which was a pretty good hotel when I used to stay there.

A couple of years ago this hotel underwent a refurb and it has reopened as the Hyatt Regency.

Walking into the Hyatt Regency you can see that they’ve splurged the money on the glitz, the hotel reception is superb! The check in was great and the reception staff did all the ego stroking that’s the norm for a decent hotel.

And that’s when, after you scratch the surface, you start seeing that this hotel is mutton dressed up as lamb.

My room was on Level 1 – understandable as my Hyatt Gold membership had expired many years ago. You don’t give your decent rooms to some pleb!

Anyway, I head upto my floor and I am flabbergasted at the disgusting appearance of the common area. Walking down the corridor I guess that they didn’t bother to change the hall carpet when the refurb happened. Disgusting carpet stains (only water I hope) regularly greet me on the walk to my room.

I entered my room and it was refurbed quite nicely… looks like they only skimped on the public areas.

I went out for dinner, got back by 9pm and wanted to have a shower. It was then I find that there were none of the usual amenities in the room – no soap, no shampoo etc! Heaps of cheap moisturiser – maybe this is a pay-per-hour hotel 🙂

I phone up and ask for some amenities and get the promise they’ll be right up… and then I wait for 30 minutes… not impressed. Certainly not the service of a supposedly 5 star hotel.

In each room there’s also a card you can pop on your door requesting a morning newspaper. You need to get this on your doorknob by 10pm and you should receive a newspaper in the morning… Well, that’s a fib. I had that card on my door at 9pm and I woke up at 6am to no newspaper.

Quite frankly, this is a 2 star hotel under a 5 star name. I told the checkout staff what had happened and that service was better when the hotel was the Four Points, but I doubt that feedback will get escalated.

Do yourself a favour, avoid this place and book a decent hotel!

Only saving grace was the Zephyr bar which offers superb views across Darling Harbour… but you can drink there without staying at the hotel.

I won’t be staying there again and will be telling the corporate hotel buyers it should be taken off the list.

It’s sad to see when good hotels go bad.

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Caffe Veloce, Hiroshima, Japan

I don’t normally have a sit down breakfast when I travel… usually opting for something quick from a Family Mart or 7-Eleven on my way to my first stop of the day.

But today, as I was walking down Rijo Dori towards Hiroshima Castle I popped into Caffe Veloce probably just 300 metres from my hotel.

Coffee can be hit and miss in Japan… I’ve had some really good ones, and some absolutely atrocious ones!

The Cafe Latte here was relatively good, certainly not Melbourne quality, but a reasonably good coffee.

To eat I grabbed a couple of pastries, a apple danish as well as a chocolate chunk scone (think a scone with chunks (bigger than chocolate chips) of chocolate mixed through). They were both pretty tasty I must admit!

Caffe Veloce is a chain, and though I saw other sites I didn’t go into them, but I am sure that Japanese efficiency will deliver the same experience whichever store you visit.

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Nagata-ya, Hiroshima, Japan

About 50 metres from the Atomic Bomb Hypocentre memorial is an okonomiyaki restaurant that always has a queue.

I stopped by this restaurant on my first visit to Hiroshima in 2015, back then I just walked in at lunch and was quickly seated and served.

My how times have changed! When ever I walked past, even before it opens at 11am, there was a queue.

So when I decided to visit for dinner I wanted to make sure that I got there before the dinner crush.

Walking around the corner my heart sunk as I saw a queue of around 25 people already waiting, in 35 degree heat, to get in. The queue moved slowly but surely and I was getting closer to the door. While I was in the queue I was given a menu, and was able to place my order.

About 25 minutes after I’d queued up I was ushered to a seat at the counter (the same seat I had in 2015) overlooking the huge hotplate where I would watch my Pork and Garlic okonomiyaki being crafted, and about 15 minutes later my okonomiyaki was placed in front of me and I dived in.

A pint of Asahi Super Dry was a welcome accompaniment after the long wait.

Once you taste your meal you will understand why there is a queue to get in. An absolutely magnificent meal that is worth the wait.

Their website is http://nagataya-okonomi.com/en/.

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Shinchan, Hiroshima, Japan

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake mainly associated with Hiroshima and the Kansai area.

While you can get Okonomiyaki at any number of restaurants in Hiroshima, the mecca is the vertical village called Okonomi-mura in central Hiroshima that houses 24 Okonomiyaki restaurants all cooking the dish in their own special way.

I made the walk from my hotel with the help of Google Maps. It wasn’t too far.

I walked up to the second floor that has 8 outlets (there’re 8 on each floor). All were busy in the early evening which was a good sign. I headed towards the back and found a spare seat at Shinchan.

I asked for, and received, an English menu from which I chose one of their special Okonomiyaki dishes which included “double meat”. When I ordered I thought that this meant double pork, but as was to become apparent once my meal was delivered, the two meats where pork and oyster.

While I didn’t overly enjoy the oyster, once I worked out what the taste was, I was able to eat around it and eat the rest of the dish.

I was disappointed that I hadn’t read the menu properly, so I can’t blame the restaurant. Just remember to ask if you’re confused before you order.

Once you try Okonomiyaki you’ll keep wanting to eat them.

The Okonomi-mura website is here.

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Yakitori Daikichi, Kyoto, Japan

It was my last evening in Kyoto and I wanted to finish off 4 great days with a good meal. As I had had curry for lunch I decided to try to find a Yakatori restaurant that wasn’t too far from my hotel.

The usual review sites were consulted and it turned out there was a reasonable restaurant about 150m away, just across the road.

I crossed the road around 5:15pm, found the shop and proceeded in.

Yakitori Daikichi is quite small, less than a dozen seats all overlooking the grill. I took a seat at one end of the counter.

I was the first person in, and the staff were still prepping but I soon had an English menu and had ordered a Japanese Lager.

Over the next hour or so I ordered a good selection of pork, chicken and vegetable yakitori and a couple more beers. I enjoyed being able to watch my dinner being cooked in front of me, and served seconds after being taken off the flames.

As time progressed the number of people coming in increased. By the time I finished and left around 6:30 all the seats were taken and people were queuing up. This is obviously a good place!

The prices were quite reasonable, the food tasty, and ordering easy for someone who doesn’t speak Japanese. But get there early or face a wait!

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