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Sorrento’s battle of the 150 year-olds

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Sorrento’s battle of the 150 year-olds
The entry of IHG Hotels and Resorts into Victoria’s regional hotel business last year with the opening of the InterContinental hotel at Sorrento is being challenged by a third generation family company, owners of an equally historic neighbour, Hotel Sorrento.

The town at the foot of the Mornington Peninsula, home to the Boonwurrung people, is the state’s most historic seaside town settled by Europeans in 1803. It has flourished as a vacation village since the 1870s when ships’ passengers were disembarked at the local pier.

There’s always been divided loyalty in the town with locals choosing either the 1875 Conti, as it was known – now the InterContinental Sorrento – or the slightly older Hotel Sorrento, circa 1872. 

They say it is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of fight in the dog; and while the global hotel operator IHG has completed a $100 million plus restoration and offers 108 guest rooms, four meeting rooms and outdoor event spaces, across the road the Pitt family have spent $20 million and have added 13 suites for a total of 50 guest rooms, alongside two meeting rooms and outdoor event space.

Both have celebrity chefs steering their food and beverage offerings with Scott Pickett at the InterContinental and George Calombaris as culinary director at Hotel Sorrento.

While the InterContinental has greater meetings capacity, at 90 minutes from the city, Sorrento itself is more an upmarket corporate retreat destination. Heritage-listed Hotel Sorrento, with its distinctive limestone construction, has a Limeburner’s Bar in honour of the locally quarried stone. The Pitt family engaged Six Degrees architects to redevelop the property which will debut In December, ready for the significant summer population swell.

Among the key features of Hotel Sorrento is a 30m pool with a terrace of poolside accommodation, a day spa and wellness facilities. Meanwhile, the 13 new sunset view suites feature outdoor marble baths. With parking always a challenge in Sorrento, this hotel’s underground car park is a bonus.

Hotel Sorrento has five bars, two restaurants and private dining areas. Its meeting spaces include Hotham Room featuring historic limestone walls and a fireplace, suitable for 25 in banquet, and Austin Room for 14 delegates. There’s an in-house event team willing to work not only with the dedicated meeting rooms, but to stage larger scale events incorporating Mediterranean-style outdoor spaces landscaped with limestone, travertine marble and olive trees.

With food a key factor in corporate events, Hotel Sorrento has opted to place a Cantonese restaurant, Shihuishi (“she-who-she”) helmed by Julian Yi inside the hotel’s original ballroom and in the main restaurant, George Calombaris will preside over an exclusive Chef’s Table experience.

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