He was the first person to dine at the hotel’s San Francisco Grill when Hilton Sydney opened its doors in 1975 and he was the last person to swipe his card there when it closed 27 years later. Today, 69 year old Ray Louis is back, this time as the first guest to check in to the all-new Hilton Sydney.
Closed for a 30 month and A$200 million rooftop to basement rebuild, Hilton Sydney today re-emerges as the city’s most spectacular hotel with a contemporary new design and the nation’s largest conference facilities.
Said Koos Klein, President Hilton International Middle East & Asia Pacific, “Today is the realization of a vision to completely rethink every single aspect of one of Australia’s landmark hotels - from the service, through to the food and beverage, the uniforms, the rooms, and the technology.
“Three years of hard work from a talented team led by the Vice President of Australasia, Oded Lifschitz and Hotel Manager, Mike Nalborczyk, has gone into the transformation. And it’s worth it. The result is simply stunning.”
Despite the overhaul, some things have remained the same. Ray Louis, the hotel’s first guest, will be welcomed by one of the original team members, Mamdoh Kiriakos, Hilton Sydney’s Doorman since 1978 who returns to his post today. Also greeting him is Ms Kathryn Thiel-Sirett, the hotel’s current Credit Manager and the then cashier who set up Ray’s first client account for his inaugural Steak Diane and Flambé.
Tonight Ray will continue a tradition that has seen him dine at the Hilton Sydney “probably a thousand times”. His family, including Dubai-based daughter Danielle who has flown in especially for the opening, will dine at glass brasserie to celebrate his 70th birthday.Ê
“To me, tradition is very important,” Ray said. “I first brought my daughters here when they were pre-school kids. They grew up eating at Hilton. Now I’m bringing them back with their young daughters. It’s like a homecoming and a full circle. I wouldn’t miss this for anything.”
As for the new-look Hilton Sydney, Ray admits it was time for the hotel to move forward. “My first reaction when I saw it on the news was, ‘wow that’s impressive. There’s so much more space and light. I can’t wait to experience it again,” he said.
A former chef, it was curiosity that lured Ray into the “brilliant new hotel” back in 1975 and to tasting his first ever meal with Hilton. Tonight under the creative direction of chef Luke Mangan, the San Francisco Grill-styled Steak Diane will give way to glass’ French brasserie style Steak Tartare while the Flambé will become Stewed Rhubarb, Spices and Honey Parfait.