It’s not often that I get to have a staycation in my own city, so I was pretty excited to be heading away for the night, even more so as I would be staying in Sydney’s first and only Forbes five-star hotel – The Darling. Set – as you might expect – overlooking Darling Harbour and part of The Star casino complex, the stylishly designed hotel is a luxurious place to stay in Sydney.
So what does it mean exactly to be a Forbes five-star property? The hotel is inspected on up to 900 criteria over a minimum two-night anonymous stay, which not only includes the service and facility but also the feel of the place. To achieve a five-star rating, a hotel needs to be outstanding, with ‘virtually flawless service and amazing facilities.’ Forbes.
The Darling is in Pyrmont, moments from Darling Harbour and part of the Star casino, though it has its own entrance. The beauty of this is that you have so much on your doorstep – more than 12 restaurants and food vendors, a theatre which plays host to some of the world’s best musicals and shows, and of course the casino itself. I visited with my sister for a girls’ night away, and during our stay we didn’t leave the complex which I absolutely loved. However, if you’re travelling from further afield it is also a fantastic location to base yourself in Sydney. Walk ten minutes across Pyrmont Bridge and you are in the CBD, the ICC (International Conference Centre) is also ten minute’s walk away and a 20 minute ferry takes you to Milsons Point for Luna Park and the North Sydney Olympic Pool or 25 minutes to Circular Quay for the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The lobby at the Darling is a grand open space with sleek furnishings. After a friendly welcome, we headed straight to our room, though if you do arrive early you can use the pool while you wait.
There are five room types at the Darling; Darling Rooms, Jewel Suites, Adored Suites, Stellar Suites and Penthouses. We stayed in a Jewel City Spa Suite. This is a huge 70sqm featuring a king-size bedroom and a separate living area. The marble bathrooms are incredible, with (as the room name suggests) a large spa bath, double sink/vanity stocked with Balmain toiletries, separate shower and separate toilet along with an additional (huge) dressing room.
Both the bedroom and lounge have large wall-mounted TVs, which I don’t usually use in hotels, however, on this trip, my sister and I enjoyed a movie in bed after dinner with some Messina Gelato (from the Star). The ‘city’ part of the name refers to the incredible city views from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and as a mother to an early-rising toddler, I very much appreciate the blackout curtains that allowed me to sleep in past my usual 5am! The room even had its own little bar with Reidel glassware (my sister’s personal favourite).
The Pool and Gym
After checking out our room, we headed straight for the pool. It was a mild day but the outdoor pool is heated to 26 degrees, so it is perfect for a dip whatever the weather. It’s also 25m long, making it great if you want to get some exercise and do lengths. I took full advantage of this as I don’t often get time to exercise, while my sister enjoyed an Aperol Spritz from the pool bar and a dip in the hot tub. The pool is open 8:00am – 8:00pm daily. There is also a gym, (though I have to say I didn’t use it during our stay), with two treadmills, a cross trainer, a seated bike and a Kinesis wall. This is open 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.
Something I didn’t experience during our stay (but am very keen to another time) is the Darling Spa. This features a Moroccan Hammam chamber, steam room and a saltwater jacuzzi. There are eleven treatment rooms and two exclusive couples suites for you to enjoy a bit of pampering, with a menu that includes a range of face and body treatments.
The Star and Restaurants
We took advantage of being in The Star complex and had dinner at one of the restaurants. Within the hotel itself is Sokyo – an award Winning Japanese-Inspired Restaurant – considered one of Sydney’s best. More on that later. Other restaurants in the Star’s ‘Signature dining’ list include Black Bar and Grill (Steakhouse), Flying Fish (Seafood) and The Century (Traditional Chinese Seafood) along with the newest offering ELE by Federico & Karl. You need to book in advance for this exciting degustation menu, which incorporates elements of fire, water, earth and air in a sensory experience.
There are then several more casual (but no less lovely) dining options, including Cucina Porto, where we dined. This is an Italian restaurant serving simple, traditional recipes using premium ingredients headed up by Puglian chef Martino Pulito. It was no surprise to see some Puglian classics on the menu including orecchiette con le cime di rapa (pasta with turnip greens) and delicious burrata which is served with pistachio pesto and nduja crumb. A highlight was the stone-baked bread, as well as the slow-cooked beef & lamb ragu.
After dinner, we had planned to visit the casino – we were in the Star after all – but instead decided to enjoy our room, with a little gelato from Messina, which is located opposite Cucina Porto.
The following day we had breakfast at Sokyo. The set menu includes coffee or tea, fruit, pastries and edamame and a choice of hot breakfast. These are all either Japanese dishes or a fusion of your typical Aussie brunch with Japanese touches and ingredients, such as avo toast with furikake and egg and bacon with potato tempura. We opted for the onigiri with chicken yakitori and the chilli crab omelette, which is served with seaweed rice and sambal butter. Both were excellent and it was so nice to try something different from the usual hotel breakfast.
We loved our stay at the Darling. The fantastic service, beautiful rooms, lovely pool and incredible facilities make it an excellent place to stay in Sydney, for both visitors to the city and for a staycation.