Kathryn Romeyn chooses a sampling of Australia’s greatest experiences for the ultimate adventure down under in this four part series on Australia. Today we’re taking a look at Sydney, one of Australia’s top destinations.
Flying into Sydney, I catch my breath as sunlight gleams off the elegant scalloped shells of the famous Opera House and glitters over the sailboat-strewn port leading to the 134-meter-long Harbor Bridge. (The world’s largest steel arch bridge is worth a walk, if not a climb, for adrenaline junkies.)
In Sydney you are never far from water. I get closer by checking into Shangri-La in The Rocks, the city’s 18th century historic district. I’m confident I have the best view—a 180-degree aerial panorama from bridge to Opera House—in the entire city from the 35th floor of the sophisticated 565-room hotel. But my spacious blue and silver-hued perch can’t claim the only photo-worthy vista: the hotel’s revamped Horizon Club offers the same top-of-the-world lookout from 30, along with afternoon tea, canapes and bubbly. After a crystal-aided realignment courtesy of Chi, The Spa’s Healing Chakra Treatment, I make it to 36 in time to watch the sky turn a breathtaking shade of orange.
Here at Altitude restaurant, high above the sparkling city, time ceases as leisurely courses stretch on until almost midnight. Each locally sourced plate is impeccably presented, like the black slate that artfully holds delicate kingfish, icy blood orange granite, gazpacho “caviar,” crispy turnip leaves and violet petals. Not one but two desserts, cheese and truffles follow my braised Riverina lamb. Blissfully satiated, I barely make it under the silky sheets of my just firm-enough king bed.
A jam-packed day of sightseeing offsets last night’s indulgence, starting with the peculiar kangaroos, majestic giraffes, sleepy koalas and hilarious monkeys at Taronga Zoo. During a fascinating Opera House tour I anticipate the conclusion to the legend of its construction as I would the climax of a nail-biter. Bubbles at the recently redone Opera Bar and a stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens follow.
Later I visit Marque, in hip Surry Hills, for an epic adventure in innovative new Australian fine dining. Owner Mark Best is a gold mine electrician-turned-chef who cut his teeth in France before opening this award-winning restaurant in 1999. Inside the elegant dining room, the wine-paired nine-course degustation menu begins with a sea urchin and salmon mousse bang. Courses follow highlighting virtually every protein imaginable, from spanner crab with almond gelee, popcorn powder and herring roe—a dish Best credits as the first time he “found his voice”—to crispy fried octopus, bass grouper with dehydrated scallop “scales,” and impeccable seared Wagyu sirloin with gherkins.
Like Los Angeles, the capital of New South Wales is made of suburbs, each with their own charms. I pop into a hot spot: the 200-suite QT Sydney, a former theater now lined with vintage movie posters; colorful furniture and a gift shop of curiosities. A trip to the award-winning SpaQ for a tarry in the hammam-inspired steam room and a tension-melting Mastery Massage eases my travel weary muscles.
There are heaps of luxury designer boutiques, countless cafes and top restaurants just steps down the bustling sidewalk. After a gin cocktail in the QT’s hip street side Parlour Lane Roasters (order a flat white by day) I’m introduced to Sydney’s beautiful people, food and wine at the brasserie-style Gowings Bar & Grill upstairs. The low-lit dining room is buzzing with conversation and music; chic diners crowd around the glowing metallic bar as I devour beer-steamed prawn cocktail, spit-roasted chicken, black truffle mac and cheese and spicy Tasmanian Pinot Noir.