This lobby reflects the overall vibe of downtown Sydney’s new waterfront destination of Barangaroo – big energy and buzzing. Featuring world-class eateries (for all times and budgets), bars, breweries and a few perfectly-curated boutiques, 24 hours in this waterside spot showcases Sydney at its most glam.
STAY: Crown Sydney
Towering over it all is Crown Sydney - 75 storeys and 8,000 glass panels of sleek architectural dominance, acting like a beacon drawing people to this glitzy part of town. This is six-star, over-the-top, hectic hotel glamour at its best.
A whopping crystal chandelier hanging in the lobby sets the scene of what’s to follow – which van be best described as lavish luxury.
I have stayed in a lot of amazing hotels around the world, but the whole accommodation package at the Crown, from the reception, up the smart lifts, to the room, had a next-level feel of classy opulence. It could be because it’s still new and hasn’t had the chance to get used and worn but also the rooms are pretty amazing.
Even the “cheaper” rooms – which start at about $850 a night and all of them boasting spectacular Sydney views – are sumptuous with bathroom space the size of many hotels’ average double room. And, these bathrooms include a stunning ‘sculpture’ which doubles as the bath and a separate toilet room complete with a very intelligent toilet.
TIP: Rain or shine, visit the Crown pool area. On a warm day it has a ‘Bali pool club’ vibe, with the tunes playing, and people taking lots of selfies on their circular, in-water pool lounges. On a cold day, the steam is rising from the heated pool and you can swim peacefully while gazing across the harbour and Anzac Bridge.
DRINK: Cirq & House Bar
There is no end of bar options in Barangaroo with venues to suit your drinking mood and that cater for your tipple of choice.
If you feel like a ground-level craft beer while sitting outside people-watching in a prime waterfront pozzie, head to House Bar at the spaceship-looking Barangaroo House. It has that no-nonsense, laid back everyday bar vibe where you know you’re there for a drink and a laugh. A couple of levels up is House’s posh sister Smoke, where it’s rooftop cocktails in a setting you might find in Los Angeles or New York.
On this wild and wet Sydney evening, we end up at Cirq, on the 26th floor of Crown, for (hidden) sunset drinks. The views are mesmerising and it has the “exclusive club” feel, with personalised service and a chic opulence.
TIP: Cirq is definitely a “top shelf” experience, and there is a minimum spend per head of $75 and a strict dress code, so it’s not a bar you drop by for a quick cold one in shorts and thongs. Plus always book ahead.
EAT: a'Mare & Bórn y Tapavino
Barangaroo is a gastronomic haven and can provide anything you crave. There are more than 40 eateries in this teeny slice of CBD heaven, and that’s not even counting the dozen or so eateries at Crown.
Feel like a quick snack? Drop by for some spicy fried drumsticks at the famous Belles Hot Chicken, or grab some crispy tofu-stuffed bao or a rice bowl at Bing’s.
Looking for a gourmand experience, and the choice is also huge. Bórn y Tapavino elevates tapas to a fine dining level, washed down with some pretty amazing Spanish wines.
But we were celebrating a whole lot of milestones and managed to secure a table at the very elegant a'Mare, Crown’s Italian offering.
This is a restaurant for not only classic Italian fine dining, but it delivers an element of theatre. The staff on when we visited were vibrant and passionately Italian, easily able to advise on food and wine.
Make sure you are hungry – because one of a'Mare’s specialties is cotoletta orecchia di elefante - which translates to ‘elephant ear’ but is actually 1kg of crumbed veal cutlet that is so huge (it is to share) but can almost be cut with a spoon.
TIP: Order the trofie al pesto (pesto pasta) – the pesto is made in a mortar and pestle at your table with the flair and drama of an Italian opera, and I have quite simply never tasted pesto as delicious.
Indulge: Crown Spa
Sydney is brimful of day spas and Thai massage venues – so if you are looking for a simple massage or facial, you should have no issue finding some place with a vacancy.
But I wanted the special “staycation” spa experience – and hit up the Crown Spa, an oasis of zen in buzzing Barangaroo. Its promotional blurb describes it as “the perfect escape for a moment of pure, unbridled luxury” – and it is.
The massage I was pretty special – but it is the opportunity to spend some time in the Aqua Retreat that takes this spa to the next level . After my treatment, I hit up the steam room, sauna (yep, they’re different) and then lay in the “vitality spa” and looked out the window at the view.
TIP: Make sure you have 45 minutes before or after your treatment free so you can really enjoy the Aqua Retreat.