If you could experience pure indulgence in the city of your choice, where would it be? A luxury spa within a Hammam of Marrakech, a sommelier’s vineyard in a Lyon chateau? Or a Buddhist retreat in Bangkok? While a trip to Sydney might conjure up cliché connotations of Vegemite, beer stubbies and Ugg Boots, the largest city in the Land Down Under does indulgence oh so well.
With expansive sandy coastlines, beachfront bars and watering holes, its laidback living is heavenly for gap year students and holiday-makers in search of some winter sun. But while you embrace the barbeques and beach culture, a girl also needs to indulge, right? So kick off your flip-flops and ‘boardies’ in place of an LBD and pair of Louboutins and delve deeper into the city. You’ll soon find a sophisticated side of Sydney which offers pure indulgence on a plate.
Indulge the senses
The journey involved in getting to the Land Down Under should not be taken lightly. Lethargy, a confused body clock and heavy limbs are all symptoms of jet lag. So take advantage of the city’s best spas to help kick-start the holiday.
The Spa, Four Seasons
After a hot sauna, steam room and a few laps of the heated rooftop pool, let one of The Spa’s therapists take you into one of their enchanting candle lit treatment rooms for the ultimate in spa indulgence – a 90 minute jet lag massage, to relax and rejuvenate the body and mind. This healing treatment starts with gentle manipulation of the limbs, to stretch the muscles and kick-start the circulation, while hot towels placed on the feet help aid relaxation. A full body massage follows using invigorating Swedish techniques including tapotement, cupping, petrissage and hacking while calming music rests the mind. Smooth, hot stones then glide across the body using an energising essential oil made from macadamia, apricot kernal, lime, grapefruit, rosewood and ylang ylang.
All of The Spa’s treatments use Sodashi products based on 100% Australian ingredients sourced from the earth and sea. An application of Sodashi’s Jet Lag Recovery cream onto the key pulse points acts as an energising pick-me-up. With a cold haematite stone gently placed in the palm of your hand and chimes played to mark the end of the treatment, you are gently awoken from a deep sleep and greeted with a chilled cup of mint tea. You will feel like you’re back in the sky and walking on clouds. Honestly.
The Spa, Four Seasons, George Street, (61) (2) 9250 3100
Level Four Spa, Sydney Marriott
If you’re looking to inject some life into tired skin, it would be a sin to leave this city without visiting the Level 4 Spa at the Sydney Marriott. Ever thought of putting caviar on your face? No, thought not. But Reiki and skin care specialist Adriana Anastase is embracing this innovative beauty secret as part of the Level 4 Spa’s sought-after caviar facial.
Lie back while steam and hot towels are applied to the face, before you undergo a Fruit acid/jojoba bead exfoliation and an energising lymphatic facial massage. Light tapping across the face helps flush out toxins – a technique Adriana learned from Mr Clarins himself. Beluga roe (eggs) from the Caspian Sea are then gently squeezed and massaged into the skin surface followed by a French Green Clay masque mixed with macademia oil, seaweed, aloe vera and essential oils. Caviar, apparently, is rich in omega 3 and 6, and vitamins A and E. And follow this with a rejuvenating serum with copper and peptides, hydrating moisturiser and firming eye gel – from Adriana’s favourite Australian cosmetic line, Skinstitut. The facial is complete when a geranium essential oil is applied to the décolletage.
Next up is the La Stone Massage which uses techniques of reiki healing and hot stone massage. As negative energies are redirected and tension is released, you will walk out with positively glowing skin and not a tight muscle in sight. I dare you to not feel 100% healed. Plus, your skin will glow so much you’ll be heading to Fortnum and Mason for the biggest tin of caviar you can find.
Level 4 Spa, Sydney Marriott, 30 Pitt Street, (61) (02) 9252 2424
Eating & Drinking
If you’re going to indulge the taste buds, Bungalow 8 restaurant and bar at Sydney’s bustling Darling Harbour does friendly yet stylish dining so well. Its interesting fusion of Pan Asian dishes, array of fairy-lit adorned booths and Tiki influenced décor make it a fun yet luxurious way to dine. Try the crunchy chilli salt squid with tangy mayonnaise accompanied by grapefruit and coriander salad or the vegetable and chestnut dumplings to whet the appetite. And sip Chandon Brut while you admire the lights of the harbour.
For mains, pick from the menu section entitled ‘From The Ocean’ and you’ll be presented with unforgettable tastes such as the chargrilled yet succulent Teriyaki salmon with sticky sweet rice and chilli sauce. Vegetarian options include the fiery and bold cauliflower and chickpea jungle curry with lime and ginger puree. And accompany this with the edamame beans covered in rock salt.
End the evening with one of Bungalow 8’s indulgent desserts and you’ll be dreaming about it long after your holiday. When you dig your spoon into a banana ice-cream brownie sandwich intricately decorated in passionfruit and mango you’ll be so distracted, you’ll completely forget to pick which luxury cruise ship you’re taking home.
Bungalow 8, 3 Lime Street, Darling Harbour, (61) (02) 9299 4660,
Expertly Made Cocktails
Social drinks Down Under don’t have to be about cans of lager around the barbie. Continue the sophisticated holiday vibe in Bungalow 8 rooftop bar The Loft. This art-deco style cocktail lounge oozes sophistication and the Pina Coladas are to die for.
Let the friendly and very dapper mixologists conjure up quirky beverages like ‘Who Smashed my Jam Jar’. (They might even mix up off the menu favourites if you ask nicely). And sashay between rooftop beams, honeycomb-shaped wall partitions, and plush leather couches. They even do high tea for the ladies. You won’t want to leave.
The Loft, 3 Lime Street, King Street Wharf, (61) (2) 9299 4770
Ladies Who Lunch
Many visitors come to know Cruise for its almost boat-like structure and multi-coloured lit backdrop which sets a hip and trendy atmosphere on the old Rocks area of Circular Quay. Choose from day or night, second floor a la carte or ground floor laid-back dining. Or drop in for a straight-forward aperitif while taking in one of the best ground-level views of the Sydney Opera House you can get.
If the sun has its hat on, go all out and share a platter of oysters and soy sauce. Fresh catches of the day like sea trout taste oh so fresh al fresco. And if you’re looking for a cheeky afternoon cocktail with your girlfriends, ‘What She’s Having’, ‘Liquid Love’ and ‘Hello Sailor’ are sure to put a smile on your face.
Cruise Bar, Level 1, 2 & 3, Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay West, (61) (2) 9251 1188
Places to stay
While Sydney does youth hostels and budget beachside B&Bs as well as they do barbeque prawns, when it comes to luxury overnight accommodation in the heart of the city, you’re too spoilt for choice. Skyscraper hotels glimmer in the skies of the CBD (Central Business District) like they’re fighting to be noticed in the surrounding Circular Quay. But which offer the most luxurious stay in the city and offer the best views of that famous opera house?
For unforgettable first class service
When rumour had it that a very successful pop star and her monsters tipped Sydney’s Four Seasons as her favourite hotel, Belle About Town had to investigate.
Once you pass the sliding glass doors of the grand foyer and the huge chandeliers overhead, an immaculately furnished room awaits. A gleaming marble shower room with a ginormous bathtub, range of L’occitane products and fluffy white towels are there for you to pamper yourself until your heart’s content. But one of the biggest talking points of this flagship hotel is the bed. The comfiest king size haven you could ever dream of starfishing in. This hotel is luxury at its finest.
The rooms of this proudly established chain have arguably some of the best views of the harbour. And at first glimpse from a Grand Premier Full Harbour View Room from the 20-something floor, you could spend hours just watching the world go by.
Dining options include The lounge bar where appetisers like the deep-fried fish platter and mojito cocktails can be enjoyed in a very calming lounge environment. For something special, Kable’s dining room offers brasserie-style cuisine from pasta and risotto to fresh seafood and desserts.
But what really makes you feel special is the flawless service. Whether you’re strolling across the gleaming polished wooden corridors or foyer. Or going to enjoy some smoked salmon, croissants and freshly served honeycomb from the hotel’s executive lounge, staff will greet you with a smile and greeting like you’re the most welcomed guest in the room.
Even laid-back luxury in the form of room service arrives with elegance. When you can have Salmon Teriyaki and creamy Panna Cotta dessert laid out on spotless white linen within the touch of a button, this is service which oozes professionalism. It’s a wonder Lady Gaga ever left the building.
The Four Seasons, George Street, (61) (2) 9250 3100
Historical haven within the city
In the shadow of the hill which homes Sydney’s 150-year-old maritime and astronomers’ observatory, the three-storey name-sake hotel is ideal if you’re looking for a luxurious home-from-home. Where in Sydney can you walk into a soft carpeted suite of a separate living room, bathroom and bedroom, and close the door to the sounds of the city to enjoy absolute calm and serenity? The answer is The Observatory Hotel.
The Orient Express chain have mastered how to incorporate historical charm into a luxury hotel just a few streets away from the quaint Rocks area of the harbour. Old mahogany-style furnishings encase wide screen TVs in both the living and bedroom areas and rooms are generously lit with antique lamps, making you feel like you’re in someone’s stylish home. You won’t go without modern necessities when you have a coffee machine stocked up with the finest blends of coffee. Add to this a fully stocked mini-bar and electronic ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign. Luxurious? Yes indeed.
To top things off you have ‘His n’ her’s basins (or ‘mine and mine’ if you’re really indulging) alongside volume control so you can listen to your favourite music tracks in the bathtub. Add to this the maritime maps and paintings which adorn the walls and fine antique-style china vases and you have an element of character which only the old side of Sydney could offer.
Sample the hotel’s breakfast or high tea in Galileo’s and Parisien-style paintings and antique lounge chairs will make you feel like you’re in Paris itself. Pop downstairs to the Day Spa and enjoy interesting indulgent treatments like the lava shell massage. You’ll be talking about this hotel for months after your stay.
The Observatory Hotel, 89-113 Kent Street, (61) (2) 9256 2222
Virgin Atlantic flies daily from London Heathrow to Sydney and is offering return fares from £1043 per person. For further information contact www.virginatlantic.com or call 0844 2092 770. This fare is available for selected departures during 2012. Prices given are correct as of today and are subject to change.
So if you thought Sydney was just about low-key beach hopping and hostel parties? Far the opposite. Old, new, laid back luxury or sophisticated chic, Sydney is one of the top cities to indulge. The question is, when are you booking your ticket? Very soon we hope.
by Lucy McGuire