Baldwin Ho discovers luxury in Sydney at the Four Seasons.
Those who think Sydney, Australia is a quiet, backwater city with little in terms of luxury, culture and culinary highlights will be sorely disappointed. Five-star hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants, and high-brow culture are all in abundance in the harbour city.
Your first port of call should be to book yourself into the Four Seasons hotel overlooking The Rocks district. The façade might look slightly dated but make no mistake, inside you are in the epicentre of opulent five-star luxury.
The presidential suites here are amongst the most sought-after hotel rooms in Sydney with commanding views of the two jewels of the city: Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.
Luxury at its finest
With floor-to-ceiling windows, a spacious living room and a gorgeous bathroom with double vanities and a soaking tub overlooking the Opera House, this is luxury living at its finest.
Only the very best will do in the presidential suite, with organic Australian APPELLES products, three hundred thread-count linen, and hypoallergenic pillows.
One of the highlights of booking a suite at Four Seasons is access to Lounge 32. The primary perk being offered complimentary evening gourmet canapés and beverages. By canapés, I am referring to succulent king prawns, vegetarian sushi and hearty gyozas whilst they will happily make any cocktail you require or you can try the handpicked Australian wines by their expert sommelier.
If you are looking for a more substantial meal, then downstairs at Mode Kitchen and Bar is the ideal place. It strikes the popular balance between a casual environment but fine-dining quality food. You will come across many unusual species of fish unfamiliar to visitors from the northern hemisphere: I enjoyed silky smooth Hiramasa kingfish sashimi whilst the main course was a wood-fired glacier 51 toothfish, which is often known as the ‘wagyu' of fish for its clean, sweet flavours.
The location of the hotel is unparalleled being opposite the Sydney contemporary art museum and a short walk to the ferries of Circular Quay and the myriad of designer boutiques and hip bars in The Rocks.
Tasting seafood is often cited as one of the primary reasons for visiting Sydney and you can sample some ultra-fresh options at Fujisaki in the new district of Barangaroo, especially with their dedicated raw bar. Their lunch sets are reasonably priced at £35/$45 and include options like wagyu beef and glacier 51 toothfish along with a bento box of other surprises like omelette and tempura vegetables.
Seafood lover's paradise
Other highlights include the creamy-tasting rock oysters, steak tartare that comes with smoked wagyu dressing and chirashizushi with optional additions of sea urchin roe, spanner crab and salmon caviar.
Having spoken with the team, most of their seafood is locally sourced and like myself, you will be amazed by the exceptional freshness of the produce. At night time, they offer a chef's table omakase menu which sounds a seafood lover's paradise or you can go à la carte and enjoy the likes of glacier 51 toothfish with saikyo miso, Sugarloaf and spring onion.
If you want to experience, cutting-edge, progressive fine-dining cuisine, then a short cab ride away is Arthur in Surry Hills. The first shrewd move, chef/owner Tristan Rosier has done is to shorten the tasting menu experience: you get two courses served each time and as a result, they can afford to have two seatings at 6.00pm and 8.30pm. There is little in terms of wastage as everyone is dining from the same menu (they do cater for vegetarians) and seasonality is paramount for Tristan.
Sourdough is made in house along with a cultured butter that adds a welcoming tangy taste and complements well with the sourness of the crumb. Egg butter is more traditional in Finnish cuisine and Estonian cuisine but here it accompanies the organic turnip. Thick cuts of bonito are deliciously partitioned off with plum, sorrel and wagyu fat, whilst the buffalo curd dish is a riot of colours with nectarine, tomato, and thyme. The two desserts were a clever contrast between the dark and light with a rye ice cream, malt biscuit and cherry being the Darth Vader to the Luke Skywalker of lemon granita, kaffir ice cream and macadamia.
Tristan's menu is very much in line with the plant-forward movement, but he must be commended for allowing vegetarians and non-vegetarians to dine together on a tasting menu. Too often, high-end restaurants have insisted everyone on the table must have exactly the same menu.
Finally, do not leave Sydney without booking to see a show at the iconic Sydney Opera House. It is only a short stroll away from the Four Seasons hotel and must be one of the most instagrammable spots in the world. The dress code is more relaxed than say the Royal Opera House but the architectural magnificence of the structure is astonishing (more than one million roof tiles have been used).
Live the high life
There are multiple concert halls inside and it is the home to three resident companies: Opera Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
We went along to see a fantastic rendition of La Boheme with a very strong cast that included Ivan Magrì as Rodolfo and Joyce El-Khoury in the starring role of Mimi. There was infectious energy with the whole cast and in particular, Anna Princeva’s outlandish Musetta in the second act threatened to steal the show. If you think Australian theatre productions struggle to attract the talent their European counterparts frequently score, then you just need to book yourself a ticket to see La Boheme.
Unlike the impoverished life lived by the struggling artists of La Boheme, you can live the high life by choosing Sydney as your next holiday destination.
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