REVIEW: The Darling is Still a Benchmark For Luxury Hotels in Sydney
As Australia’s gateway to the world, Sydney has for long sat as a constant reminder of what could have been. While the city plays host to major drawcard events like Vivid and boasts a staggering number of tourist entries each year, the luxury hotel scene has traditionally lacked any real teeth. Just a handful of staple players hold onto the remnants of a bygone era, still plugging a hotel experience that would struggle to hold a candle to our Singaporean or Malaysian neighbours. However, the tide is turning.
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Two years of reduced travel has laid a perfect found foundation for the reinvigoration of a city on the cusp of a renewed lease on life and you need only look around you to see the hallmarks of progress. With iconic buildings such as The Strand and The InterContentinetal copping multi-million dollar upgrades in the past six months alone, the future is looking bright. For right now, however, the ‘star’ attraction remains a familiar face – The Darling at The Star casino.
Casting an imposing shadow over its little pocket of Pyrmont, The Darling is like the OMEGA to The Star’s Rolex. Equally beautiful – one for the obvious showman, the other tailored to a more refined palate, and both oozing with glamour. From the stunning views and world-class amenities to the stringent approach to customer service, the hotel promises a lot and it’s hard to keep your expectations in check. With a number of the rooms recently undergoing refurbishment, we took to The Darling to see if the hype surrounding the Sydney luxury hotel was warranted and if it really was all it is cracked up to be.
The Darling Hotel
Located just a five-minute walk from the Casino Wharf ferry terminal, The Darling is a swanky luxury hotel in one of Sydney’s premier tourist hotspots. The property features harbour views, and an assortment of elegant, art-filled rooms and suites, each littered with creature comforts for the executive traveller or high-roller guest. Of course, the major drawcard here is the hotel’s proximity to The Star casino, which brings in thousands of tourists each year, however, for those who aren’t into gambling, there is still a lot on offer. The Darling is home to five eateries, as well as a cocktail lounge and a 24-hour sports bar, not to mention a world-class spa.
Located in: The Star Sydney
Address: 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont NSW 2009
Phone: 1800 800 830
Price: AUD$400 per night
With only 114 rooms and suites available, The Darling certainly isn’t anywhere near the scale of its big brother hotel, but what it lacks in size, it does make up for in style. We were checked into a Jewel Suite, which is one of the hotel’s more luxurious offerings, arriving complete with spacious areas for relaxing and sleeping, a stunning marble wet bar and a functional glass-topped desk.
However, from the moment you enter the room, it’s easy to see what the real star of the show is. The entire room is headlined by floor-to-ceiling windows that offer truly impressive views of Pyrmont, Sydney’s CBD and the iconic Harbour Bridge. For the first few minutes upon entering, we simply sat on the edge of the bed and took in the scenery that so often goes overlooked when you spend too much time in one city.
The rest of the room was largely unspectacular, with no major callouts to rattle off, but it more than sufficed as a luxury guest lodging. One point to be made is simply that despite renovations, some of the panelling design and carpet does appear a little dated by today’s standards, no doubt a throwback to The Star’s heyday of the early ’90s, but it’s nothing to cause a fuss over.
Moving into the bathroom, the Jewel Suite features a rainforest shower head and deep soaking tub which perfectly complement the rather opulent marble bathroom. Of course, the space was loaded up with premium products and, much to our enjoyment, the traditional white robes that signify the holiday has officially begun.
Being housed within The Star casino, The Darling is privy to no fewer than 11 established eateries, not the least of which is Cucina Porto, a charming casual Italian pizza parlour. We booked a table for dinner and upon arriving realised just how busy things can get. With an influx of guests, casino patrons and diners all making their way to score a feed, it was lucky we had secured a booking earlier. Nevertheless, the menu here provides a stunning array of cheese, antipasti, pizza and seafood, which we were all too happy to indulge in. Put simply, Cucina Porta is a perfect little way to kickstart a night out, whether you are staying at The Darling or not.
The following morning, we were lucky enough to grab a spot at Sokyo, The Star’s Japanese-inspired restaurant for breakfast. The usual suspects are all on offer here, but there is a fun little twist on each. For example, the avocado toast arrived with smoked salmon and a healthy dose of furikake, a dry Japanese condiment generally sprinkled on top of cooked rice, vegetables, and fish. I loved this subtle play on your average breakfast options (in particular the tempura hash brown), but for picky eaters it might be a little out of the box.
If Italian or Japanese is not your cup of tea, however, The Darling is home to a number of other options, including Black Bar and Grill steakhouse, Flying Fish, The Century and an element-based sensory dining experience at ‘Ele’ by Federico & Karl.
When you stay at a hotel like The Darling, the key attractions are hard to miss. Situated essentially on the same block of land as The Star casino, the property serves as the perfect base for those who love a punt or are simply dazzled by the bright lights and pretty pictures. Thankfully, I’ve got one foot in both camps, so it worked out well, however, there is far more on offer the Blackjack tables and poker machines.
The Darling Spa is perhaps the most interesting and well-equipped options for play when staying at the luxury hotel. While we didn’t get a chance to check it out personally, the reviews are entirely positive. It features 11 treatment rooms, two exclusive couples suites, a Moroccan Hammam chamber, steam room and Jacuzzi. There is also a comprehensive range of face and body treatments available to help you feel relaxed while you stay.
The Bottom Line
As far as luxury hotels go, The Darling does exactly what it claims to on the label. It’s a top-tier destination that offers a multitude of different experiences all within the confines of its perfectly rendered walls. While there are certainly elements to its design that are slowly ageing with time, the hotel does have all the bells and whistles needed to keep guests happy, feed and entertained throughout their stay. Of course, the proximity to the casino is never going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re not averse to the clink of coins, the influx of guests and the dazzle of bright lights, The Darling could very well be the ace up your sleeve next time you find yourself in Sydney.