This post was sponsored by The Darling.
If I may humble brag, I’m certainly no stranger to doing lovely things for myself. Twice a year, I’ll splash out on the Aesop facial exfoliator over supermarket stuff, reminding myself at the checkout that I’ve more than earned the right. A month before I got hitched, I treated myself to a solo voyage to New Zealand, where I gleefully ordered pasta studded with Cloudy Bay clams, and later purchased artisan peanut butter at a price that stings. One avenue that I’d yet to explore was the splash-out staycation. In fact, the prospect sounded wholly uninspired (“Let’s getaway! And by that I mean 15 minutes’ from the office”). The degree to which I was wrong about this is woeful.
Earlier this month, I booked a Friday night at The Darling hotel in Sydney. My husband and I then proceeded to luxe-out like teens with a lust for pillow forts left home alone. I’ll begin by mentioning that this fine establishment, The Darling, was last year awarded Forbes’ distinguished five-star rating, and has just received the same accolade for 2018. To give context, no other hotel in this city shares the accolade. We’re talking Iggy Azalea “Fancy”. And the service shows it. Upon checking in, I must have passed five staff members who greeted me and wished me well on my way. The check-in key had my name emblazoned onto it, which though a small touch, had me at hello. I was also gob-smacked when I was informed we’d been upgraded to the “Adored Suite”.
As it turns out, “Adored” means pimped-out, spacious (80 square metres), wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows, and an epic spa that overlooks the Harbour Bridge. For all that unbridled luxury, my personal highlight was one of those designer ceiling showerheads that mimic standing in the rain as you lather and rinse. Hey, everyone has their “thing”.
After settling in, checking the cricket scores and absorbing the opulence I’d just stepped into, my husband and I moseyed down to the pool for a few laps. If I’m being honest, it was one lap. Breast stroke. He won. (I haven’t swum in a while.) Following this, we popped over to the hot spa and tossed questions back and forth, including such gems as “What is your favourite biscuit?” and “What’s your favourite swimming stoke?” Eager for more of this riveting conversation over dinner, we showered for our 7pm reservation at Sokyo.
There are a number of restaurants attached to The Star. Balla comes to mind. Black Bar & Grill is another. I opted for Sokyo because I almost exclusively eat Asian food and because Chase Kojima’s Japanese restaurant is one-hatted. And I’d be a fool not to dine at the hand of a head chef who’s worked at Nobu.
My husband and I enjoy food. In a snobby way, sure, but with lots of heart and appreciation for a chef’s creativity and talent. Mr Kojima, if you’re reading this, your Aylesbury duck breast with brussel sprouts and baby cos was a triumph. Mid-mouthful, my companion and I would stare blankly at each other as we tried to comprehend the wonder that was happening in our mouths. Who are you, even? The Wagyu tri-tip, caramelised eschalots and barbecue teriyaki was simple, inspired. Couldn’t fault it. What most distressed my husband, however, was how on earth you made pumpkin tempura – pumpkin tempura we’ve had countless times prior – a sweet, unctuous, crispy sensation, more so once dipped in its creamy poblano sauce. Thank you, Sir. You’ve spoiled us forevermore.
After dinner, we took a romantic stroll over to Darling Harbour. We were there in two minutes. Without getting too corny on you, as we sat by the water I quietly revelled in how pretty this city is, even to someone who’s lived here for close to 30 years.
For those curious, the end of the evening may or may not have been spent in our room spa, sipping whiskey on ice (which reception happily obliged), followed by Bruce Willis’ 1998 political action-thriller Mercury Rising.