Staycations are all the rage, so travel editor Winsor Dobbin suggests the perfect spot to enjoy a couple of days in downtown Sydney.
While it is all but impossible for Australians to travel right now, they can still enjoy a little slice of France at the Sofitel Darling Harbour.
At a time when “generic” rules the hotel landscape, the cheery “bonjours” from the hotel staff and the distinct French accent at Atelier by Sofitel restaurant and the Champagne Bar make a welcome change.
And as someone who spent five years living in France, I have to say that the crème brûlée at dinner and the fluffy omelette for breakfast matched anything you would find in la Belle France.
Throw in a wine list dotted with Sancerres and Cahors and the chance to finish dinner with an Armagnac or a Calvados and there is plenty here to please even the most demanding Francophile. I’m told many of the kitchen staff are French – as is head chef Eric Costille – hence the southern French-inspired menu.
My dinner comprised a petite but delicious floral tartlet with eggplant caviar, mushrooms, asparagus and truffle ricotta; a hearty portion of red snapper with crispy shaved vegetables and sauce vierge; and that unforgettable orange crème brûlée (above) with spiced crumble and passionfruit sorbet.
Other choices might include duck breast with raspberry port sauce, endive, polenta and oyster mushroom, or perhaps a very French lamb shank navarin with goat cheese gnocchi and artichoke hearts.
Beware ordering sides like market greens or pommes frites (that’s chips to you and me) as the portions are enormous and enough for sharing between four or six people.
Try to get a room that offers access to Club Millesime, the top floor private hotel club with terrific food and drinks included in your tariff. The appetisers are enough for dinner for two. And the views are amazing. Plus you have position, position and position on your side in what has been dubbed as an Urban Resort.
The Sofitel Darling Harbour is adjacent to the new International Convention Centre Sydney and just a short walk from shopping areas like the QVB and Chinatown. You can catch the light rail from the inner west.
The 590 rooms (the hotel actually feels a lot more boutique than that number would suggest) offer superb views of the harbour and there are three bars, restaurant, club lounge and outdoor infinity pool, as well a gym filled with folk furiously punishing their bodies.
There are dozens of other dining choices right on your doorstep – and real hotel staff when you get back from an excursion. Someone to take your bags to your room, even. OId-school hotel service still rules here.
All rooms feature LED Smart TVs, air-conditioning, coffee- and tea-making facilities, mini bars (post Covid), safes and all bathroom mod cons, as well as fast and free wifi.
The hotel is unashamedly five-star and offers a range of packages. I’d highly recommend splurging on a weekend in France without leaving Sydney.
# The writer was a guest of the Sofitel Darling Harbour