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LUXURY HOTELS: The Darling, Sydney, Australia

It is not every day a brand new five star is born in Sydney; in fact there hasn't been one since before the 2000 Olympics, so it is no surprise that the rent-a-crowd was out in force earlier this week for the hotel's first star-studded event. Celebrities and VIPS, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Stevie Wonder turned out to celebrate the opening of the new The Star complex. The hotel, a glittering glass wall in the centre of the complex doesn't officially open until Friday (28 October) but we thought you'd like a sneak peak.

the adored suite bathroom
the adored suite bathroom
jewel suite bedroom
the darling bedroom
spa
jewel suite living area
adored suite living area

So what is Sydney's newest waterside baby like? At first look we'd say pretty special. The Darling publicity boasts that has views from 'the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Blue Mountains' and with its elevated position in the new glitzy, glamorous complex that may well be true when the weather is fine - bit rainy last night. And this morning... grey. Still, we are prepared to believe that, as the old song goes 'On a Clear Day You Can See Forever' ... Of course it helps that all the 171 guest rooms feature floor-to-ceiling glass and windows that open (we love hotels that let in the fresh air) to showcase those fabulous views. If you've got killer views - especially from the rooms higher up - milk it we say. And they do.

The lobby makes a statement too. Walking up to the main entrance it is worth looking up. The giant red swallow suspended above our heads looks as if it is ready to swoop on the concierge desk, giant diamond-shaped cherries in its mouth.. Walking in we're compelled to look down to admire to multi-coloured, ten metre long rugs running the full length of the lobby designed by Australian fashion icon Akira Isogawa. This lobby is designed to work as a chill-space, not just a place to check-in . Shades of Ian Schrager (with whom the hotel's GM used work) here. This is a new concept for Sydney, although not for Londoners or New Yorkers. The bar spills out into the lobby space, and there is a pool table and sushi restaurant to keep you there for the duration. The idea is to attract a local crowd as well as hotel guests. The Darling may not be in the CBD but there are enough advertising and meedya -types working nearby to keep that bar busy.

The Luxury Travel Bible is very partial to the names of the room categories. The lead-in Darling is definitely a little 35m 2 darling. Then there are the Jewel suites with that jewel-like water shimmering outside the windows, although lower down the hotel you have to look across a few rooftops first. We're liking the wet bar in these suites, great for a little late night entertaining. The Adored suites are, well adorable. As we walk in, a corridor of windows curls round into the lounge space, which is alll silver greys and moody mauves.

Not quite ready for the luxury hotel  opening but worth waiting for are the Stellar suites which have views of the starry southern hemisphere sky at night. Then there is the penthouse category - called simply Penthouse - no more needs to be said really. These five top suites have it all. Outside are panoramic views over one of the world's most beautiful harbours, Inside LA designer Lawrence Lee has created extravagant elongated fireplaces, low-slung couches, marble bathrooms and space, space ,space. You also get media rooms, butler service and a private VIP arrival.

You can tell a good luxury hotel by a tour of its bathrooms, The Luxury Travel Bible is fussy like that. First we take a look at the products - the ones at The Darling are Molton Brown. Hotels use these products by invitation only, which mean a handful worldwide, and no others in Australia, have the line. Big tick. Then we test the shower. Every bathroom here has a square rain showerhead, relaxing and eco -friendly, as well as adjustble-rod wall showers. Tick number two. Baths? We love our baths at TLTB, the Darling category is showers-only but when you start to lead the suite life things perk up. There are some serious bath tubs . We'd drown our grandmother for a dip in the fantastic Adored Suite baths-with-a-view (see picture). HUGE tick.
 

In the past few years luxury hotel groups have made a big show of naming their beds - well here's another one -The Darling Bed. The hotel claims that 'once you've slept on a Darling bed, you'll be reluctant to leave it.' We'll let you know. Sounds promising though because every bed features a customised 1000 spring mattress, 400 thread count 100% Egyptian cotton bed linen (we love counting threads) and a goose down comforter. And in case the supplied pillow isn't to your liking there's a menu of 12 luxury pillows to choose from. You really don't have to leave your bed for much at all because a state of the art integrated control system on the TV screen allows you to do almost anything, from adjusting your room temperature, to opening your blinds, with the merest twitch of a digit.

Of course as befits a new-build, technology is king. Expect the latest hi-tech stuff including wireless internet access, iPod docks, high definition Samsung LED 46" TVs and telecommunications systems with conference and speaker capabilities. Here at TLTB however we're probably as interested in the massage as the machines so we're glad to report the luxurious spa has 16 treatment rooms. On offer is a mix of Asian (The Four Hands Abhyanga has promise) indigenous Australian (The Dreaming is a 3hr fantasy) and just plain indulgent (The Hot Stones Muscle Melt is a must). We also like the fact that the spa has special products for men and males going spa-ing get a beer on arrival. Sexist? maybe. Tapped into the male Pysche? Definitely.

Still to come at The Darling is Sokyo a restaurant run by former Nobu Chef Chase Kojima, offering a fusion of Japanese taste sensations. Sokyo opens in early November. But don't worry you won't go hungry in the meantime, as The Darling is in the heart of the AUD $860 million refurbishment of The Star, formally Star City, you don't have to go far to be entertained. The Star has 20 new restaurants, including Stefano Manfredi's Balla, David Chang's Momfuku Seiobo, Teage Ezard's BLACK by ezard. There are also a range of bars and cafes, such as home-grown talent Adriano Zumbo's new patisserie. And some serious retail therapy - onboard are Chanel, G Star Raw, Calvin Klein Jeans, IM lingerie, Salvatore Ferragamo , LK Jewellery, Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Moda Emporio.
 
Finally its the little things that really count. A sense of humour is a great thing in a hotel so The Luxury Travel Bible had a giggle at the in-room mini bar offerings; all in one-word white boxes which together spell out the sentence 'You. Know. You. Want. To.' Best box is the Kiss kit. Containing a blindfold, massage oil, condoms x 2, wipes x 6 (there's an assumption there..) and other fun toys including a casino game - strip poker maybe? We predict the kit will be a big hit. Although for us the jelly beans came a close second....
 
Check in: at The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, NSW, 2009, Australia
Ultimate Luxury: Relaxing in front of the designer fire in one of the five Penthouse suites
Most Indulgent Moment: A soak in the Adored Suite's bath-with-a-view
Insider Secrets: General Manager Drew Schlesinger is no stranger to beginnings, having opened 70 Park Avenue Hotel, The Kimpton Hotels & Resorts' first hotel in New York City. He also served as GM of Ian Schrager's Mondrian Hotel, Los Angeles.
The Little Things: Love that Kiss kit on the mini-bar. Too early to say how the service will kick in. watch this space.
Junior Luxies: The pool is adults only because there is a poolside bar and the lobby, well, that has booze too. Plus its so new and squeaky clean, why ruin it with finger marks?
Dress code: Sydney -smart, which means smart casual and a touch of evening bling
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Hotels Link: www.thedarling.com.au

Hilary Doling 25/10/11 Updated with video 27/10/11

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