With a glittering, twirling facade looming high above the Barangaroo fold — so high it’s officially Sydney’s tallest hotel — dare we say there’s never been a more hyped hotel opening in this town than that of the new Crown Towers Sydney, which also lays claim to being the city’s first-ever six-star stay.
Certainly, Sydney has been crying out for such a calibre of hotel — but does it live up to its well trot out reputation?
It feels odd to say the venue is still a work in progress — they’re still putting finishing touches on Crown Tower’s Villas and Level 26 venues, though the hotel is very much open for business, and buzzing at that.
Crown has at least saved some of the wow-factor for those who venture inside — starting with a dizzying custom-made, six-storey chandelier in the lobby, featuring a coiling display of 396 crystals that put on a light show every night.
Already nine of 14 dining venues have launched — Californian export Nobu, of the wildly popular Japanese-fusion chain, is already booked up until April. Lucky for us nearly all of Crown’s offerings have top billing, from Ormeggio chef Alessandro Pavoni’s Italian diner, a’Mare, to Ross Lusted (The Bridge Room) and wife Sunny Lusted’s shrine to smoky produce on the ground floor, Woodcut. We’ll also be eagerly awaiting UK chef Clare Smyth’s first Australian opening, Core — her three-Michelin-starred London restaurant was the first ever to enter the coveted The Good Food Guide with a perfect score.
Of course, you can’t talk wow-factor without mentioning the hotel’s jaw-dropping spa — there’s simply nothing else like it in Sydney. The designer, Blainey North, was instructed to design the world’s best day spa, and his efforts show in the supremely relaxing Aqua Retreat, equipped with a 37-degree Vitality Pool, Infrared Sauna, and bizarrely satisfying Experience Shower (designed to deliver a water pressure massage from all angles while you rinse).
The harbour-facing fitness studio is yet to launch their waterfront yoga terrace (I KNOW), but in the meantime, those seeking prime Instagram opps will find it in the pastel-fabulous open-air tennis court, awash with Indigenous artist Reko Rennie’s signature stylised iconography. It’s truly breathtaking.
But onto the feature you’ve all been waiting for — that heated infinity pool. Overlooking the harbour with a horizon overflow design, it’s the urban oasis we’ve been waiting for. Day beds, including ones that float serenely above the pool, are acquired on a first come first serve basis. However, cabanas can be rented for five-hour blocks — with each offering a lounge, privacy curtains, a fridge stocked with complimentary non-alcoholic drinks, a platter, a TV, an exclusive cabana-only menu, and reserved twin day beds — starting from $250 and soaring to $450 during peak weekend sessions. As VIP perks go, it’s still astonishingly good value.
The hotel boasts 349 rooms, including 20 yet-to-open villas that come with a private butler.
We’re staying in an Executive Opera Suite, which includes a separate living and bedroom, guest powder room, and enormous marble ensuite straight from the future — hello, Dyson hair dryers. I’m in lust with the tub — a luxurious egg-shaped thing with an in-built TV for prime soaking entertainment. I’m amused to discover the doors to the walk-in rain shower and toilet are two-way mirrors, which may or may not be a source of performance anxiety for some.
It’s no surprise that room tech is state of the art, with buttons and tablets controlling everything from curtains and blinds to reading lights and room service. The entertainment system is compatible with streaming apps (tick), which is handy, as all on-demand movies are pay-per-view.
Of course, my favourite feature has to be that comfy king bed, dressed in luxurious Italian designer Frette linens — the closest thing to sleeping on a cloud. The matching Frette robe is likewise the cosiest I’ve ever worn.
Floor-to-ceiling glass walls give way to uninterrupted panoramic harbour views and, for now at least, a bird’s eye vantage point of the construction site below, which we’re told is going to be a low-rise Westfield, adding to Barangaroo’s sprawling shopping precinct.
For dinner we head to Cantonese restaurant Silks, stopping first at the Wonderland-esque cocktail lounge, Teahouse, for an Asian-inspired tipple (the Jade Sour is outstanding). The venue’s ‘birdcages’ are in high demand — ornate, indoor, gazebo-like structures that offer small groups an additional level of seclusion and sense of occasion.
Next door, Silks oozes opulence with an unapologetically lavish jade and gold palette, while elevated dining platforms ensure no guest misses out on that postcard-worthy sunset. Offering dim sum by day and upmarket Cantonese dishes by night, dishes like the lobster san choy bau and crispy chicken with Sichuan salt are decadently good.
The hotel’s buffet restaurant Epicurean, where we dine for breakfast the following morning, is no less decadent, with an enchanting blend of shiny marble surfaces and cheery blue and gold accents. The buffet is COVIDsafe, meaning all food is prepared, portioned and served by chefs manning the separate stations, while a team of roving service staff take bespoke coffee and omelette orders. Guests can take their pick of Indian, Asian and Western-style offerings — indulge in oysters or sashimi at the chilled seafood bar, or end on a sweet note at the dessert bar, complete with a chocolate fountain.
We suspect it’s no coincidence Woodcut has been placed on the ground floor, with the earthy aromas of smoky wood fire and meat seducing passers-by in the lobby and Barangaroo promenade. The slow wood burning cooking concept was inspired by award-winning culinary duo Ross and Sunny Lusted’s travels overseas, and the open-kitchen design certainly adds to the sensory experience.
The same reverence lavished on the wood-fired or wood-grilled dishes is doled out to the chilled, cured and steamed menu items, though admittedly it’s the ash-grilled octopus, served on a bed of creamy skordalia with a charcuterie dressing, that leaves a lasting impression.
Crown Towers Sydney still has a few tricks up her sleeve yet, that should come to fruition by the end of April as more villas and venues open up, but we leave with little doubt they’ve met the six-star brief. As venues come into their own, we look forward to the iconic site seizing its place as one of the city’s hottest dining precincts. Watch this space.