I’VE ALWAYS been a city boy. London, Sydney, New York, give me a major metropolitan hub over the sticks any day of the week. Sure, the fresh air feels good but these dainty fingers are designed for typing on a keyboard, not getting dirty somewhere in a field. But despite my predilections for life in the city, that feeling you get when you finally escape for a weekend away is something to be savoured. It softens the hard edges of the city, knowing a break is achievable. The thing is, it might just be me but those weekends down the coast are becoming increasingly rare. Just thinking about the organisational prep involved makes me tired. Now, thanks to the opening of the W Hotel in Darling Harbour, we don’t even need to do that.

The newest addition to Marriott Bonvoy’s global portfolio and the third W to arrive in Australia, doesn’t so much sit in the heart of Darling Harbour, as it does rise out of it—the tall curved building hugging the complex tapestry of roadways like a coastline. The impressive structure was designed by Australian architectural firm Hassel and signals a new direction for the brand, according to Sean Hunt, Marriott International’s vice president of Australia, NZ and the Pacific. 

“With a fresh take on luxury, W Sydney’s dynamic design,‘Whatever/Whenever’ service ethos, imaginative dining and bars and creative guest programming will bring an exciting new energy to this vibrant Darling Harbour precinct.”

In total, there’s 588 rooms and a further 162 suites, making W Sydney one of the city’s largest and most impressive hotels. In total, there’s four options for drinks and dining, including a two-level bar with stunning harbour views, and even a dedicated dessert bar. The excitement that met the opening of the hotel in October just before the debut of SXSW Sydney, demonstrates just how much Sydney has needed something like it. And while all this sounds great on paper, naturally we had to find out for ourselves.

When setting foot inside the doors of the W, it’s the design that makes the first impression. From the W sign, inspired by the Australian Waratah bird, to the nautical-inspired rooms, the hotel’s interiors pay homage to all things Sydney, with each element a subtle nod to the city’s history, culture and natural surroundings. Conceived by interiors firm Bowler James Brindley, the design is informed by the quintessentially Aussie idea of ‘the Larrikin’, creating a more playful vibe to the hotel’s luxury essence.

When you ascend the illuminated staircase to the main lobby, or the Living Room as branded by W, it creates the sensation of exiting the city into another portal. Like an urban entry point to Narnia, it’s on the other side where the enjoyment really begins. For us, this meant a swift drop of the bags and an immediate trip to the ‘Wet Deck’, one of the undeniable highlights of the hotel that features an infinity pool and bar overlooking the harbour. Sat with a cocktail in hand, dozens of floors above the busy ground, it was hard not to feel superior to the crowds circulating beneath us. Be warned, this feeling will go to your head quicker than the top-shelf booze.

Tipsy on self importance, we then made the voyage to dinner where the W continues its dedication to creating clever twists on a classic. Located in the centre of the restaurant is a ‘cold bar’, offering, among other things, oysters, coral trout ceviche and caviar. With our self control at this stage non existent, we went straight in for the caviar which arrived with cultured cream and a selection of condiments. Trust me, nothing screams luxury staycation like carefully spreading caviar onto homemade potato chips, while watching crowds of people in Darling Harbour escape the rain. An experience I am unlikely to forget. Other standouts include the Kangaroo cheeseburger tartare and hash brown, as well as the roasted lamb shoulder. Ensure you bring your appetite for the latter; the portions are generous to say the least. Next on the menu was a visit to the dessert bar where something sweet and (another) glass of champagne seemed the obvious way to conclude the evening. I know, life’s tough for a magazine editor.

Our stay at W culminated in a trip to the spa, a place where even the best of hotels can fall short. It doesn’t matter how premium the restaurant, nor how inspired the interior design—it’s the spa that is often the benchmark for a top-class hotel. Thankfully, the W is no different and after the challenging (read: decadent) night before, I was in the mood for some R&R. The spa has five treatment rooms, manicure booths, a sauna and steam room and a set of immersive showers that make you feel like you’re getting drenched in a tropical rainforest. In a good way.

But the best thing about the spa, and indeed the W in general, is not just the quality of the service. It’s the fact you feel insulated from the outside world in a cocoon of luxury. Unfortunately, for me, the time soon came when I had to vacate said cocoon. Emerging sweaty faced with the sauna, I departed the W doors and its striking entrance sign, back into the city. Refreshed. Recharged. Ready.

Why can’t all weekends be like this?


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