The foyer and reception are high-ceilinged and grand, with plenty of spaces for people to sit, chat and meet. I choose a corner with two faux green walls and teal carpet to people watch and read a book while I wait for an Uber and find it quite comfortable. Elsewhere there are leather banquettes, marble coffee tables and shiny tiles.
So, what makes a hotel 5-star? The staff are to anticipate your needs, even before you do. If it's raining, they will offer you an umbrella as you leave the property. At a 4-star property, they'll give you one but you have to ask for it.
Here, when I ask for my luggage, it is brought to me, and then I am asked if I want them to take it outside to be placed in a car when it arrives for me. Oh, yes. I did want that.
Things close by:
The Star Casino and Darling Harbour are both close by.
It's an easy 30-minute walk to the Crown Hotel and restaurants, pubs and cafes on the other side of the harbour, and the SEALiFE Sydney Aquarium.
It's 12 minute walk to the International Convention Centre (ICC) where I have a conference to attend so it's perfect for my purposes. Close enough to get my morning walk in, but far enough away that I'm not confronted by other attendees all day and night.
Things that make this special:
When I arrive, a staff member takes me to my room and talks me through the buttons and amenities in my room. He makes an effort to say my name when he addresses me. (Word has it that part of the Forbes 5-star requirements is that staff are required to use my name every 30 seconds when speaking to me). He even asks if I would prefer to be called Danielle or Miss Norton.
I have a luxuriously large King room. The electronic curtains open as I enter the room in a smooth parting, offering me a twinkling view of city buildings, no harbour view from here, unfortunately. Huge faux-sandstone tiles behind the bed remind me that modern Sydney was built by convict labour. The rest of the room is wood panelled.
A TV is recessed into the wall (you can set up your accounts and watch your streaming services) and there are phone charging stations built into the bedside tables.
The mini bar is stocked full of essentials - savoury chickpeas, salted cashews, Moet, vodka, gin, etc and the room comes with a coffee maker and kettle, of course.
In the bathroom, there's soap on the bench but it's not just soap - it's Balmain Paris - savon parfumé. The shampoo and conditioner, the body wash and lotion is all from this producer, and all smells lovely, decadent, high quality - exactly what you would expect from a hotel of this calibre.
It feels dark and masculine in this room and I would certainly recommend this place for the man in your life. It seems not to have been designed for women who want to lay out all their makeup on the bathroom bench. Despite there being a lot of room, there's not a lot of space for something like this.
The robes are textured but not soft and fluffy - perhaps another nod to masculine guests. Towels, too, are textured, not fluffy.
Slippers are laid out by the bed and the bed is turned down when I arrive at 8 pm. I'm tired and this invitation to just go to bed is most welcome.
It's a smart casual crowd. Next door in the casino 'The Star' people are wearing more makeup and higher-end labels but here they're in smart suits and nice clothing.
Spa and pool:
The pool is closed at 8 pm when I arrive. It's open 8 am-7 pm which is a little disappointing for business workers who are staying. Guests do have access to the pool at the adjacent hotel, The Star, from 6 am-9 pm, but I'm not inclined to schlep over to the other hotel so I skip this.
There is a stunning spa onsite. Guests must book their treatments as soon as they book their accommodation. Spa staff told me that their appointments are only open three months ahead but you can put your name down and they'll be in touch. Trying to get an appointment on the day is pretty much impossible so if this is on your holiday to-do list, make it part of your planning.
The gym is a tiny room adjacent to the Darling Spa. High-quality equipment but not the most inspiring of views. Two treadmills, an exercise bike, weights, and more.
I'm offered "a cold bottle of water" as I approach the desk to ask the porter to mind my bags. It was my first interaction with the hotel. But almost every point of contact is similar. It's a warm, muggy day, and maybe I look like a red hot (sweaty) mess, so a cool drink is an appropriate offering, but the constant barrage of plastic water bottles bothers me. A glass of water from a fridge would be a far more sustainable and easily managed and, dare I say it, more sophisticated and environmentally aware option.
Is this hotel LGBTIQ+ friendly?
The whole of Sydney is lit up with rainbows when I visit because it's PRIDE Week. The buildings, the bridges and the footpaths are painted like the rainbow brick roads that lead to a gay Emerald City, so inclusive and celebratory is the entire town of its gay-friendly culture. There's no overt reference to it here in The Darling but in the foyer of The Star, there are drag performers at hourly intervals entertaining the crowds so I think it's safe to say that it's LGBTIQ
Advice for other travellers:
This is part of the Star casino complex so you have access to the Star if you want it but you can easily forgo it (I did) and have a hotel experience in Sydney that doesn't make you feel like you've had to gamble.
Easy access to The Lyric Theatre and the Michael Reid Art Bar (art gallery during the day, bar at night) and The Darling Spa. The Lyric Theatre has a full calendar of shows.
I'm pretty focused on how hotels can be more sustainable and this one doesn't impress me much in that department. I'd love to see filtered cold water stations at a minimum, and refillable toiletries in the rooms.
This hotel has a distinctly masculine feel to it. It's perfect for the man in your life, or if you're a man, it's perfect for you! It's well located if you have business in the Darling Harbour district, you're seeing a show at the Lyric Theatre or you want to be close to the Casino.
Location/Address: 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont.
How to get there: For this trip I used Public Transport and caught the train to Central Station from the Airport. Catch a tram or bus from Central Station. I use the Rome to Rio App to plan my route in a strange city. Works every time.
How to book: via the website
Price: From $289 per night
The writer was a guest of The Darling