Royal Darling

If Marie Antoinette were here in Sydney today, there’s no doubt which hotel she’d choose to rest her coiffured head.

08 December 2022


The Queen of France would most certainly stay at the lavish Darling Hotel, part of the Star casino complex. Why? Not only does the hotel offer all the opulence a Queen of France would desire but it is also right next to the casino and gambling was one of the Queen’s favourite hobbies.

Yet a stay at the Darling doesn’t mean you have to enjoy Lansquenet or Hazard as Antoinette did, you just need to appreciate some of the finer things in life.

First, you may enjoy the experience of scent, which is how your Darling experience begins. When you step into the lobby with its giant red swallow, your sense of smell will be heightened by the divine mixture of sweet orange, grapefruit zest, rose, green tea, honey, and cedarwood that is spritzed throughout the lobby via Air Aroma’s diffusion technology.

The lobby is striking with its mix of colours from reds to aquamarines and around every corner is a design highlight.


Next to the lift, small tiles jut out enticing you with their sheen to run your fingers over their golden bumps. The tactile experience is furthered by the silk wall paper and a square chandelier offering stalactites which are too tall to touch.

Inside our Stellar Suite we have a view over the less glamorous side of Sydney but hardly less interesting. There’s no harbour or Opera House (some suites do have these), but there are historic buildings and terraces intermingled with new offices and apartments.

The voyeur in me enjoys looking down into people’s lives. I watch two men each in a white shirt and black pants with a black overnight bag in a park. What’s in the bag. I wonder? Millions of dollars? Diamonds covered in chocolate and stuffed into chocolate bar packets? I could surmise all day, but the sun has left its lockdown and there is blue sky and a pool to sample.

I head to level five to find the 25-metre outdoor pool set amongst a towering metropolis. The pool is heated to a comfortable 26 degrees and is clean and empty of other people. I squeeze in a few laps so I can eat dinner guilt-free.

I would have visited Sokyo for dinner, but that is where breakfast is scheduled so we are booked into Rumble, one of the new offerings in the expanding dining on offer from the Star. The restaurant is built on four classic pillars of South East Asian dining: sweet, spicy, salty and sour. There is a selection of vegan and vegetarian dishes on the menu.

For entrée is a Gold Tofu of white melt-in-your-mouth tofu with a crispy exterior, enhanced with plum and five spice dust. Mains include vegetarian Crispy Sapo Mee, Vegetable Green Curry and a Vegetarian Fried Rice. There is also a butterfly Pea Flower Rice. The food is fresh and filling. Service is very attentive and the helpings are the right size.

What I love the most is the recycled mah-jong tiled cocktail bar with rattan screens and the hand-painted mural.

The cocktail bar also encompasses the four pillars. The choice is an exotic one from Spicy Hot in Bangkok with tequila, tom yum syrup, lime juice, chilli, and lemongrass through to Salty in Phuket, another cocktail with tequila, agave, salt, lime, a hint of chili, and cucumber.

I decide to go sweet with the Iced Chiang Mai made with Bacardi, infused Thai tea, spiced rum, lime, and sugar cane.  It’s a winner. And, if you’re feeling lucky, you can play a game of cocktail roulette, where you choose from a coaster deck and are served up a surprise drink.

After dinner, we chill out back at the suite and try our hand at not being a technophobe. There are button controls for everything including the curtains. The bathroom offers a round bathtub and rainwater shower heads with amenities by Molton Brown. The bed is comfortable and there is even a range of pillows to choose from.

Breakfast the next morning is taken at Sokyo. I feel like I’m back in Japan with its dark colours, and exquisitely served up morning meal. Eggs benedict have a miso hollandaise and ponzo pearls, pancakes are made with matcha and there is a Sumo breakfast for the carnivores.

My husband leaves me after breakfast for the cricket and I make my way to what many have termed the best spa in Sydney.  I feel like I have stepped into a luxurious world of underground dwellers as I am led down a maze of dark corridors oozing a wonderful lemongrass scent. I change into the fluffy robe and slippers and await my therapist in a communal room with flavoured waters and teas.

My therapist introduces herself as Chanel – a name I will now no longer ever forget because she gave me the best massage I have ever had in my life. I have travelled the globe for many years and had the delight in sampling spas from France to Africa and never have I had a massage like this one.

Chanel just knew how to get into all the knots in my neck and shoulders and release them without pain. I am definitely booking another massage with her. She was incredible. I have read they have many amazing masseurs but I am definitely sticking with Chanel.

I emerge from my bliss and am led back through the labyrinth dotted with sculptures, running water and tea lights until I reach another relaxing room with beds to lounge on and enjoy healthy snacks and tea.  Visitors to the spa also gain access to the pool, spa steam room, jacuzzi, and boutique gym.

There is also a Moroccan Hamman but it is currently undergoing repair. It’s next on my list to try when it reopens.

The Darling Hotel and Spa is a premium-oiled machine with polished service and attentive staff in each part of the property from the smiling and helpful receptionist to the porters and the incredible spa staff.

Even if you live in Sydney, this is the place to go for a staycation or just treat yourself to a spa visit – once will not be enough.



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