Ready to style up your weekend? Our visitors’ guide to Sydney’s design hot spots is filled with bars, shops and buildings guaranteed to get your design radar buzzing.
Start your trip in style when you check into The Darling Hotel, where swoon-worthy details include everything from the Akira Isogawa rugs in the lobby to the Vola taps in the bathroom. Swing by the hotel spa to check out sleek lines, dark walls and ambient lighting, and perhaps even savour an indulgent treatment or two.
No need to worry about getting a taxi to dinner tonight; you are eating at Sokyo, part of the same complex as The Darling. The design is as dazzling as the food, with superb sushi and Hokkaido scallop with a yuzu-honey dressing competing for your attention with a sexy sunken lounge area and a dramatic rope art work suspended from the ceiling (it contains an astonishing 2.5km of rope).
Don’t stay out too late – a big day awaits tomorrow.
Start the day browsing your way through Paddington Markets, the long-established showcase for up and coming designers. Nearby, the former Paddington Reservoir, reinvented as a much-loved sunken garden, is worth a visit, as are shops such as furniture maker Jardan and Utopia Goods, the place to pick up cool-not-kitsch Australian souvenirs.
From here, stroll over to Surry Hills, where stores worth a browse including Project 82 – showcasing Australian designers – and Ici et La, filled with an eclectic range of vintage French furniture and accoutrements from industrial to art deco. Alternatively, get your art fix at the intimate Brett Whiteley Gallery, dedicated to one of Australia’s most distinctive artists.
Next up: Sydney’s most famous beach. We’re not heading to Bondi for a swim, however (although feel free to bring your bathers). No, it’s time for lunch at Blanca, famous for its white-on-white interiors and its Asian-infused menu. Alternatively, you might want to book a table at Icebergs Dining Room and Bar; the elegant eatery that boasts sleek interiors to match its stunning views.
After lunch you may want to tackle at least part of Sydney’s most famous seaside stroll, the Bondi to Coogee walk, before heading back to town. Your last piece of sightseeing for the day is Sydney’s most renowned design icon, the Sydney Opera House. Book a place on one of the regular tours to discover the building’s secrets, then finish up by visiting Bennelong, the spectacular restaurant and bar tucked into one of the Opera House’s sails. You can stop in for a drink or return later either for dinner in the main dining room or some small plates at the Cured and Cultured counter.
Finish the night with a visit to one or two of the CBD’s most stylish small bars. Try Lobo Plantation, with its interiors channelling a tropical colonial vibe, the opulent-meets-industrial Beta Bar, or the old-school J&M upstairs at the Angel Hotel.
Today it is time to explore a different side of Sydney: its gentrifying industrial heartland. No other area of town is changing as fast as the suburbs of Alexandria, Zetland and Waterloo, where quirky galleries, eateries and stores are springing up like mushrooms after a shower.
Fuel up for your day of exploration with brunch at The Grounds of Alexandria, a former pie factory reinvented as one of Sydney’s favourite hangouts. It is hard to define The Grounds: it’s a bakery and a coffee roastery, as well as a range of eateries set amid organic gardens, the odd retail outlet and even a photogenic resident pig.
From here you have a number of choices. More shopping? For antiques, there is Mitchell Road Antique & Design Centre, while in Rosebery, Koskela has a fine selection of homewares and furniture made from recycled timbers. In the mood for art? Nearby Zetland is home to the Sullivan + Strumpf gallery, which showcases cutting-edge Australian and international artists, including the “felt-tip super-heroine”, TextaQueen.
When you are ready, head back to the Central Station area, where there is plenty to explore. Start at White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale, which boasts one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary Chinese art. Nearby is one of Sydney’s most interesting buildings, Jean Nouvel’s Central Park. The high-rise apartment building is wrapped in a “skin” of living plants created by Patrick Blanc. Another big-name architect with a building on display in the area is Frank Gehry. His first Australian project, the Dr Chau Chak Wing building, has one undulating façade and another made of sandstone bricks.
Finish the day with dinner at one of the area’s many eateries. The current hot ticket is the pan-Asian eatery Chin Chin, an outpost of the long-time Melbourne favourite, housed in a clever industrial conversion on Commonwealth Street. Alternatively, try the award-winning Ester in Meagher Street. Tucked into a former loading dock, the restaurant’s wood-fired oven turns out everything from roasted rock oysters to goat chops with saltbush and black bean miso.
Book a room at thedarling.com.au