Rob McFarland stays at Crown Towers Sydney, a glittering luxury hotel in buzzing Barangaroo
Location: At the northern end of Barangaroo, a former inner-city container wharf that's now a buzzing district of offices, apartments, restaurants and bars. Well-served by public transport, the hotel (which opened in December 2020) is a 10-minute walk from Sydney CBD.
Style: Bold, brave and blinged-up to the max, it's the uber-luxe property Sydney's been lacking.
Price: From $A869 (NZ$926) per night.
Perfect for: A special-occasion splurge.
First impressions: Wow. Designed by British architects Wilkinson Eyre (the firm responsible for Singapore's Gardens by the Bay), the twisting 88-storey tower tops out at 275m, making it Sydney's tallest hotel. The marble-floored lobby is a glittering montage of mirrored columns, plush couches and a bespoke six-storey crystal chandelier. And then there's the show-stopping fifth-floor infinity pool – a selfie magnet complete with day-beds, harbour views and Vegas-style private cabanas.
Rooms: All 349 rooms and villas feature floor-to-ceiling windows to showcase Sydney's most beguiling asset: its shimmering harbour. Sadly, the view of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House from my 18th-floor Executive Opera Suite is marred by the sprawling construction site below. Better to opt for a room overlooking the Anzac Bridge and Parramatta River. The design is opulent residential, with high-end furnishings and a rich colour scheme of royal blues, creams and greys. Every detail and amenity is top-notch, from the bed's silver-piped Italian linen to the tablet controlled in-room tech to an iron that looks like it could win a Formula 1 race. Special occasion? Upgrade to a villa and enjoy a private outdoor terrace, 24-hour butler service and custom Salvatore Ferragamo amenities.
Bathroom: Can a bathroom be sexy? This one is. A sea of smoky dark marble, the standout feature is a freestanding egg-shaped bathtub with built-in TV. Amenities are by organic Australian brand Grown Alchemist, the hairdryer is a Dyson (a big deal according to my partner) and the robe is like being cuddled by a cloud. Even the Japanese Toto toilet is flirtatious. As you approach, it opens automatically and glows blue in a seductive, come-hither fashion.
Food and drink: Eleven of the 14 planned restaurants and bars were open during my stay. Highlights included the charcoal-cooked modern Australian fare in Woodcut, the flamboyant tableside theatrics at Italian eatery a'Mare (pesto handmade at your table) and the life-changing icecream-filled charcoal waffle at the hawker-style 88 Noodle. There's also Sydney's first Nobu restaurant (book well ahead), a high-end Cantonese eatery and the made-for-Instagram Teahouse with its lantern-shaped indoor gazebos. Be warned: your biggest challenge will be finding any space after breakfast. Epicurean serves a vast, Roman orgy of a buffet with nine cooking stations, a chocolate fountain and an icecream stand (yes, I had one).
Facilities: Valet parking; a lavish 2000sq m spa with a 37Cs Vitality Pool, Moroccan steam room and infrared sauna; a large Technogym-equipped fitness studio and a striking cobalt blue tennis court. What you won't find is a casino. Regulatory hurdles have prevented its opening.
In the neighbourhood: Barangaroo could so easily have become one of those soulless new commercial districts with no energy or soul. Instead, it's a vibrant, welcoming neighbourhood with excellent waterfront
Restaurants and bars: Nearby Barangaroo Reserve is a delightful harbourside park and a new foreshore trail means you can walk all the way to Circular Quay.
Family friendly: No in-house babysitting service but the concierge can recommend local providers.
Accessibility: Six special access rooms with vision-impaired toilet seats, lower basins and accessible bathrooms.
Sustainability: The hotel is hoping to achieve Australia's highest 6-star Green Star certification thanks to its extensive use of solar panels, efficient cooling systems, rainwater collection and waste reduction.