is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.

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From the moment my best friend and I step on to the Akira Isogawa-designed floral carpet in The Darling’s light-filled, stone-pillared lobby at The Star casino complex in Sydney’s harbourside Pyrmont, we feel rather fabulous. The likes of George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio have previously stayed here, so we keep our eyes peeled for the rich and famous as we hurry down mood-lit halls to our standard room (one of 171 rooms and suites in the hotel) on the 11th floor.


Our disappointment at spotting only a pair of cleaners rather than celebrities quickly dissipates upon opening the door to our room. The lights adjust and the curtains draw back automatically, revealing twinkling city lights behind floor-to-ceiling glass windows. We click our iPhones into the small but surprisingly efficient bedside speakers. Our girls’ night has officially begun.


There’s an undeniable in-room party vibe at The Darling, thanks largely to the mood lighting that can be adjusted via the control system on the 46-inch LED television set (where guests can also adjust the air temperature and select a time for the blinds to open in the morning), the proximity of the city and the boxes of jelly beans, coconut roughs and other treats of the alcoholic variety in the well-stocked mini bar. There’s also complimentary Tea Drop tea and a Nespresso coffee machine and wireless internet for (cough, splutter) $25 a day.


The squeezy size of our room becomes less of an issue once we discover how comfortable our bed is to lounge on. It’s laid with pure Egyptian cotton 400-thread-count sheets and a sink-into-me goose-down comforter, and there is a menu of luxury pillows on offer, although the assortment of goose-down pillows already scattered on the bed suits us just fine. Inside the black glass shower enclosure in the marble bathroom is a monsoon showerhead which, when combined with the Molton Brown toiletries on offer, makes bathing a highly enjoyable experience.


It’s almost guaranteed that the toughest choice you will have to make during your stay at The Darling will be where to dine, given the clutch of high-end restaurants and bars lining The Star’s labyrinthine halls. Highlights include Momofuku Seiobo, where international rock star chef David Chang serves soft steamed buns spread with hoisin sauce among other mod-Asian deliciousness, Teage Ezard’s contemporary Australian grill BLACK by Ezard, and Stefano Manfredi’s slick Italian restaurant Balla. We choose Sokyo Japanese restaurant, which is in the lobby of The Darling and is run by ex-Nobu Bahamas head chef Chase Kojima. We’re fed and watered in less than 90 minutes, just in time for a performance of Strictly Ballroom, the new stage musical based on the movie, at the Lyric Theatre, just a few hundred metres away.


It depends what you’re after. If it’s health, The Darling has an exceptional 16-room luxury day spa that includes a traditional oriental hammam. If it’s wealth, you can try your luck at the casino. If it’s happiness, a lounge by the white tea and eucalyptus-scented pool on the fifth floor is a must, especially at night, when cocktails are brought to your poolside cabana. If, like us, it’s a night of girly fun, there’s the theatre, the restaurants and bars including Marquee nightclub, and shops including Bottega Veneta, Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo. For those wanting to venture further afield, the ferry to the Quay is just across the road, the Sydney Fish Market is an eight-minute walk away, Darling Harbour is just around the corner and, for Sydney’s central business district, just stroll across Pyrmont Bridge.


Slick, fun and the ideal location for a girls’ night.


Darling Harbour is a 10-minute stroll from the CBD and Haymarket.


Rooms at The Darling start from $259. 80 Pyrmont Street. Phone 1800 700 700, see


The writer stayed as a guest of The Star.

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