Tick-tock, two years on and a recent business collaboration has seen my partner Dustin and I back and forth on the Ballina to Sydney Jetstar route so much that we (almost) see the plump ‘sprint-service’ guy from the Ballina airport café more than our own families.
Being a travel journalist by trade, I have a habit of never staying in the same hotel twice. I like to spread my legs over a bevvy of pillow menus (I see the mothers nodding), mix things up when it comes to culinary triumphs, and really test out the extra mile each luxury hotel is willing to go to win me back.
And while many of the world’s great hotels have landed my tick of approval, I’ve proudly stood true to my goal of non-attachment…until I cheated on myself and broke the rules with Shangri-la Sydney.
My most recent stay marks my third. Shocking, I know. After our typical routine of running straight into meetings off our late-morning arrival flight, Dustin and I were itching to check into our now familiar hotel down at The Rocks.
Check-in was a breeze as usual, and within minutes we were opening the door to our ‘Asia meets the West’ modernized Horizon Club twin room. As expected, a box of gourmet chocolates were waiting on the glass-topped circular coffee table adjacent giant windows that exposed sprawling views over Sydney harbour. And as usual, we both made a dash for the choccies and barely avoided a brawl (staff please note we don’t share well).
Our Lennox Head office is located on an acre of lush farmland with gracious views of the Ballina shire, so city life always comes as a bit of a shock. And as Dustin struggles with vertigo when locked in tall buildings for too long, we’ve made it a routine to dash for the fitness centre as soon as we check in to keep our bodies active and brains out of the concrete jungle.
Now I’ve stretched my limbs in some fine hotel gyms around the world, but Shangri-La Sydney is up there with one of my favs. There are 16 cardio machines to choose from on the expansive gym floor, plus full access to their indoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi.
Surfing religiously back home, a set of laps in the pool is a sure way to fill our gills with much needed water during our time in the city. CHI, The Spa, is similarly world-class; the hot stones massage is a must.
Champagne and Dumplings
Forgive me if I’m wrong but when in Rome, go to the Horizon Club for evening canapés and cocktails (aka Champagne and dumplings) and watch the sunset over Sydney’s most iconic masterpieces: the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Do it once, but don’t do it twice; do not cheat on yourself here.
On our previous trip we were a little excited with our new wait-staff friends and ate and drank ourselves something stupid at cocktail hour.
See that’s the thing when you’re travelling on business with your non-marital partner, there’s no pressure to build up a romantic atmosphere or thoughtful conversation; instead you’re free to strike up fascinating conversations with the staff.
Unfortunately on this particular stay we got so caught up in the moment we missed our 8pm dinner reservation at Café Mix and eventually showed up an hour later in quite a gluttonous state.
Needless to say head chef Bo Sorensen would not accept our pleas of being full and treated us to a further round of Asian classic dishes with his modern flair.
This time round, we were smarter. The hotel had us booked in for a seven-course degustation ‘Epi-Curious’ with matching wines at Altitude, the hotel’s signature fine dining restaurant, and we were excited.
Despite the earlier chocolate incident, it was safe to say we were fasting in anticipation of our 7pm reservation. Rising some 36 floors above Sydney Harbour, Altitude really is one of Sydney’s premium dining experiences.
Our waiter and soon-to-be-new-best-friend (name omitted due to cheap drunk ‘me’ forgetting it after the first champagne despite several reminders over seven courses) sat us opposite the floor-to-ceiling windows and for a brief moment Dustin wished he were sitting next to his wife instead of his already tipsy business partner.
The hatted Altitude menu really encompasses the best of Australian modern dining where creative genius stems from the kitchen to the plate. Degustation highlights were the swordfish loin with corn, curry and coconut, the pork jowl pigs ears, and the Riverina lamb.
The pillow menu
Even with our unnamed waiter’s desperate attempts to keep my wine servings on the edge of minimalism, by the sixth pouring I was smashed. Being in the familiar surroundings of the Shangri-La walls, I made it back to our room without incident and locked myself away in the elegant, gold-trimmed marble bathroom for a deep soak in the oversized bath in an attempt to delay the inevitable post-degustation headache.
An hour later, blissfully pruned, I resurfaced wrapped in a plump white bathrobe and set myself to the most important task: the good ol’ hotel pillow induction.
After a few punches and a couple of thigh clenches, my slumber friends had resumed my preferred shape, and I knew this wouldn’t be the last time we’d share a bed again.
By Angie Davis