Teresa Ooi finds a staycation can be full of surprises at a Sydney hotel.
If necessity is the Mother of Invention, then adversity must surely be the Father of Re-invention. When the pandemic hit 12 months ago, flights ceased, international tourist numbers plunged, and local travellers were forced to lock down at home.
Faced with empty beds, many hotels were forced to cut back or pause their operations. But the team at Pier One, Sydney's boutique hotel on the harbourfront, fought back.
As the country slowly reawakens from quarantine, Pier One's management team has pivoted and remarketed the hotel. To entice locals to book a staycation, the 189-room hotel has introduced a series of new, bespoke packages which have the perfect ingredients for memorable two-night stays.
Explore spent a mid-week staycation in a premier, harbourfront Walsh Bay Suite, which is generously sized with a king bed and a living room with a flat-screen TV and Nespresso coffee machine. The bathroom has a deep bathtub, two washbasins, a rain shower, a Dyson hair dryer and Hunter Lab amenities. We immediately feel spoiled.
First up, it's drinks opposite the lobby bar, before boarding luxury 87ft-yacht Ghost 1 for a two-hour cruise around Sydney Harbour.
The hotel presents three of its signature hampers: a seafood; a charcuterie and cheese; and a Mediterranean vegetarian option. The seafood hamper of oysters, cooked king prawns and Balmain bugs is absolutely delicious, while the selection of three cheeses, cured meats, dips and artisan bread is equally tempting. And it's all served with free-flowing Mumm champagne. The indulgent cruise sets the tone for our stay.
As dusk falls, we gather for sunset drinks and a barbecue dinner on the deck of a Harbour View Balcony Suite. The setting is amazing; it feels like you can almost touch the Bridge, it is so close.
A harpist from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra - their rehearsal rooms are next door to Pier One - is glad for the work during these times of concert drought.
Her performance makes the occasion even more memorable. And we are surprised by the array of food being prepped by the hotel's unassuming chef, Tom Gorringe. He has a remarkable ability to turn out incredible dishes of Balmain bugs, prawns, lamb and chicken - all marinated and barbecued to perfection. For dessert, Gorringe's tart filled with slices of fresh mango is simply out of this world. It is a dinner made for Bridge memories.
The next evening, we have an amazing, six-course Chef's Table tasting menu which starts off with Moreton Bay bugs topped with macadamia, cucumber and roast tomato; followed by pan-roasted snapper with finger lime and zucchini; then a beautifully roasted Maremma duck breast with white asparagus; and finally, a lamb rump with cauliflower, mustard and white raisin.
By this time, we have no space for dessert... until we hear about the two desserts on offer: s'mores with passionfruit and chocolate with dulce de leche and buckwheat. It's definitely an indulgent dinner for food aficionados.
Pier One has cleverly re-engineered its offering of quintessential local Sydney experiences for interstate travellers. And it's just the right tonic for cooped-up Aussies after lockdown.
Drive: From Canberra it's a three-hour drive to Sydney; from Newcastle it will take about two hours; and from Dubbo it's about five hours.
Stay: Pier One has a special Harbour Getaway + Dining for Two package which includes a four-course meal at The Gantry from $460 per night in a Water View Room; a Harbour View Balcony Suite, including breakfast for two, starts from $2269 per night.
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