SYDNEY: THE INSIDER GUIDE

Conde Nast Traveller Magazine
by Marion Hume

Sydney is the ultimate metropolis-on-sea, the switched-on city with the laid-back vibe of the beach, where the residents are as obsessed by food (there are star chefs here who make Gordon Ramsay look like a recluse) as with great views (they are more likely to tell you how much their harbour-view properties are worth than what they do for a living). But don’t think a visit here is all about the good life in the slow lane. Smart Sydney women take their ‘mani\pedi\blowie’ (manicure, pedicure, blow dry) rituals as seriously as New Yorkers. I’ve lived in Sydney on and off for the past 10 years – and what follows is a selection of the best of my own little black book.

WHERE TO STAY
Blue, Sydney.
Formerly the W Hotel and, before that, a vast warehouse and bailing station for the wool from which the fortunes of NSW were made. This ‘finger wharf’ sticking out into the harbour couples industrial architecture with an enormous centrepiece bar and rooms right over the water. 36 of the 100 rooms are split-leveled lofts featuring original wharf details. Book on the western side if you want a city skyline view.
6 Cowper Wharf, Woolloomooloo
www.Tajhotels.com
+ 612 9331 9000
Establishment, CBD.
Fashionable Sydney’s beating heart. You’ll spot plenty of girls in strappy dresses heading for Tank, the sexy nightclub, yet the 33 rooms in Establishment, in the same building, are quiet and airy. The famed concierge service is 24-hour- useful when your circadian rhythms are completely out of whack – and EST restaurant is so good, that even residents jostle to get reservations. Head chef, Peter Doyle, regarded as a founding father of modern Australian cuisine, has earned the ultimate three chefs hats. (The hat is the equivalent of a Michelin-star rating on the Sydney food scene).
5 Bridge Lane, CBD (Central Business District) www.merivale.com/establishment
+ 612  9240 3100
Sydney Park Hyatt, The Rocks.
There are two types of great Sydney hotel: hypermodern boutique joints such as Establishment and those with the epic views. If you’ve flown across the world, you may well want the latter. There’s nothing like the big blue at 6 am to make jetlag feel (almost) manageable. The CBD (Central Business District), which abuts the historic The Rocks, is where you’ll find the picture postcard sites including the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge so it’s no surprise that the property with its 158 harbour-view rooms and suites has held its position as the city’s number one address. 7 Hickson Rd, The Rocks
www.sydney.park.hyatt.com
+ 612 9241 1234

WHERE TO EAT: FLASHY
Sydney has it all – from big white plate fine dining to sand-between-your-toes cafes – and the “relaxed” service that made eating out somewhat frustrating has become a thing of the past.

Guillaume at Bennelong, Opera House.
Nothing can beat arriving by water taxi at the Opera House pier and the twilight walk towards Joern Utzon’s sparkling Opera House. Inside, the raw concrete inner construction of the sails looms above you as you sip lychee Martinis in the bar, pre dinner. Indigenous totems soar up through atmospheric lighting within, while through the windows, you can watch the bustle of Circular Quay as commuters dash for the evening ferries. Try the yabbies (slightly smaller than crayfish) or any other of the excellent seafood. The service is seamless and the wine list deemed among the best in Sydney. Joel Robuchon-trained chef Guillaume Brahimi’s restaurant currently has a three hat rating.
Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point
www.guillaumeatbennelong.com.au
+ 612  9241 1999
Icebergs, Bondi Beach.
Wearing dark glasses at lunch here is not a pose but a necessity. Built atop the old Icebergs swimming club at Bondi Beach, Icebergs is sleek and ritzy, pricey and fabulous. The interior is light and airy although don’t go to the bother of asking for a table with a view – almost every one of them has a panoramic vista. To order, stick to the seaside with the crab, soft polenta, chilli, garlic and lemon or the tuna tartare with peaches, kale, chives and basil. Chef, Robert Marchetti is well regarded and the restaurant has two hats.
1 Notts Avenue, Bondi
www.idrb.com
+ 612 9365 9000
Salon Blanc, Woolloomooloo.
Situated at Woolloomooloo Wharf, this has views from your table over the water, while inside, there’s a jazzy mural to pep up the otherwise white-on-white space. Try seared Queensland scallops or the wagyu tartare for starters, followed perhaps by the oven-roasted New Zealand king salmon with eggplant caviar, olives and “tomato petals”. Chef Alex Ensor recently earned a coveted chef’s “hat”, (the equivalent of a star rating on the Sydney food scene. Rating goes from one to three and hats are highly prized). As for deserts, these are a couple of big bites and look like divine Phillip Treacy hats. To finish, do as Sydneysiders do and end as you began, with a glass of good champagne.
2/6 Cowper Wharf Road, Woolloomooloo
www.salonblanc.com.au
+ 612 9356 2222
The private dining room at Astral, Pyrmont.
Don’t let the idea of dinner above a casino put you off. The private dining room at Astral seats 18 under a mass of Tom Dixon ceiling lamps and has views to the Harbour Bridge. Unlike other cities where great views can equal mediocre food, here dishes such as smoked pork belly, sautéed squid and shellfish in a pistachio jus garner rave reviews. The chef is a Yorkshireman, Sean Connolly, voted 2008’s chef of the year by The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide, which is very influencial in this town.
The Astral
Level 17, Hotel Tower, Star City
80 Pyrmont street, Pyrmont
www.astralrestaurant.com.au
reservations 1 800  700 700 (and  + 612  9657 8767)

WHERE TO EAT/LAID BACK AND LOUCHE.
Fratelli Paradiso, Potts Point.
Potts Point is reached via the short and seedy red light strip of Kings Cross, but has become altogether laid back. This is the local favourite, for a flat white (coffee) and a pastry for breakfast, a calamari and rocket salad for lunch, orange cake and coffee mid afternoon and whatever glorious pasta is on the menu for the evening. While it is indeed a little slice of paradise, the name comes from the hipster brothers who own and run it; Giovanni and Enrico Paradiso.
12 Challis Avenue, Potts Point
+ 612 9357 1744. No reservations.
Billy Kwong, Surry Hills.
Chef, Kylie Kwong is many generations Australian and very Chinese. Now a TV star, Kwong is, first and foremost, a great cook, and you won’t mind having to wait for a table in the pub across the road (they’ll call you on your mobile when a table is free). Punters start queuing at 5.30pm, so get here either very early, very late or drink and wait. The crispy-skin duck with blood orange and plum sauce goes straight onto my ‘greatest meals ever tasted’ list.
355 Crown St, Surry Hills
+ 612  9332 3300. No reservations.

WHERE TO EAT /SUPER-CASUAL
Bourke Street Bakery, Surry Hills.
The Bakery’s lamb and harissa sausage rolls, rhubarb tarts and pain au chocolat are the delicious rewards for those on the way back from the gym or after that big night out. Perch on a milk crate, latte in hand and damn the calories.
633 Bourke St, Surry Hills
+ 612  9319 7517. No reservations.
Jackie’s, Paddington.
Should you have the vanilla ricotta pancakes with maple syrup or the scrambled eggs with Turkish toast for breakfast? The angel hair pasta with prawns, chilli, garlic, white wine, rocket, lemon and parmesan or the crispy skin kingfish with lemon caper butter for lunch? Jackie’s is an institution and has survived a successful relocation from Bondi Beach to the newly-hot intersection of Glenmore Road and Oxford Street. Decor-wise, it’s a typical paired-down, modern outdoor Sydney eaterie. What’s unique is it is tucked just behind Mecca Cosmetica (the Space NK of Australia) so you can browse, eat, ponder what you are going to buy and then hop back into the store to shop.
1c Glenmore Road, Paddington
+ 612 9380 9818
Sopra, Waterloo.
You’ll be lucky to get into this no-reservation cafe in the up-and-coming Waterloo area. Sydneysiders love their provodores and none better than Fratelli Fresh for, as the name suggests, the freshest produce. Sopra, which means upstairs in Italian, is, you’ve guessed it, upstairs and here chef, Andy Bunn, keeps things simple so that the produce remains the star. If broad beans are in season, he’ll be offering Orecchiette Primavera adding fresh spinach, artichoke hearts preserved in olive oil and cannelini beans to the pasta. If it’s pumpkin season, order the grilled quail with roasted pumpkin salad.
7 Danks Street, Waterloo
www.fratellifresh.com.au
+612 9699 3174. No reservations.
Bill’s, Darlinghurst.
You could say smiley, blond Bill Granger invented Aussie brekkie chic from this blond-on-blond cafe with its big communal table. Known for his fluffy eggs, corn fritters and his cook books, Bill IS Sydney breakfast. There are now several Bills, but it is worth standing in line for the original.
433 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst
+ 612  9360 9631. No reservations.

BEST EATS ON THE BEACH
Bonsai, Bronte Beach.
The Comme des Garcons-meets-Kyoto fit-out juxtaposed with the sound of the surf, the fresh flavours: – tempura zucchini flowers stuffed with scallop and ginger mousse or rare tuna and avocado salad to start;  teppanyaki of scallops, prawns and vegetables with ginger dipping sauce or spicy marinated lamb cutlets with sesame roasted pumpkin and watercress among the mains, followed by poached peach and roast sesame ice cream to finish – make Bonsai the best place to eat on the beach. While Japanese in flavour, it is 100 per cent Sydney as an experience.
467 Bronte Road, Bronte Beach
www.restaurantbonsai.com.au
+ 612 9386 5666

BEST BARS
Zeta Bar, The Hilton, CBD
The Hilton was razed to the ground and rebuilt with this snazzy addition, now loved by glossy girls and boys who treat the white glass walkway entrance as their catwalk. Order a martini. Why not?
Hilton Sydney, Level 4, 488 George Street, CBD
+ 612  9265 6070
Harbourbar (SUB’S NOTE – ONE WORD) at the Park Hyatt, Circular Quay
For a less frenzied vibe, and absolutely the best view of the Opera House at twilight, drop into the Harbourbar at the Park Hyatt. A place you can actually hold a conversation as you linger over a glass of champagne.

WHERE TO SHOP
Paddington and Surry Hills (the latter without an ‘e’) were both slums – a long time ago – these days, take your credit card for great shopping, especially, in Paddington, at the junction of Glenmore Road and Oxford Street, the latest micro shopping hub.
Belinda, Paddington and CBD.
Belinda Seper has a charm bracelet of Sydney stores carrying lines from Marni to Miu Miu as well as carefully-selected local labels. Point of difference: the Belinda shopping concierge, who will help you shop, (not just at Belinda’s stores) and make restaurant reservations for you. Send an email before you hit town.
Belinda stores and Corner Shops around Sydney, The Corner Shop, Level 1, Strand Arcade, City and also 43, William Street, Paddington www.belinda.com.au
Collette Dinnigan, Paddington.
The ultimate girly store for Dinnigan, who shows in Paris and has several stores around the world. She started as a lingerie designer and her prettiest pieces all have a boudoir sensuousness. Her bridal gowns are delicious, (the grandest of which are, of course, to order, although if you suddenly decide on to wed on the beach, this is where to find a perfect frock off-the-rack). With the arrival of her daughter Estella, Dinnigan has introduced dainty children’s clothes too.
33, William Street, Paddington
www.collettedinnigan.com
+ 612 9360 6691
Little Joe, Woollhara.
Only a former supermodel would dare to open a little jewel of a shop opposite a pet shop and next to a derelict store. Former Londoner, Gail Elliot is single-handedly putting a little corner of Woollahra back on the map with Little Joe, where she sells her own lingerie and delicate day and evening wear as well as Holmes swimwear by fellow former catwalk model, Susan Holmes.
181c Edgecliff Road, Woollahra
www.LittleJoeNY.com
+ 612 9389 9959
Lisa Ho, Paddington
Known for both floral bikinis and red carpet gowns, Lisa Ho’s prices converted to pounds are distinctly affordable. Also check out nearby Akira Isogawa’s store for dreamy dresses which fuse Isogawa’s Japanese heritage with the modern spirit of the city that has been his home for two decades.
2a, Queens Street, Woollahra
www.lisaho.com.au
+ 612 9222 9711
Akira Isogawa
12a Queen Street, Woollahra
www.akira.com.au
+ 612 9361 5221

BEAUTY
Sydneysiders groom – you’ll rarely spot one – male or female – with unbuffed toe nails. Treatments are considerably more affordable than in the UK and, in the case of Zen Facial, hard to match anywhere.
Zen Facial, Bronte Beach.
Book this as soon as you’ve got your plane ticket, just as movie stars flying in from LA do. Fumi Yamamoto promises  “a facelift for the body and soul” and that is exactly what she delivers with a combination of hara (abdominal) and facial diagnosis, essential oils and especially, magic fingers. You’ll leave looking fresher, maybe even younger.
Zen Facial by Fumi Yamamoto
fumi@ozemail.com.au
Address given in confirmation email. (Tip: print out the directions – even taxi drivers struggle to find it). Appointments by email. Strictly women only.
Christina Fitzgerald, Paddington.
The mani/pedi queen in a city where it matters, Fitzgerald has a range of colours named after the chicest Sydneysiders including Sarah O, a hot red named for supermodel and Murdoch wife, Sarah (formerly O’Hare) Murdoch and black named after local fashion design star, Lisa Ho.
Level 1, 354 South Dowling Street, Paddington
+ 612 9368 0971
Valonz, Paddington.
Chirpy Renya Xydis cuts Sydney celebrity hair but will just as happily cut yours and is chatty and warm as well as being nifty with the scissors. Next door is Miss Frou Frou for mani/pedis.
Valonz, 20-22 Elizabeth Street, Paddington
+ 612 9360 2444

BEAUTY BUYS
Mecca Cosmetica, Paddington.
If recent baggage restrictions mean you can’t cart your favourite beauty products Down Under, no worries. You’ll find international brands such as Kiehl’s, Nars and Stila as well as Mecca’s own range (star product -  Mecca’s Hand Elujah! hand treatment, great for post flight dehydration) at Mecca Cosmetica. Try the branch at the intersection, Glenmore Road, Paddington, and stock up on Mecca’s nail varnishes in Constance or Helena tones if you like toes the colour of sea shells, or Delilah or Miranda if you prefer something more bold. You could even apply fresh nail polish out in the courtyard (see Jackie’s cafe, above).
126 Oxford Street, Paddington and branches.
www.meccacosmetica.com.au
+ 612  9361 4488
Kit, Paddington.
A hop and a skip from Mecca and great for its own-line Aussie beauty products.
140 Oxford Street, Paddington.
+ 612 9360 7711
www.kitcosmetics.com

INSIDER’S BEAUTY TIPS
Aussie supermodel, Gemma Ward’s secret weapon? Napoleon Perdis Auto Pilot, pre-foundation primer with vitamin E and chamomile extract.
for latest stockists visit
www.napoleonperdis.com
Aesop.
Fashion people stockpile the rose oil, sold at Colette in Paris, although Aesop’s range – which includes everything from hand cream to pet shampoo – is much more affordable here. Rich, organic, botanical, special.
72a Oxford Street, Paddington
+ 612 9358 3382

FUN STUFF/ FLASHY
Take the seaplane for the thrill of the Sydney Harbour water take-off coupled with a runway landing for lunch at a Hunter Valley winery.
Sydney Seaplanes, Catalina, Rose Bay
www.sydneyseaplanes.com.au
+ 61 2 9388 1978.

FUN STUFF/ FREE OR NEARLY FREE
On the coast, Bondi needs no introduction and is linked by a gorgeous cliff walk with the beaches of Tamarama, Bronte and, further on, Clovelly, then Gordons Bay (no beach at the latter but great for snorkelling). Everyone will ask you if you’ve done Bondi walk, so put on sneakers, shorts, sunnies, hat, T-shirt and masses of sunblock and get walking. The ocean views are majestic but keep the pace up because the joggers here sprint and they hate getting stuck behind dawdlers.
Snorkelling at Gordons Bay.
Old oil drums, sunk under the water, mark your route and team with marine life. A safe introduction to snorkelling and diving.
(Head for Clovelly and then walk around the ocean track. Bring your own mask, snorkel and flippers. Dive courses are available. See local signage).
The ferry to Watsons Bay.
Perhaps the most beautiful ferry journey on earth and “cheap as chips” which, along with fresh fish, is what awaits you at the Doyles takeaway at the bay. After lunch, the half hour stroll round South Head to the bandbox-striped Horby Lighthouse is delightful. Look for fairy wrens, black cockatoos and even, depending on time of year, migrating whales. You might also, eyes left, look down on Lady Bay, the city’s best known nudist beach. But keep an eye on return times of ferries to Circular Quay, they are infrequent.
BBQ – above the beach at Clovelly.
For a few dollars, you can own an Aussie beach BBQ, at least for as long as it takes to cook those lamb cutlets. There are BBQ “stations” around Sydney beaches. Arrive early and bag a free cabana at Clovelly. What to bring? Go to DJs (David Jones) food hall at Westfield Bondi Junction Mall on the way for prawns, fish and meat and jars of top chef, Christine Mansfield’s great marinades. As for getting the beers in, that’s fine, although people these days often prefer to splash out on Australia’s great wines (Kemeny’s, Bondi Road is known for competitive prices). Non-alcoholic tipple? Try popping a jug of Turkish apple tea, served over ice and topped with rose buds, into your Eski (cool box).

Final tip you need to know:- annoyingly, it’s hard to get a taxi at 3pm after a long lunch because Sydney’s “changeover” time means there are taxis everywhere but none with lights on as they are heading back to base at the end of their shift

Sam Neill. New Zealand’s Great Performer

Sam Neill1

TIME |  April 7 2008

By MARION HUME 

Call it a sideways moment. New Zealand vintners Sam Neill and Adam Peren are surveying a rugged hillside vineyard and discussing why Pinot Noir is the most sensuous and elusive of wines. “If Pinot were a woman, she’d be Audrey Tautou in Amélie,” says Neill. “Kristin Scott Thomas,” offers Peren. “No, Kristin’s a dry Riesling,” Neill insists.

One guesses Neill might know, given that he co-starred with Scott Thomas in 1998′s The Horse Whisperer (although he did not appear in the Oscar-nominated 2004 Sideways, which established Pinot Noir as the grail of grapes to a global audience). Neill, who has more than 60 movie credits under his belt and who recently appeared on TV as Cardinal Wolsey in Showtime’s The Tudors, leads something of a double life. Back in his native New Zealand, this son of three generations of importers of French vintages planted his first five acres (two hectares) of grapes in 1993. Neill has poured heart and soul not only into such successes as The Piano and the Jurassic Park movies but also into the alluvial-schist soil of the South Island of New Zealand, where his great-grandfather settled in 1859 and where Neill helms Two Paddocks, which is dedicated to the quest for what he calls “the seductive Pinot Noir.”
Those who recall the debates of Miles and Maya in Sideways (which, winemakers concur, has had a considerable influence on the popularity of Pinot) might remember that Pinot Noir can be unpredictable yet potentially spectacular. Part of the appeal lies in the fact that the vines thrive only on such steep slopes as Burgundy’s 2-mile-wide (3 1/2 km), 30-mile-long (50 km) stretch of Cte d’Or (Burgundy and Pinot Noir are synonymous) and in just a few rocky pockets in such places as Australia, Canada, South America and Europe, along with Oregon’s Willamette Valley and the coolest spots in California. As for New Zealand’s Central Otago Pinots, the pioneers who planted this epic landscape with vines in the 1970s were deemed madmen.
With its craggy peaks and glacial valleys, Central Otago would appear to be the last place you could grow grapes. Located below the 45th parallel near the tip of New Zealand’s South Island and with elevations of 650 to 1,475 ft. (200 to 450 m) above sea level, this is extreme-sports country. The world’s top snowboarders compete on mountains buffeted by winds from Antarctica. In fact, Pinot vines don’t mind a blanket of snow as long as summer temperatures are warm enough for the slow ripening needed for intense flavors and complexities to develop. “Pinot Noir is not one of those grunty, stand-a-spoon-up-in-it wines. It’s fickle and voluptuous and complex,” says Neill. “People say there’s a lot of wine in the world, but there’s not a lot of Pinot Noir, and admirers are looking for regional differences.”
Worldwide, Pinot Noir’s uniqueness is that it seems to carry in the most pronounced way the taste of the land from which it hails. (The French refer to this as the goût de terroir.) “Pinot from here does seem to reflect the mystery of this place,” says Neill, whose merchant great-grandfather arrived during Otago’s gold rush and grew wealthy from selling supplies, including alcohol, to miners. “So your family have been peddling hooch around here for 150 years,” jokes Peren, who hails from such quintessentially Kiwi stock — as New Zealanders would call it — that his grandfather even had a breed of sheep named after him. Peren launched the Peregrine Wines label in 1998 in partnership with oenophile oncologist Murray Brennan of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. (Brennan visits for vacations.) Peren’s connection with the land that Peregrine has under vine comes through his wife’s grandfather, who won a small plot in a card game. The Peren family also has a single-vineyard Pinot Noir called Two Sisters.
A great Pinot may taste heavenly, but it’s a devil of a job to get it into your glass. Birds love the sugar-laden grapes (hence the surreal sight in early fall in Central Otago of what appear to be snow-filled valleys, which are in fact a vast expanse of white nets). If the grapes aren’t picked exactly as they reach maturity, the thin-skinned berries shrivel on the vines — which, because they thrive on steep slopes, demand that harvesting be done by hand. Yields are low — about 2 tons per acre (5 metric tons per hectare, which translates into about 350 cases of wine). Sauvignon Blanc vines would yield three times as much. Add to that the risk that the fruit will be unstable during the fermenting process (although we’ll forgo the science lesson on the effect of Pinot’s native yeasts and 18 amino acids).
But the greatest enemy of all needs just one night to destroy everything. While vines don’t mind snow, grapes hate frost, and the only reliable way to stop cold air from killing a crop is expensive and terrifying. Neill and Peren, along with the other winemakers in a region that features such wine stars as Felton Road and the well-named Mt. Difficulty, are all too familiar with frost watch, which means helicopter flying at night. To keep the air moving, squadrons of choppers fly low, a maneuver rendered yet more perilous because the valleys are crisscrossed with electricity cables. “It scares the hell out of me,” Neill admits. “We’re desperate to find an alternative. We do use windmills too, but the problem is, on one night your windmill might not be in the right place.”
It was the Sauvignon Blancs of the Marlborough region farther to the north — including Cloudy Bay, now owned by French luxury group Mot Hennessy Louis Vuitton — that really put New Zealand wines on the map. Yet plenty of wine connoisseurs remained skeptical about Central Otago Pinot Noir. Neill makes sure to credit his mentors: the late Rolfe Mills of Rippon winery, who started to plant in 1976, and Alan Brady, who today co-helms a two-man boutique winery called Mount Edward. “It’s a small region, and we cooperate with each other,” says Neill. “Everyone helps everyone else and pools their knowledge.”
Rippon, now operated by Rolfe’s son Nick Mills, is also significant because, situated on the banks of Lake Wanaka, it has what must surely be the most spectacular cellar-door point of sale on earth, attracting some 15,000 wine tourists a year. Peregrine Wines, too, has a robust cellar-door business, as do other wineries in Central Otago. But don’t turn up at Two Paddocks. “We discourage it by being hard to find, because I like wandering around with my shirt off,” says Neill, who prefers to drum up sales via a terse and amusing blog.
As for how he splits his time, Neill notes that both his professions are “very chancy and very weather dependent.” But wine can be much harder work. “I certainly wouldn’t turn down a great acting gig so I could be on my hands and knees putting grapes in a bucket,” he says with a laugh.