SYDNEY IN A RED-HOT SPIN
YOURDeparture Lounge doesn’t feel like Mr Bean and rather hopes she doesn’t look like him. The hotel parking attendant has disappeared to find and deliver the rented Mini and there is utter relief, especially from Lounge’s godson Sebastian, when the uniformed chap returns with a dashing red Mini Cooper convertible and not a Bean-style lime-andblack banger.
With the top down and the radio up, we are tootling off for a sunny Saturdayafternoon picnic, an inclusion in the InterContinental Sydney’s new Insider Occasion package. We have a thumping picnic basket, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot (promised exclusively to Lounge ’ s husband and Sebastian’s mother, Christine, who are sulking in the back seat with their knees all but under their chins) and a map.
It’s not just any old map of Sydney but a guide to five ‘‘ secret picnic spots’’ suggested by the hotel’s concierge team. We debate the various options, from McKell Park at Darling Point to Castle Rock Beach between Clontarf and Grotto Point at Middle Harbour, but head instead to Balmoral Beach, which is hardly a secret but one of our favourite spots. It’s sparkling today — sea, sky, champagne— and we even find a perfect parking spot for the Mini Cooper under a stately Moreton Bay fig.
Reluctantly we put up the car’s lid at the parking spot, which means a mere button’s flick, unlike the soft-top Ford Capri I drove in the early 1990s, the rearranging of which required four men, a wrench and the promise of a slab of beer.
We prepare our picnic on Rocky Point Island, reached by a small bridge from Balmoral Beach proper. It’s a splendid pulpit for stickybeaks such as us, with views to shore and across the harbour. Our champagne hamper from the InterContinental Sydney contains a checked picnic rug, swirls of smoked salmon, salads galore and a cheese plate, so it’s a right pukka spread.
Inclusive packages such as this, which force guests out and about, are a fine idea. The hotel has a range of summer deals, including Insider Surfing, which involves a private surfing lesson at Manly followed by fish and chips on the beach. Or there’s Insider City, a mapped walk of Woollahra and $100 to spend at that poshest of providores, Simon Johnson, which I would blow on five 250g boxes of imported Divan orange or rose and lemon turkish delight, no contest.
The insider experience is a joyously flexible concept, allowing time to enjoy this five-star hotel near the harbour with its excellent and very groovy ground-floor Mint Bar and Dining and, for club-room guests, access to the rooftop lounge where breakfast is served daily plus complimentary twilight drinks and substantial canapes from 5pm to 7pm (the latter session is a feast and surely represents Sydney’s best hotel club perk).
Three days after we check out, Lounge gets a call from the rental car company. Would I, er, care to return the car? Yikes, after its one outing, it is still in the InterContinental Sydney car park with the keys in the ignition. There has been a mistake with the paperwork. Lounge has been driving her little Miss Connie Corolla with its unseemly scrapes and dents since Sunday morning and, as usual, feeling less than flash. It’s enough to make Sebastian and his godmother see red.
The Insider Occasion overnight package costs from $649 for two in a Watsons Bayfacing room and includes breakfast in Cafe Opera, 24-hour use of a Mini Cooper convertible (excluding insurance and petrol), valet parking, picnic basket with Veuve Clicquot and late check-out. Other insider packages from $419. www.sydney.intercontinental.com. ■ BY the way, a good new guidebook for a sojourn in the emerald city is The Slow Guide: Sydney by Helen Hawkes and Leta Keens (Affirm Press, $29.95). It includes a section on beaches and hidden coves and is part of a bright info-packed series (Melbourne is second city off the rank) with the irresistible call to action of ‘‘ live more, fret less’’. Very Lounge . www.slowguides.com.au. ■ ON Monday this past week, Lounge was in Melbourne and dined at Ezard in Flinders Lane just under the revamped Adelphi Hotel (among the revitalised facilities is the brilliant new late-opening Hepburn Spa, complete with Turkish steam room). Chefpatron Teage Ezard’s eight-course tasting menu ($130 a person; with matched wines, $220) is sublime. Stand-out dish: steamed suzuki sea bass topped with a dollop of thick and pungent XO sauce and placed in a mini-broth of Japanese plum wine and finely sliced Asian mushrooms.
The long, classily appointed dining room was packed, which seemed unusual for Monday, traditionally the slowest night of a restaurant’s week. But insiders claim Ezard (a two-hatter in The Age Good Food Guide 2007-08) is always deservedly busy.
What really struck Lounge was the fabulous service: not a shred of Sydney upyou attitude, just informed and perky waiting at table, all with a great sense of fun. Lounge is increasingly dippy so appreciates a bit of like-minded nuttiness. And restaurant manager Joshua Anlezark and his team deliver fun in spades. ‘‘ If we are nutty, then I am Captain Nutty,’’ he quips. Love it. www.ezard.com.au. ■ FIND of the week: Recently unveiled is Marika Martinez’s Women’s Own Adventure, which she bills as Australia’s first adventure travel company for women. Cultural and wildlife trips to Borneo and Vietnam are early outings in 2008. www.womensownadventure.com.au. ■ LOUNGE loves: Changi Airport’s terminal three has opened after a seven-year development project led by Australian architecture and design firm Woodhead. There are more than 100 retail and 30 food and beverage outlets to serve an expected 22 million passengers a year. With this extra capacity, the much-awarded Singapore airtropolis should have no problem retaining its world’s-best crown. www.changi.airport.com.sg. ■ LOUNGE loathes: Silly spelling errors in hotel compendiums. The Adelphi suggests in-room ‘‘ dinning’’ options for hungry guests. A din indeed, as Lounge wails and screeches in despair. DEALS OF THE WEEK To celebrate Australia Day, this week our array of online daily deals features a host of domestic holiday options. Money-saving international offers are also featured in Travel&Indulgence’s holiday deals, updated daily, which can be found via our upgraded and direct link. ■ www.theaustralian.com.au/travel/dd