Prac­ti­cally per­fect in ev­ery way

A Mary Pop­pins pack­age comes with a touch of lux­ury

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SUE MILNE

I OPEN the wardrobe in my gue­stroom at the Sof­i­tel Syd­ney Went­worth and there, peek­ing out be­tween two fluffy white bathrobes, is Mary Pop­pins’s sig­na­ture black um­brella. Spooky. It’s as if the prim nanny of book, film and mu­si­cal fame has popped into my room and, af­ter plump­ing the pil­lows and mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing is spick-and-span, flown off, leav­ing her call­ing card.

But then Mary Pop­pins is ev­ery­where in Syd­ney this month. The mu­si­cal theatre event at the Capi­tol Theatre is the hottest ticket in town, at­tract­ing lo­cal, in­ter­state and even in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors. The char­ac­ter, cre­ated in 1934 by Aus­tralian writer P. L. Travers and loved by ev­ery gen­er­a­tion of chil­dren since, flut­ters on street ban­ners, adorns the cov­ers of tourist guides and is plastered on posters.

The Dis­ney ex­trav­a­ganza, based on the clas­sic 1964 film and seen by eight mil­lion peo­ple world­wide, is per­fect fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment. But I’m here for the thor­oughly grown-up Sof­i­tel Syd­ney Went­worth’s Mary Pop­pins pack­age, which cov­ers ac­com­mo­da­tion, a ticket to the show and, as an add-on, af­ter­noon tea served in the ho­tel’s el­e­gant lounge. As I sip English break­fast tea from a china cup and tuck into tiny sand­wiches, scones and del­i­cate cakes and pas­tries, I feel sure Mary would ap­prove, though per­haps not of the cham­pagne.

The per­for­mance be­gins at 8pm, so there’s time for a quick pre-show din­ner at Felix, one of Syd­ney’s new­est restau­rants and a short stroll from the ho­tel. The French bistro-style eatery in buzzy Ash Street laneway is the new do­main of chef Lau­ren Mur­doch, who has trans­ferred from Ash Street Cel­lar, a baguette’s throw away across the pas­sage. The food ( dishes in­clude crumbed lamb’s brains and tripes a la ly­on­naise), ser­vice (heav­ily ac­cented and charm­ing) and decor ( Paris Metro-style tiled walls, pewter bar, chan­de­liers) are au­then­ti­cally French and by the time our group leaves for the theatre the place is packed.

There’s not an empty seat at the Capi­tol, ei­ther. What­ever your age (and there are many au­di­ence mem­bers closer to 70 than seven) it’s im­pos­si­ble not to be spell­bound by the magic of Cameron Mack­in­tosh’s lav­ish pro­duc­tion or to fall a lit­tle in love with Ver­ity Hunt-Bal­lard as Mary Pop­pins, with her twin­kling toes, sweet voice and as­ton­ish­ing head for heights.

Af­ter­wards, weary young­sters tod­dle off to bed but for adults with stamina there is Syd­ney’s small bar scene to ex­plore, in­clud­ing Stitch, a new base­ment bar on York Street that serves an un­likely com­bi­na­tion of cock­tails and gourmet hot­dogs. Or try Grandma’s at 275 Clarence St, or Grasshop­per, in Tem­per­ance Lane off Ge­orge Street.

Next morn­ing, af­ter break­fast at the Sof­i­tel Syd­ney Went­worth’s French-in­spired Gar­den Court Restau­rant, and with show songs still ring­ing in my ears, I set off to shop. With the open­ing of stage two of the $1.2 bil­lion West­field Syd­ney on Pitt Street, the city now has a world-class re­tail des­ti­na­tion boast­ing in­ter­na­tional and Aus­tralian de­signer lux­ury brands and high-street fash­ion. And a pre­mium food precinct that in­cludes Justin North’s lat­est ven­ture, Quar­ter Twenty One. It’s a new home for his award-win­ning Be­casse, a ca­sual restau­rant, cook­ing school, provi­dore, bak­ery and wine store.

I dodge the queues at Aus­tralia’s first Zara store, quite the talk of Syd­ney, and go in search of win­ter boots. In the win­dow of an up­scale shoe shop I spot Vic­to­rian-style but­ton boots in shiny black leather. They’re prac­ti­cally per­fect in ev­ery way; I’m sure Mary would ap­prove. Sue Milne was a guest of Sof­i­tel Syd­ney Went­worth and Tourism NSW.

Ver­ity Hunt-Bal­lard as Mary Pop­pins

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