Dreamtime 2011: Sydney + the Northern Territory

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Sydney Opera House

We head Down Under for Australia’s big annual Dreamtime conference to scope out the regal Harbour City and mysteries of the Outback.

“Apart from the truly beautiful settings, big sky, big smiles and welcoming people, it’s a very clever country.”

Australia’s annual Dreamtime conference brings together a wide range of suppliers and international buyers to talk shop and experience the destination. We flew in for the event to explore new developments in Sydney and the vast cultural riches of Australia’s Northern Territory.

“Apart from the truly beautiful settings, big sky, big smiles and welcoming people, it’s a very clever country,” says Andrew McEvoy, managing director of Tourism Australia. “It’s a great place to do business for clients who want to be more productive, see more and do better in their businesses.”

Always a favorite, the flourishing cosmopolitan city of Sydney gives planners an opportunity to reward and inspire delegates with an exceptional destination, outstanding accommodations and a vast array of optional activities that will fulfill many bucket lists.

The really big news is the $870 million transformation of The Star business, conference, hotel and entertainment district, located on Darling Harbour. It’s located eight minutes from Sydney Opera House and 20 minutes from Sydney International Airport.

Fast approaching completion, The Star is a destination unto itself. After a complete reorientation of the building, the glamorous new Star astonishes as it unites an endless playground of entertainment with Darling Harbour. With a dramatic 5-story glass wall that spans the entire building, the gorgeous outdoor scenery is brought to life indoors for an unparalleled experience in such a comprehensive complex.

Every taste bud will be tempted by more than 20 eclectic and unique restaurants and bars. There’s also a vast collection of swanky shops (Chanel Boutique, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci and Bottega Veneta) and an upscale destination casino.

Perfect for high-end dinearounds, The Star delivers top culinary talent in new distinctive restaurants plus a plethora of private dining rooms, each unique in menu and design.

Most noteworthy: Teage Ezard’s BLACK, an Australian steak and seafood grill influenced by both America and contemporary Europe. Dear to my heart, the restaurant is built around a 4,000-bottle wine cellar that seems to spill out into a spacious bar offering a wonderful collection of intriguing labels.

Floor-to-ceiling views of Darling Harbour are prominent from every table and are augmented by the restaurant’s cool and sleek design. The ambiance is bold and rich, alive with textures and lively patterns, yet subdued with rich caramel, deep browns, ivory and black. The restaurant offers several large semi-private sections and two stunning and versatile private rooms.

The menu changes weekly with unique dishes such as Spanner crab with apple remoulade; grain-fed Rumcap Wagyu; and a warm chocolate couverture ganache filled with banana ice cream atop hazelnut mousse.

Other notables include: Stefano Manfredi’s classic osteria, Balla; David Chang’s tasting table at Momofuku Seiobo, and Chase Kojima’s contemporary Japanese-themed Sokyo. For après dinner networking, Cherry is an ultra-chic lounge with a giant oval bar and an eclectic collection of seating options for different types of groups.

THE DARLING

One of the hottest spots in town, The Darling Hotel & Spa anchors The Star. It’s an extraordinary home away from home with 171 chic, comfy and spacious rooms, a 16-room day spa retreat, and a buzzing lobby that feels like the hip nerve center of Sydney.

The lavish residential essence of The Darling pervades every inch of the hotel and its offerings, especially the guestrooms including custom indulgent bedding, expansive bathrooms with double sinks, separate toilet and a rainfall shower. The Darling is also the first in Australia to feature Control 4 settings where with one touch guests can control the entire room: lights, temperature, blinds, music and wake up call.

“The design of The Darling is refined with subdued hues, yet the ambiance is warm and inviting, and there’s certainly nothing modest about our plush comforts,” says GM Drew Schlesinger. “Our guests will experience a one of-a-kind mix of an entertainment destination, a relaxed urban culture, and a contemporary design, all overlooking the spectacular Sydney skyline.”

For group functions, The Star Events Center is scheduled to open in early 2013. With nearly 24,000 sf of column-free space, the Events Centre will host 3,000 seated with state-of-the-art technology and production facilities designed by Sceno Plus, whose past projects include The Colosseum at Caesars Palace and The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas.

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