Hello Syd, I’m coming back!

WORDS: Phil Hawkes PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

“Dear Syd, it’s been a long time. Too long. And I have a confession to make. I’ve been unfaithful. Several times. After I left you unexpectedly for Mel (lured by her university) I moved around a lot…I was with Nyc, then H.K. (as she’s known) and finally settled down with Ool…she’s been good to me. But in all that time I never forgot you…your sunny disposition and sparkling blue eyes, your passion for the good life, your mélange of peoples and cultures. Wow, do I remember those Italian restaurants like Beppi’s in the good old days; and pleb places like La Veneziana with a 3 course, 7 shilling menu, BYO Barossa Pearl.

It’s been awful not being able to catch up with you for some time. But now we can*.  I’m busy planning a trip to see you soon, there’s much to see and do in this coming autumn/winter period. So I thought I’d make a list of my priorities for a few days’ break.”

* Subject to any further border closures


Number one on my list is Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, a massively popular annual event…this year it’s Verdi’s dramatic La Traviata, a huge production on a stage built out over the water. Handa Opera is in its 10th season and has introduced opera to a whole new audience who love not only the music, but the setting and theatrics of it all. It’s playing right through April.

Next on the list is Hamilton, the multi award-winning Broadway musical. If you have a look at the reviews, they’re in the rave category and if you take my advice, book early because tickets are already selling fast. Then, if you missed the engaging musical Come From Away in Brisbane, here’s your chance in Sydney commencing in June.


At the Art Gallery of NSW, beautifully situated in the Domain, you’ll find an inspiring display of New Australian Art; and a special collection “Longing for Home” where six Aboriginal artists explore yearning, distance, time and space and their emotional connection to Country. The recently renovated Australian Museum is another must-see, especially for the kids with its famous dinosaur display.


Darling Square is a new playground of innovative food, fashion, culture & experience, connecting Ultimo, Darling Harbour & Haymarket. Darling Square’s foodie scene is home to a range of cuisines, catering to all budgets, from classics such as Belles Hot Chicken and Fishbowl to more specialty restaurants such as XOPP, Hello Auntie and Lilong by Taste of Shanghai. And Messina gelati!

In The Streets of Barangaroo you can embark on a culinary journey and discover why this is Sydney’s go-to dining destination. From casual eats to waterfront dining to cheeky tipple spots, Barangaroo’s mouth-watering line-up of restaurants, cafes and bars has something for everyone. The Streets are also home to curated collections of fashion and lifestyle brands.

The Rocks Markets  has immersive experiences including pop-up bars and boutique eateries, and the whole area comes alive every weekend with carefully curated artisanal wares, gourmet street food and harbourside views.


Bar 83 Soaring 83 floors above the city in the landmark Sydney Tower, Bar 83 offers bold specialty cocktails and delectable fare to match the 360 degree views.

Botanic House In the heart of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Botanic House is a unique dining experience with a menu curated by Luke Nguyen, showcasing a beautiful pairing of cultures blending South East Asian flavours with seasonal produce and native Australian ingredients.

Portside Located in the Western foyers of Sydney Opera House, Portside gives you a front row seat to Sydney Harbour and Circular Quay under the sails of the iconic building, perfect for a pre-dinner cocktail or casual meal.

Terrace on the Domain One of Sydney’s hidden secrets nestled in the leafy foliage of the Domain surrounded by lush parklands and city skyline views, Terrace on the Domain specialises in Italian cuisine and aperitivo cocktails.

Many other suggestions:



Occupying a “finger pier” in this heritage-listed wharf precinct close to the Royal Botanic Gardens you’ll find Ovolo, a genuine masterpiece of architecture and engineering. Quirky design typical of Ovolo Hotels is at the forefront in the suites, rooms and public areas; as are The Perks (Ovolo signature inclusions) such as drinks at social hour, midnight treats from the minibar, and complimentary breakfast to kickstart your day. Plus superspeed Wi-Fi, 24-hour gym access and self-service laundry… all with no more to pay when you book direct. There’s the lively 100% plant-based Alibi Bar & Kitchen, very much on trend. And until end of May you can enjoy a complimentary self-drive in a Genesis G70 sports sedan, a “Suite Ride” for 4 hours.


Location Location! With the convenient new George St. tramline at its doorstep, Mantra 2 Bond Street is just a 10 minute walk to Circular Quay and ferries, the Sydney Opera House, The Rocks and the Royal Botanic Gardens. Studio rooms and apartments are spacious, with ultra-comfortable beds and a handy kitchenette; there’s a rooftop pool and fitness centre,and indoor parking is available (fee applies). Special rates from $198 per studio per night; stay 2 nights and save 10%.  *Subject to terms, conditions and hotel availability.


A boutique hotel located in the quaint cobbled streets of The Rocks, arguably the city’s most exclusive address. Magical views over western Sydney Harbour and Sydney city skyline complement Langham’s world-renowned luxury service and top class in-house amenities.

The Jubilation package for couples includes overnight accommodation, upgrade to Harbour or Terrace room, daily breakfast, valet parking for one car, wifi and pool/health club access.

From $498 per room per night. For full details, terms and conditions visit:


Situated close to trendy Barangaroo , Adina Darling Harbour offers apartment style living in the heart of the city.  The Hop on Hop off bus is a skip and a jump away; it’s just minutes to the Captain Cook cruises ferry departure point whilst the furry and four-legged inhabitants of WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo are a short walk.  The hotel is offering a Stay 3, Pay 2 deal that makes a Sydney city visit even more attractive right now. Perfect for families.


This lifestyle hotel adjoins Rushcutters Bay parklands and is the perfect launching pad for taking a harbour sailing lesson with The Cruising Yacht Club of Australia or for indulging in some ‘me’ time with rooftop yoga, healthy foods from the Storehouse or a wholesome picnic hamper in the park.  Vibe’s Gourmet Delight deal sweetens the stay with a gourmet cheese platter, bottle of wine and room discounts of up to 10%.


Good value accommodation, especially for families, in a buzzing precinct with many cafes, bars and dining options. Just a short walk across the bridge to Town Hall and the CBD. The longer you stay, the more you save…for example 20% off already great rates for a 4-night stay. Flexible cancellations and enhanced ALLSAFE hygiene standards. From $149 per room per night.  *Subject to terms, conditions and hotel availability.