Tag Archives: sydney

Trip Report: Qantas First Class Lounge Sydney Airport Review

Besides flying Qantas First Class on the A380 (which turned out to be a really disappointing experience), I was super excited to visit the Qantas First Class Lounge in Sydney, given that I had heard it was one of the best airport lounges in the world. While I didn’t get to try the complimentary spa services (which have been shortened over time) since I was at the lounge after the spa had closed, the parts of the lounge that I did try were very good.

The iconic departures board

The iconic departures board

My first order of business was to eat some food. The Qantas First Class Lounge has a proper dining area with table service. They have a pretty extensive seasonal menu, and I may or may not have gone slightly overboard with ordering (essentially, I said yes to everything that the server recommended).

Winter menu (sorry for the annoying hand shadows...)

Winter menu (sorry for the annoying hand shadows…)

I tried the grilled sesame tuna, the cobia sashimi, the salt and pepper squid, and the fettucine with soft egg (minus the bacon). For dessert, I had the chocolate croissant bread and butter pudding and the pavlova.

Tuna

Tuna

Cobia

Cobia

Calamari

Calamari

Fettucine

Fettucine

Dessert

Dessert

The food was good‚Äďeasily some of the best food I’ve eaten at an airport. I think I still prefer the food at the JAL First Class Lounge at Narita, but then again, I’m Asian (obvi). I think most people will find some things that they’ll enjoy a lot.

Pretty nice dinner view

Pretty nice dinner view

Dining room

Dining room

Open kitchen

Open kitchen

The decor of the lounge is pretty cool. It’s one long, curved room with large windows that provide some fun airplane viewing. There’s plenty of seating, and lots of areas to get work done, have some privacy, or talk to others. The majority of people were in the dining area when I was there, so that area did get a bit crowded, but the lounge is spacious.

Exploring the lounge

Exploring the lounge

Lots of seating

Lots of seating

Private room

Private room

So many seating options

So many seating options

And more

And more

The service in the dining area was good, but I’m not sure if there’s much service outside of the dining area to speak of. No one seemed to be going around to check on people or offer drinks, but perhaps that was because it was late at night and most passengers were in the dining area.

Overall, this is a great lounge. While Qantas’s onboard product left me underwhelmed, the First Class Lounge in Sydney is a great airport lounge.

Review: Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Sydney

For my trip to Sydney, I decided to stay at the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel. This hotel has a convenient downtown location that’s within walking distance of a lot of touristy places as well as a number of ferries to get to other touristy places.

To book this stay, I booked two 50k awards out of two different Club Carlson accounts, so I ended up getting a 4-night consecutive stay for 100k Club Carlson points. This stay happened in August 2014, so not only was this hotel only 50k points per night, but there was still the option to get the last night free on any award stay. Boo on Club Carlson for their subsequent devaluations ūüôĀ

Outside of the Radisson Blu Sydney Hotel

Outside of the Radisson Blu Sydney Hotel

Since I was visiting in August which is low season for tourism in Australia, I got a pretty nice upgrade to a corner room at the hotel. The room was super spacious and the bathroom ridiculously large. No dice on getting free breakfast, which is probably what I would have preferred given that I was traveling alone and didn’t need the extra space, but I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining about free upgrades.

Bed

Bed

Sitting area

Sitting area

Desk and TV

Desk and TV

Large tub

Large tub

Standing shower

Standing shower

Floor map to give sense how big corner room is

Floor map to give sense how big corner room is

The hotel itself was pretty nice. The onsite restaurant is apparently supposed to be quite good (I did not try it, although I generally ate quite well in Sydney). They have a decently equipped gym as well as a spa and small pool and hot tub. The front desk staff and doormen were friendly.

Gym

Gym

More gym

More gym

More gym

More gym

Overall, I have no complaints about my stay, and the location is super, super convenient. I’m just sad that this hotel is no longer such a good deal after all of the Club Carlson devaluations.

Restaurant Review: Ester, Sydney

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a restaurant and just been like, “wow, this place is good” (off the top of my head, the last place I felt this about was probably Barley Swine in Austin, which I ate at 2 years ago, if that tells you anything).¬†Ester has delicious food, and I think it’s surprisingly affordable in a relatively expensive city like Sydney, so I’m posting about it now just in case anyone has a trip to Sydney in their immediate future since you should definitely go.

I made a same-day reservation online for a Wednesday¬†night for a seat at the bar. I’d definitely recommend making reservations, since every seat was reserved the night that I was there (both at the bar and at tables). The restaurant is located within walking distance of Redfern station, so I took the train and walked.

A la carte menu

A la carte menu

View of the kitchen

View of the kitchen

Some of the restaurant

Some of the restaurant

On Wednesdays, they do set menus from around the world (menu for August was Sri Lanka), but from talking to the bartender, he recommended that I just order off the a la carte menu and he could figure out some half portions and such to give me a taste of what the restaurant does since the plates are normally meant for sharing. Maybe I just need to ask for it more, but I really wish more restaurants would do half portions so you can try more.

First up was brussels sprouts three ways. Brussels sprouts have definitely become a trendy food over the past couple of years, but this was my favorite brussels sprouts dish I’ve eaten. The shredded brussels sprouts were great with a tangy vinaigrette, creaminess from the soft egg, and an appropriate amount of saltiness from the parmesan. You can’t go wrong with the crispy fire-roasted leaves, and the last preparation of roasted brussels sprouts made them so caramelized and sweet that you’d think you were eating candy. This plate was the normal serving for $17.

Brussels sprouts three ways

Brussels sprouts three ways

Next was the roasted cauliflower with almond mayo, almonds, and mint. When this dish first came out, I thought for sure it was a full portion since it’s a lot of cauliflower, but my server did confirm that this was in fact a half portion for $8. The cauliflower was roasted beautifully. It was tender without being mushy, retaining a good texture. The mayo provided a slight tang, and the roasting brought out so much of the cauliflower’s natural sweetness. I think cauliflower needs to be the next “it” vegetable.

Roasted caulfilower

Roasted cauliflower

For my final savory dish, I got a half portion of bone marrow ($8.50) with house-made XO sauce. It was served with their house-baked bread, which had a great char, and some salty and peppery and acidic greens, which provided a nice contrast to the gluttony of bone marrow. I think they forgot to salt the bone marrow, but when I added a pinch of salt, it became savory on a whole new level. I normally think bone marrow is a bit of a cop out since it’s so easy to make delicious, but the XO sauce definitely added something else to the dish. I also appreciated the amount of bread they provided, as I often find with dishes like this that I run out of bread.

Bone marrow with XO sauce

Bone marrow with XO sauce

At this point, I was completely stuffed and didn’t really want to keep on eating, but the previous dishes were so amazing that I had to try some dessert, so I got the three milks dessert ($11). It has goat’s milk dulce de leche, cow’s milk ricotta panna cotta, and sheep’s milk yogurt foam, as well as some crushed olive oil cookie and deep-fried rosemary. I loved the tang of the yogurt contrasted with the sweetness of the caramel and the crunch of the cookie to the creaminess of the panna cotta, all with the aroma of rosemary. Good, competent dessert.

Milk three ways

Milk three ways (I accidentally started eating it before I took a photo‚Äďsorry!)

In total, this meal was $44.50, which I think is already a good deal for the quality of food (and tax and tip are included!), but what I think is crazy is that I could easily have split that amount of food with another person and both people would have been satisfied. Those half-portions of cauliflower and bone marrow were absolute steals.

I honestly contemplated just eating here for the rest of my meals in Sydney since it was so good, and I’ll definitely come back the next time I’m in Sydney. If this restaurant existed in San Francisco, you’d have to make a reservation exactly 2 months in advance and the prices would be doubled and it’d still be worth it. So go.