Being a tourist in my own city and seeing it in a whole new light

The exterior facade of the QT building is a mixture of old and new.
The exterior facade of the QT building is a mixture of old and new.

I am a Sydney boy, born and bred on the northern beaches and spent a good part of my life living in numerous suburbs in and around the city along the way. I loved it, I really did. But about twenty years ago, for various reasons, the love affair with Sydney ended. I grew sick of the traffic, the congestion, the extended work hours. It was stealing valuable family time away from me. So, I got out, and many years later I still believe I made the right choice.

But this is certainly not a hate session on Sydney, in fact far from it. Because now I get to appreciate my outings to Sydney with a whole new outlook. My latest visit was somewhat of an experiment. I wanted to embrace it through the eyes of a tourist. Guess what happened?

I fell in love with her again.

Sydney was seen in a whole new light for me.

Sydney was seen in a whole new light for me.

I booked myself into the QT Sydney for a couple of days and had myself a rough idea of a plan. There were a few reasons I choose QT and they will be evident as the story unfolds. Reputation is one thing, but exceeding said reputation is sometimes harder to achieve.

QT smashed that out of the park! If you don’t know the QT, well, let me give you a little insight. The hotel has entwined itself in amongst the historic Gowings and State Theatre buildings in Market St, right in the heart of the CBD.

It has preserved and embraced many of the buildings distinctive features that made these buildings the icons they were in the day. Gothic, art deco and Italianate architecture that’s so delightful you will find yourself taking the time to admire it without even realising.

The Directors of Chaos keeping everyone in line at the QT

The Directors of Chaos keeping everyone in line at the QT

While holding on to that central historical feel, QT have managed to meld in a modern twist as well – not an easy task, but they have pulled it off perfectly. It’s like the different eras are embracing each other in a loving embrace.

Then there’s the service. Do these people really love their connection to the hotel or what?

From the moment I pulled up outside the hotels entrance and was welcomed by a front entrance team of three including the standout out redheaded, beret-wearing Directors of Chaos, I knew I had made the right choice. The car was whisked away, my bags taken care of and I was chauffeured to the lift. Which, by the way, plays a different song relating to who and how many are in the lift at the time. Quirky and amusing, which is just another of the characteristics that sparkle brightly.

My room was once again the perfect combination of old-world charm and the latest technology, neither outshining the other, with a bed so comfortable that will make it almost impossible to get out of come morning. 

QT's rooms are stylishly appointed.

QT's rooms are stylishly appointed.

I was to get my inner tourist on, so I got out and about for stroll around the immediate surrounds. Hyde Park just up the road, and taking in the fountain with St Mary’s Cathedral as the backdrop really is enchanting! I had forgotten how much so.

Through the domain and a quick visit to the NSW Art Gallery with free general admission. Really, how lucky are we to have the opportunity to admire such an assortment of beauty with no charge?

After an hour or so, I was out amongst it again and made the short stroll into the enchanting Botanic Gardens to Lady Macquarie's chair. Once again, I had forgotten how relaxing and visual the gardens were and the vistas across the magnificent Sydney Harbour really made me stop and admire what a beautiful city I had grown up in.

One of Sydney's best attractions - and it's free!

One of Sydney's best attractions - and it's free!

I made my way back to QT for a little bit of pre-dinner pampering in the on-site Spa Q. A thirty-minute steam, followed by an hour of complete bliss in the hands of Josseline, who certainly knew her stuff and was in tune with every muscle’s needs. Attention to detail was obviously a major consideration at the QT. A Thermal Body Oil massage was just what the doctor ordered and had me in the perfect frame of mind to indulge my tourist self in the evening ahead.

Invigorated and with a spring in my step it was time to spruce myself up to indulge in some of the QT’s much lauded food and beverage offerings.  

An aperitif in the visually striking Gowings Bar & Grill was the perfect beginning to what would be an upbeat and memorable evening. After a negroni that tasted like I was in Italy was conjured with perfection and flair, I was chauffeured to my table.

Gowings Bar is a modern bar experience.

Gowings Bar is a modern bar experience.

Then the brilliance began to unfold around me. Sous Chef, Francesco Pirone is one of those individuals and he and the team around him absolutely love what they are about at Gowings Grill, and so do I.

So, what I would choose from such an intriguing menu, was the quandary I now had before me. Dazed and confused by so many fantastic choices, I allowed Francesco to deliver me what he believed was the best on offer that evening.

A few little guidelines were set in regards to any dislikes and, of course, my budget. In doing this I knew I was indulging in the best of the best when it came to available produce and in turn what was exciting the chef himself. 

The entree at Gowings Grill were a perfect primer for the main dish.

The entree at Gowings Grill were a perfect primer for the main dish.

After an appetiser of delicious Sydney Rock oysters, I was delivered an entrée of a delectable crab with horseradish cream and tapioca flour bread. The fact that I would never normally order it combined with the surprising appreciation I experienced while devouring it was a wonderful experience.

My main meal was always going to be a big effort to get through from the moment it landed, but who could stop now? I was served short rib glazed in balsamic vinegar, pickled and baby radish and Kohlrabi which is sort of like a turnip, but to me much tastier and jam-packed full of nutrients and minerals. A small consolation! 

The main course - Gowings Grill short rib.

The main course - Gowings Grill short rib.

My tourist days in Sydney are far from over and I look forward to returning. I also look forward to giving QT Bondi a shot next time as I hear they are as far removed from the QT Sydney style as one could imagine. Well I do like to mix things up! QT, you’ve won me. 

Scott McRae was a guest of EVENT Hospitality and Entertainment

Scott McRae is the www.thetravellingguy.com and also the host of Channel Ten’s ‘A Taste of Travel’ and ‘The Travelling Guy’ on The Cooks Pantry.