Bruce Elder finds the casino's apartments are large, impressive and pricey.
Star City, Saturday night: is it, as some would have it, Sydney's 21st-century answer to William Hogarth's Gin Lane? Certainly, the whole place glows with the gaudy, luminous power of a thousand poker machines and the glassy-eyed punters are driven by the siren call of Lady Luck.
Groups of young women teeter on impossible heels at tables where dice are thrown and cards are dealt. Young men, all tats and gel, move in packs and, hunched over the machines, serious gamblers press buttons and dream of jackpots.
For a unique view of a sliver of humanity and the city's only legal casino, a night at Star City is worthwhile. Sure, you can take in a musical at the Lyric Theatre, wander across to Darling Harbour, enjoy the best of Chinatown or, with a little extra effort, make your way to the Opera House and Circular Quay. But for action and fascination, the casino is a magnet on a Saturday night. Sydney at play. Sydney trying to break the economic cycle and win a fortune. Sydney as the gleaming Emerald City.
But brace yourself for some of the highest hotel and apartment rates in Sydney.
Star City has two accommodation options: the apartment section and the hotel section. And, if you want to engage in nuances, it also has a new super-whammy section with spa baths and televisions to watch while you bubble away.
If you stay in the hotel section, which is at the western side of the complex, you can check in at reception and never have to venture anywhere near the gaming tables.
If you opt to stay in the apartment section, you will walk past the gaming area and can, if you are prepared to pay a little extra, get a view to the city skyline.
We book what is described as the "Superior City BB" with a room description promising "city skyline views". We end up gazing over Ultimo and Glebe.
None of these accommodation options are cheap. According to wotif.com, the full rate for Star City rooms ranges from $580 for a Superior Pyrmont BB (which, I guess, is where we end up) to $990 for the Star Suite Escape.
Fortunately, with the website's help, I find that at the time I book, those $580 rooms can be secured for $265 during the week and $365 on a Saturday night. And a Superior City BB, which has a full rate of $610, can be had for $285 during the week and $385 on Saturdays. The new Star City Suite (full rate $990) drops to $595 during the week and is available for $745 on Saturday night.
So what do we get for $385 or, if you want to impress your friends, "What did we get when we stayed in a $610 room last Saturday night?"
The view from Room 956 is not of the city skyline but from our large balcony we can sit and watch the sun set over Anzac Bridge. The two-bedroom apartment is huge (and so are the two flat-screen televisions) and dressed in the popular decorator colours of stone and chocolate. The beds are comfortable: a king size in the main bedroom, a queen in the second bedroom.
The kitchen is designed for a stay-in evening, with a full-sized fridge, stove, microwave and decent-sized dining table. And there is a big laundry with washing, drying and ironing facilities.
Breakfast is included in the tariff but, for an extra $10 a person, we ascend from the Garden Buffet with its bain maries and hundreds of patrons to the more rarefied ambience of the Astral Restaurant on the 17th floor. It has tablecloths, which is what everyone needs for breakfast, and superb city views. On the menu is an excellent mix of bain marie and freshly cooked items and Toby's coffee. And the 24-hour valet parking for $26 adds a high-life indolence to the experience.
We had planned to indulge in the new Star Suites, part of the hotel's recent upgrade, but at $990 full rate (or $745 on Saturday night and even $595 midweek on wotif.com), the suites are beyond Traveller's budget.
Even so, we're impressed by the quality of Star City's as yet unrefurbished hotel and apartments, which are ideal places to stay if you want to give your spare cash to a croupier or enjoy a musical.
Weekends Away are reviewed anonymously and paid for by Traveller.
Address 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont.
The verdict A large and comfortable hotel and apartment complex close to the city centre and ideal for those planning to enjoy the Star City facilities.
Price Rooms from $580-$990 a night but wotif.com has deals as low as $199 midweek to $745 for a suite on Saturday night. Our two-bedroom apartment was $385 on a Saturday night.
Bookings Phone 1800 700 700, see starcity.com.au.
Getting there Close to public transport, at the north-western end of Darling Harbour.
Wheelchair access Yes.
While you're there Visit the excellent Maritime and Powerhouse museums and enjoy the attractions of Darling Harbour. (Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)
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