New Bars, New Restaurants, The Southern Highlands And A Dance-Off

As the summer comes to its end, we usually expect things to quieten down in Sydney. But if anything, things have become even busier in the city.

Huge art exhibitions like the Biennale are in town, new bars, new restaurants and even a dance-off comp (have you ever heard of ‘waacking’?) have kept us very busy.

And in between all of this, there’s been a trip down to the beautiful Southern Highlands—there’s nowhere better to see the autumn colours—and a judging panel for Australian whisky!

We hope you enjoy this Edition.

Cheers—Jim & Christina xx

Biennale Sydney White Bay Power Station 2024

2024 sees the 24th Biennale of Sydney. This bi-annual (hence the name) art exhibition is an extraordinary programme that champions artists from around the world.

But the best thing about this year’s Biennale is where it’s located.

For the first time, White Bay Power Station—a decommissioned coal power station at the edge of the Balmain peninsula—is one of the six main venues.

Biennale Sydney White Bay Power Station 2024

The art you can come and see here (it’s free to get in) is fascinating, but being inside this iconic building, which has sat derelict for decades, is worth coming to see in itself.

And there’s even better news.

Free bus to Biennale Sydney White Bay Power Station 2024

It’s also free to get to White Bay Power Station from the city.

The 443 bus, which, during the weekend is a beautiful old double decker from the Sydney Bus Museum, takes you from the QVB to the power station every half an hour.

And if you want to explore more of Balmain and Rozelle from here, there’s a free minibus on the weekends that does a 30-minute loop around into these historic suburbs full of great shops and even better pubs. Here are even more ideas of what to do on the peninsula.

Pro tip: there’s even a brewery and a distillery a couple of minutes’ walk from the Biennale. Check out White Bay Brewery and Blackwattle Bay Distillery for delicious beers and gins.

Launch party of Lumiere on 35 in the Sofitel Darling Harbour

Tonight, we’re in Darling Harbour for a very cool launch party. The luxurious Sofitel Darling Harbour has transformed its members’ club lounge into a cocktail bar that anyone can visit.

Once only accessible to hotel guests staying on the club levels, Lumiere on Thirty Five let’s anyone with good taste and a penchant for spectacular harbour views to come and enjoy the cocktails of this new Sydney bar.

Launch party of Lumiere on 35 in the Sofitel Darling Harbour

The grand opening of Lumiere on Thirty Five is as impressive as you’d expect. A harpist and later a DJ make the vibes, while Billecart Champagne and ingenious hors d’oeuvres keep us fuelled.

Even better, we’re here with some great friends from the travel industry like Peter Hook, Kate Hennessy, Gaynor Reid and Mandy Dwyer.

The Republic Hotel, Sydney

This evening, Christina and I are in the city to check out another new bar. This one is on the middle level of an old-school Sydney institution—namely the Republic Hotel.

The Republic, on the corner of Bridge and Pitt Streets, has been a popular city watering hole since 1865 and probably hasn’t changed much on the outside.

INNA Lounge, the Republic Hotel, Sydney

On the ground floor, too, it still has that knockabout air that would have seen so many changes over its 150 years. But upstairs on the first floor, the sleek and sexy INNA Lounge promises to bring a whole new attitude to this Sydney icon.

INNA’s dark, moody decor and its soft leather booths, low tables, and walls adorned with a rotating selection of modern Australian artwork, creating an intimate lounge-style atmosphere for up to 70 patrons.

The striking oversize marble bar is home to one of the largest Agave indexes in Sydney, with 120 to choose from, alongside a diverse range of over 400 spirits, and more than 200 wines—60% sourced domestically throughout

Food at INNA Lounge, the Republic Hotel, Sydney

While the look and feel of this place welcomes us in, it’s the menus at INNA Lounge that make us want to come back.

The cocktail list has some clever signature drinks like the Hindenburg Smash and the Biscuit Tin, but can also make all the classics for you too.

But the food options here are really quite astonishing. Everything from sustainable caviar to beef skewers with pepperberry and shaved egg yolk suggest a kitchen that’s better than most city bars.

We go for the Moreton Bay bug roll and are hugely impressed with the generosity of the serving. The pillowy brioche roll is heaving with tender bug, and the creamy sriracha mayo dressing, mixed with horseradish, garlic and chives is brilliantly balanced.

Dotted through the roll too are bright globes of salmon roe that pop delightfully as you bite into them.

This is definitely a bar we’ll be coming back to.

Today, I’m at the superb Hickson House bar and bar in the Rocks as part of a judging panel for industry publication The Trade Buyer’s Guide.

The last panel I was on was for tequila, mezcal and agave, which you can see here. But today, we’re tasting Australian whisky. It’s so interesting to see so many styles coming from this growing industry—just in this small cross section, we’re tasting over 40 whiskies.

Christina and Deauvanné Jarvis for SheaMoisture event

This morning, Christina has headed over to Barangaroo for breakfast with leading hair brand SheaMoisture Australia.

The breakfast event at 12 Micron is celebrating and congratulating the 2024 Sheachangemaker winners, Nasalifya Namwinga & Tigist Tebede from Pola Practice.

Hosted by Narelda Jacobs and Deauvanné Jarvis, it’s a morning to remember.

After hearing from the panellists, including international hairstylist Chrissy Zemura and 2023’s Sheachangemaker Taida Chigogora from the Chozen Foundation, Christina is feeling inspired.

It’s also lovely to catch up with Dea, who’s a long-time friend of ours.

Moss Manor in Moss Vale, Southern Highliands NSW

We’re on the road again! This time, we’re in the Southern Highlands about 90 minutes’ south of Sydney. We’re checking out a very special hotel in the pretty little town of Moss Vale, appropriately named Moss Manor.

Set back from the main road, Moss Manor is a beautiful Georgian house from 1890, and was built for the once mayor of Moss Vale, Mr NH Throsby, whose name also adorns the street the manor is on.

Christina and artwork in Moss Manor

More pertinently, Throsby was also the president of Moss Vale School of Arts in the 1890s, which is brilliantly reflected in Moss Manor’s decor.

Owner and avid art collector Louella Grattan-Smith has turned this beautiful home not only into a luxurious hotel, but also an art gallery. Her connection with Sydney curator Campbell Robertson-Swan of Defiance Gallery has allowed Louella to display some fantastic works from eminent and emerging artists. All artwork at Moss Manor is also for sale.

Our room - 'Sophia' and the amazing bath at Moss Manor in the Southern Highlands

Our suite, the stunning Sophia, is the biggest room in the manor, but all eight rooms here are lovely, each with its own personality.

For ours, the chandeliers and magnificent marble bath are surely the key elements to the room, but the squashy sofas and the huge comfy bed make this a place we could happily stay in for many more than just the two nights we’re here.

The Glass Room, Moss Manor, Southern Highlands

As well as the original part of this elegant old manor, Louella has also built an incredible modern extension that truly juxtaposes against the traditional. Both reflect the manor’s grandeur in different ways.

The ‘Glass Room’ is the lounge, dining area and relaxation space of the hotel, looking out into the vertiginous garden and an ancient weeping cherry tree.

Highlights from the Southern Highlands

TL-BR: The Moss Hotel, Moss Vale; homewares shop, Moss Vale; autumn foliage in Burrawang; Fitzroy Falls

Of course we make sure we explore while we’re in this lovely part of New South Wales, starting with Moss Vale. There are some wonderful homewares stores along Argyle Street, the main road through the town, and even a couple of places worth stopping in for a feed.

The Moss Hotel—aka ‘Pinkie’s’ because its facade is pink (it’s actually a light terracotta, but don’t tell the locals)—is a great pub doing well with classic fare.

Down the street a bit is Flour Bar, which is open from 6am to 10pm, so you’ll find everything from coffee to cocktails. The food here is superb. We skim a few small plates from the menu like the crunchy yet tender sweet potato, ‘nduja and cheese croquettes and the opulent fried garlic and cheese potato breads.

Out of town, we also check out the Sutton Forest Inn, the longest continuously licensed pub in Australia, the decorations in Bowral ahead of Netflix’ Bridgerton campaign, the stunning autumnal colours in Burrawang and the magnificent misty scenes of Fitzroy Falls.

Urban Spices, Balmain

Back in Sydney, we’re off to a new Indian restaurant that’s opened in Balmain. Across the road from Gladstone Park, the run of restaurants here have always had a curry house.

The OG, Palace Indian Restaurant, closed after 40+ years of service. In its place came Not Just Curries, which wasn’t great. Then the Colonial opened its third shop here, but then moved to the venue next door.

Now Urban Spices have opened here and I’m thrilled to see more Indian restaurants coming to the suburb. The curries we order—lamb saag, baigan bhartha (a house special) and onion bhaji—are very tasty, but the surprising standout is the bread.

Garlic naan here are somehow puffy and soft, yet crisp and packed with flavour.

Whaacking dance battle - Darling Harbour

Have you ever heard of Waacking? It’s a style of dancing that has influences from ‘70s disco and originated in LA as a kind of repost to the East Coast’s ‘vogueing’ (way before Madonna made it famous).

Tonight in Darling Harbour, just outside the IMAX, Beat Breakdown is hosting a dance-off Waacking Battle, where we get to watch 24 skilled dancers try out for Waacking champion.

This is a free event and it’s happening every month until December, with different dance styles each time, so make sure you check it out.

Dinner at Nakano Darling Izakaya

While we’re in Darling Harbour, it’d be stupid not to take advantage of all the amazing food here.

Christina has a hankering for dumplings, so we try the gyoza at Nakano Darling.

This cute izakaya not only does delicious crispy dumplings that arrive welded into their own tablet of crunchy deliciousness, they also make excellent chicken karaage and have an incredible range of Japanese whisky, shochu and beer here.

Definitely worth checking out—especially after the rigours of [watching] a street dance-off battle for the best!

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