The Real Deal
Whether in the bright lights of Sydney, the historic grounds of Brisbane, or along the calm beaches of the Gold Coast, echo entertainment takes its australian casino-resorts beyond the games rooms to capture the essence of their destinations, writes Tatyana Leonov.
A DJ spins a mix of soulful tunes as Sydney’s well-heeled sip boutique brews, Australian wines and artisanal cocktails. A chic couple recline together on a striped lounger to take advantage of the sun’s waning rays. A man in a sharp suit stares out toward Darling Harbour’s moored boats and iconic Harbour Bridge. As the light fades, more people appear and soon a thick velvet rope holds back a line of excited socialites.
The Sky Terrace is one of the Star casino’s newest additions, and like many of the on-site restaurants and top suites in the Star’s two luxury hotels, it offers one of the best views in Sydney. Since opening in November, the terrace has hosted some of the city’s most exclusive events, including the official after-party for the AACTA Awards, Australia’s answer to the Oscars – but visit on any balmy summer’s night and you’ll still find the best party in town.
Owned by Echo Entertainment, the Star and its sister properties, the historic Treasury Casino & Hotel Brisbane and the beachfront Jupiters Hotel & Casino Gold Coast, are some of the most sought-after destinations in the country. Echo’s approach has been to build its casino-resorts into richly textured entertainment districts that capture the essence of their locations. Taking in the Star’s cinematic view and happening vibe is just the start. I’m visiting all three properties to discover how Echo has used this model to redefine entertainment travel in Australia.
The Star is still fresh from a complete transformation two years ago, and although the magnificent view was always there, part of the revamp involved further capitalizing on it with a plethora of outside areas woven into the new design. The contemporary refurbishment involved a major overhaul of just about everything, including the creation of a sophisticated new luxury retail area – where niche boutiques mingle with a parade of Gucci and Bottega Veneta – and construction of a 4,000-seat events center. It also marked the arrival of a new luxury boutique hotel, The Darling, Sydney’s first five-star build since the Olympics.
One of the visions of the rebranding was a culinary epicenter, which has won over locals and international clientele alike. With over 20 restaurants, bars and cafes on site, headed up by big gastronomy names such as David Chang, Teage Ezard, Stefano Manfredi, Luke Nguyen, Chase Kojima and Adriano Zumbo, the Star property puts some of Sydney’s best restaurants under one roof.
Chang’s Momofuku Seiōbo is perhaps the most talked-about restaurant in the city. With seating for fewer than 40 people, reservations are taken 10 days in advance online. Each day at 10:00 a.m., foodies log in to book a spot, and within minutes all the tables are reserved. Seiōbo’s daily tasting menu is inspired by local Australian produce, and diners are advised to block out three to four hours for a consummate culinary experience in which every dish interlaces textures, flavors and aromas for the ultimate in gastronomic harmony. Picture smoked potato mash delicately piped into a wafer-thin cylindrical tube, teamed with a shaving of apple “snow” or Australian mud crab glazed in Marmite and served with a crunchy Yorkshire pudding. Chang’s Asian-inflected food is nothing short of amazing.
The property’s other restaurants are equally well versed in their vari- ous genres. Balla has earned devotees with Stefano Manfredi’s classic Osteria Milanese cuisine, while Chase Kojima’s Japanese-fusion Sokyo delights with unexpected dishes, such as maple miso and plum wine jelly. There’s prime Australian beef at Black by Ezard, classic Chinese seafood at Eric and Linda Wong’s Century and formidable pho at Luke Nguyen’s Fat Noodle. In fact, Echo Entertainment takes food so seriously, it has created the Echo Culinary Institute where the world’s great chefs mentor the next generation of culinary stars.
Still full from the Star’s excesses, I arrive the next morning at the Gold Coast to find Jupiters located on its own tropical Broadbeach Island among acres of landscaped gardens. The rooms still hold the luster of the day they opened, with gold furnishings and tasteful black tiles making up the regal decor.
From my ocean terrace suite on the 18th level, the floor-to-ceiling windows and sprawling balcony capture the essence of the Gold Coast – sun, surf and sea. To my left the coastline shimmers in the afternoon light. To my right, the hinterland beckons with its luscious greenery.
Come nightfall, this laid-back island resort turns into a thriving 34 Experience entertainment district. Dinner at Jupiters’ signature restaurant, entwine, presents Aussie flavors such as Queensland spanner crab cakes and kan- garoo cooked sous vide – its tender morsels fragrant and earthy. The final course, meanwhile, is a tableside show in which liquid nitrogen is used to rapidly freeze coconut mousse into a crisp, cold ball that’s then set aflame.
Much like the haute dessert, the decor is simple yet spectacular, with its rich palette of mahogany brown, chocolate and bronze. The effect is augmented by subtle injections of color from the artwork of Sean Scott, a surf photographer and abstract painter whose pieces take inspiration from the Gold Coast.
After dinner I stroll to the casino, taking in the vibrant atmosphere. Intricate lanterns unfurl across soaring ceilings, and bright pops of color and eclectic furnishings combine to create a contemporary and dazzling design.
The belle of the ball is the refurbished theater. It underwent a massive upgrade in April 2012 and today houses VIP booths with private bars, additional screens for superior viewing and personal service. Seal, Macy Gray, Michael Bolton and Kelly Rowland have all performed to a full house since the revamp, and tonight’s performance, Zircus, looks like a sellout too. But I forego the circus-inspired spectacular and save my energy for the following night. Still to come on my itinerary is Echo Entertainment’s most historic project, in the bustling business district of Brisbane city.
The Treasury Casino & Hotel sits confidently in its riverside position with its impressive facade and commanding balconies and columns. The property consists of two heritage-listed Edwardian-Baroque buildings considered to be among Brisbane’s most beautiful historic assets.
The Treasury Building, which once housed the offices of Queensland’s premier, the Treasury department and other state government depart- ments, was erected in three stages between 1886 and 1928. Today it is home to the casino and some of its hotel rooms. The Treasury Hotel occupies another historic masterpiece – the Lands Administration Building, completed in 1905.
The interiors of both buildings take you back a century, and my suite – vast as a colonial manor house – features high ceilings, ornate furnishings and an imperial bed. The room is so big that even the marble bathroom (one of two) has a staircase.
Although I could easily spend hours in my room, I decide to roam around the property, and uncover an array of enchanting corners and niches in the process. Some of its alcoves are used as mini gaming rooms, while other recesses have been made into dining and lounge areas.
The two grand buildings are separated by Queens Gardens where later that evening I find myself surrounded by other guests. We are entranced by the projected light show that engulfs the two buildings nightly with oranges, purples, pinks and other vibrant shades.
Afterwards, I cap my night off at the perpetually busy bar, the Kitty. I’ve heard reports about an extraordinary cocktail only available here. The aptly named “Kitty on the Rock” comprises Richard Hennessy, Bollinger Grand Vintage, a sugar cube soaked with Angostura bitters and a 0.75-carat diamond. An order requires 48 hours lead time (so staff can arrange the diamond’s delivery and a personalized engraving on the Moët crystal Champagne flute). I’m told a security guard serves the drink – that it’s theater, meant to evoke the resort’s Treasury namesake. Echo has truly captured the spirit of its destinations down to the detail. I miss out... this time, which is as good an excuse as any to return.
Travel in sky-high style
VIP guests are flown from around the world to Echo Entertainment’s properties aboard one of their fleet of Global aircraft. “It’s about providing a service and product that is beyond first class in terms of a customer’s onboard experience,” says Stephen Spence, Executive General Manager, VIP Gaming. “Most large-scale casinos use their own aircraft. At Echo we’ve differentiated by acquiring the best of the best in the Bombardier range of aircraft. Our customers are flying in the most luxurious, spacious and technically advanced aircraft available.”
Echo Entertainment caters all of its flights from top restaurants, so whether you’re craving the freshest Chinese-inspired live seafood from the Century or Wagyu Striploin MBS9+ from Black by Ezard, Echo Entertainment caters to your needs at 50,000 feet.
For enquiries please call Echo Entertainment VIP Services at +61 2 9657 8888