Feeling the urge to escape your neighbourhood and discover a different part of Sydney? Here’s why Parramatta should be bumped up your list.
I’m perched on a chair on the rooftop terrace overlooking the Parramatta skyline at sunset, sipping a cocktail that was just prepared at our table by a bartender at Nick & Nora’s. It’s a stifling hot evening, but the Seductive Senorita – with gin, dry sherry, and elderflower topped with a Spanish olive – takes the edge off the heat.
The Parramatta skyline at dusk from the terrace at Nick & Nora’s.
I’ve lived in Sydney for nearly a decade and this is my first night in Parramatta. Up until now, all I really knew about Sydney’s second CBD is that my uncle played for their football team (the Parramatta Eels) in the eighties. But I’ve since learnt that in the past 10 years Parramatta has been quietly transforming. Towering office buildings and apartments now punctuate the skyline and a flood of new restaurants, cafes and bars at ground level continue to paint Sydney’s geographical heart in a new light.
Nick & Nora’s shares the building with SKYE Suites Parramatta, our hotel for the night. Located on the corner of Marsden and Hunter, the hotel is within walking distance to Westfield Parramatta and ‘eat street’ the city’s premier dining district (aka Church Street). A stay here puts you in the centre of it all. Naturally I’ve already stalked the hotel’s Instagram page in detail and I’m looking forward to spending copious amounts of time cooling off in the hotel pool – the perfect way to welcome the first hot weekend of the summer.
SKYE Suites Parramatta is as central as it gets.
The onsite parking (available for a fee) is easy to access by phoning reception upon arrival. A staff member meets us in the underground car park to point out our parking spot. We take the lifts up to the main foyer and are again met by a staff member who quickly checks us in to our room for the night. The air conditioning is a welcome relief from the heat. While the foyer is air conditioned, the elevators and halls of each floor weren’t during our stay (bad timing given the aforementioned heat), but the rooms were kept just as cool as the foyer.
The main foyer of SKYE Suites Parramatta.
We opted for the hotel’s ‘Love is in the SKYE’ package, which meant a bottle of chilled rosé and chocolate-dipped strawberries were delivered to our room upon check-in. The Two bedroom Executive Suite enters onto the open plan lounge, dining and kitchen area. The honey-coloured wooden panelling, white walls, beige carpet, marble-topped coffee table and cream couches with deep-brown accents make for a warm and inviting space.
Inside the open plan lounge, dining and kitchen space of the Two Bedroom Executive Suite.
The main bedroom opens out onto the private, enclosed balcony (also accessible via the lounge) and overlooks the turquoise-blue pool below – which also means we can see how busy it is before venturing down for a dip. The suite features a sizeable second bedroom with two single beds, an internal laundry, study nook and large bathroom with a double-sized shower.
The main bedroom with balcony overlooking the pool.
A family of four, business traveller, group of friends and even couples who prefer plenty of space are all well-catered for with this setup – especially if you opt for a longer stay and make use of the fully-equipped kitchen.
In addition to the 25-metre lap pool there is a spa, sauna and gym. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to use the latter, but we did spend the better part of the next morning floating in the pool. There are also rainfall showers alongside the pool to rinse under after a dip and plenty of generous-sized cabanas to lounge on.
View of the pool from the rooms above at SKYE Suites Parramatta.
Food and drinks
Nick & Nora’s, a trendy Art Deco champagne and cocktail bar owned by the Speakeasy Group (Mjolner, Eau De Vie) located on the 26th floor, is pumping by the time we arrive for our 7pm dinner reservation. We’re guided past the bar to our rooftop table outside, but we have to relocate indoors by the time we finish our first drink to escape the heat. Our new table is tucked away near the kitchen but the air conditioning trumps the views when it is this hot.
Nick & Nora’s is a decadent champagne and cocktail bar.
We order a mix of small share plates for dinner. The labneh with parsley oil, confit tomato and olive bread arrives first, followed by a cheese board featuring a divine selection of three cheeses, Barossa bark, lavosh, walnuts, guava paste and compote. The lamb croquettes – stuffed with lamb, smoked potato, pumpkin and pea puree – are forgettable but the crispy prawns with sweet lime aioli and lime caviar are the standout for the evening. The cocktail list is extensive; each has its own backstory and unique narrative. If you’re spending the night at SKYE Suites, we recommend taking advantage of the fact that bed is only a lift ride away and sample as many as you can handle in one sitting.
Dine on the terrace of Nick & Nora’s when the weather is cool enough.
Another local gem that shares the same building as the SKYE Suites is The Shed Café. Find it just outside and around the corner in an inviting little nook with tables and chairs set above an archaeological site. The inventive all-day breakfast menu features many Instagram-worthy options – from the fairy-floss sprinkled French toast to the fruit-adorned acai bowl. We opted for the twisted avo with poached egg, dukkha, feta, hummus and greens; and the eggs benedict with bacon, mushroom and spinach. The coffee is also top notch. Healthy lunch options, smoothies and freshly-squeezed juices also feature on the menu.
Opt for breakfast at The Shed Cafe.
For more great food and drink options make a reservation at Bayti (next door to The Shed Café). The Lebanese restaurant has an elegantly designed interior and a mouth-watering array of options. To put yourself in the heart of ‘eat street’, walk north of SKYE Suites towers towards the Parramatta River for nine minutes to reach Parramatta’s dining precinct on Church Street. The fairy-light adorned strip is lined with cafes, restaurants and bars, including Bourke Street Bakery, Messina, Mama and Papas, Alex and Co, El-Phoenician, The Meat and Wine Co, Coco Cubano, Sicilian Parramatta, and more. You’ll be spoilt for choice.
Messina gelato bar is just one of many familiar names on Church Street.
SKYE Suites Parramatta, 30 Hunter St, Parramatta NSW 2150
The stylish exterior of SKYE Suites Parramatta.
For an alternative to driving, opt to take the ferry from Circular Quay to Parramatta Wharf. The 85-minute journey is as scenic as it is cheap. You can also catch the train from Central Station to Parramatta in 25 minutes.