Thursday, 17 August 2017

Central and delightful Sydney accommodation

Five minutes' walk from Town Hall Station. Tick. Five minutes' walk from Darling Harbor. Tick. Five minutes' walk from the Queen Victoria Building. Tick. Five minutes' walk from the major department stores. Tick. 

Mantra on Kent furnished apartments may be tucked away on a quite stretch on Kent Street in Sydney, but they are right on the doorstep of many of the city's major attractions.

With a 24-hour reception service, very helpful staff, on-site cafe and jacuzzi, affordable places to stay in the big smoke do not come much more convenient. 

Guests travelling on business can take advantage of a variety of amenities on offer at the property, such as a business centre and meeting rooms. Wifi is also available - and there are computer stations in the lobby.

Mantra on Kent features 106 air conditioned apartments of various sizes. Ours featured a balcony with some terrific views. All have a refrigerator and a flat-screen TV with a DVD player. 

Sydney's attractions, including St Andrew's Cathedral are easily accessible on foot, as are Powerhouse Museum, the Australian National Maritime Museum and St Mary's Cathedral. 

Comfortable beds, good furniture and a laundry tick a lot of boxes. Recommended for no-frills comfort. 

For details and bookings visit:

# The writer was a guest of Mantra on Kent 

50th birthday celebrations for Margaret River hit Sydney and Melbourne

This is a very important year for the Margaret River wine region, which is celebrating 50 years since the first commercial production from what is now one of the most famous vineyard districts in the world.

Margaret River was first planted by Perth cardiologist Tom Cullity, who was influenced primarily by a 1966 research paper of University of Western Australia agronomist, Dr John Gladstones.

He examined Margaret River’s suitability for viticulture and believed that the only possible disadvantage of the region could be its heavy winter rainfall which would necessitate choosing vineyard land which had good drainage.

The region is now home to 217 vineyards and 187 wineries and located a leisurely three- hour drive south of Perth.

The planting at Vasse Felix (below) in 1967 signalled the beginnings of a wine industry in the region.

It was quickly followed by Moss Wood (1969), Cape Mentelle (1970), Cullen (1971), Sandalford (1972), Leeuwin Estate, Woodlands and Wrights (1973).

To celebrate the last five decades since the first grape vines were planted, 19 renowned Margaret River wineries will host a series of dinners and wine tasting events in Melbourne and Sydney in early September.

Guests will have the opportunity to experience 11 of Margaret River’s most premium wineries over a stunning five-course dinner at three-hatted restaurant, Vue de Monde on Monday, September 4, and Bentley Restaurant + Bar on Wednesday, September 6.

Winemakers and sommeliers from wineries including Cape Mentelle, Voyager Estate, Howard Park and Woodlands will showcase their flagship varietals, predominately chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.

For Deep Woods Estate chief winemaker Julian Langworthy, the events offer a unique opportunity to bring together some of the region’s finest wines under one roof. “It’s great to see so many fantastic winemakers and wineries taking part in these events. I’m excited to showcase some of Deep Woods’ most notable wines alongside my industry peers,” he says.

Margaret River Wine will also host a tasting in Melbourne and Sydney, presenting over 50 wines from some of the region’s most iconic producers, including Fraser Gallop Estate, McHenry Hohnen, Xanadu and Margaret River’s oldest winery, Vasse Felix.

Guests will taste wines in order of the winery’s establishment, and enjoy a selection of canapés.

Participating wineries in order of establishment: Vasse Felix 1967, Cape Mentelle 1970, Woodlands 1973, Clairault | Streicker Wines 1976, Xanadu Wines 1977, Voyager Estate 1978, UMAMU Estate 1978, McHenry Hohnen Vintners 1979, Pierro Vineyards 1980, Devils Lair 1980, Deep Woods Estate 1987, Credaro Wines 1988, Howard Park 1996, Thompson Estate 1997, Oates Ends 1998, Fraser Gallop Estate 1999, Coward & Black 2001, Hutton Wines grower sourced, Flametree Wines grower sourced.

There is, of course, one elephant in the room. Some of the oldest producers, and some of the biggest names in Margaret River are not involved. Whether Cullen, for instance, and where are Leeuwin Estate, Moss Wood and Sandalford?

Friday, 11 August 2017

Australia's own spirit links up with fashion icons

Forget Grey Goose, Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff or Bacardi. 

Australia’s very own spirit, Vantage Australia, has been selected as the official cocktail sponsor for the Myer 2017 Spring Fashion launch taking place in Sydney on August 17.

The Vantage Australia team has created four special cocktails to serve at the A-list events with the who’s who of Australia’s fashion and social scene set to attend (my invite again went missing). 

The first of two events will be held during the day at a private residence at Coogee where both Aussie and international designers will showcase their latest collections at an exclusive fashion showcase headed sy Jennifer Hawkins. 

Vantage Australia has created a special activated-charcoal black Cosmopolitan to reflect the coastal views of Coogee Beach and its dramatic cliff’s edge.

Vantage Australia will also be having its mixologist on board at the second Myer event taking place that evening at Bronte’s Beach Surf Life Saving Club where guests will be taken back to a quintessential Australian childhood in summer. 

Inspired by some Aussie favourites, such as Frosty Fruits and Ginger Snaps, Vantage has developed three cocktails reminiscent of growing up in Australia: 

Frosty Fruit Granita: Vantage, cold pressed orange juice, pineapple juice and passion fruit  

Classic Vantage and Soda: Vantage, CAPI sparkling, fresh lemon 

The Ginger Snap: Vantage, CAPI flamin ginger, garnished with mint and lime. 

Reflective of the Aussie outback, Vantage white spirit draws its inspiration from native flora. 

For details see:

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

New Zealand awards reveal the best of the best

Pacifica in Hawke's Bay on the east coast of the North Island has been named the best restaurant in the country in New Zealand’s most prestigious restaurant awards.

The 2017 Cuisine Good Food Awards showcase the best New Zealand when it comes to food and wine - and the rising stars. 

At Pacifica, the celebrated Māori chef Jeremy Rameka combines Michelin-quality cooking with a casual New Zealand atmosphere, which you'll find in a weathered wooden bungalow near the coast.

Think dishes like pan-seared sesame crusted trevally with squid mince and green lip mussel sago.

Pacifica wasn’t the only Hawke's Bay eatery to get a mention with local favourite Bistronomy taking out best regional restaurant.

Malo, Hawke's Bay’s new kid on the block, picked up best new regional restaurant making this North Island region the big winner on the night. 

Auckland chef Ed Verner was named chef of the year for his work at his restaurant Pasture, while in Marlborough, Liz Buttimore, front of house star at Arbour, was awarded restaurant personality of the year. 

Oamaru restaurateur Fleur Sullivan of Fleur’s Place won a new award, the Food Legend. Fleur’s menu is simple and based on whatever is available on the day - the selection of seafood caught by the Moeraki Bay fishing boats that unload their daily catch on the wharf beside the restaurant.

Cuisine Restaurant Of The Year
Pacifica (Hawkes Bay)

Vittoria Coffee Chef Of The Year
Ed Verner, Pasture (Auckland)

Santa Vittoria Best Metropolitan Restaurant
Apero (Auckland)

Stuff Fibre Best New Metropolitan Restaurant
Gatherings (Christchurch)

Neat Meat Best Regional Restaurant
Bistronomy (Hawkes Bay)

Neighbourly Best New Regional Restaurant
Malo (Hawke's Bay)

Estrella Damm Best Specialist Restaurant
Cassia (Auckland) Best Casual Dining Restaurant
Azabu (Auckland)

Kenwood Restaurant Personality Of The Year  
Liz Buttimore, Arbour (Marlborough)

Ora King Salmon Innovation Award
Vaughan Mabee, Amisfield (Central Otago)

Cuisine Recommends Best Winery Restaurant
Black Estate (Canterbury)

Nautilus Estate of Marlborough Best Drinks List
Pasture (Auckland)

Negociants New Zealand Best Wine Experience
Noble Rot (Wellington)

Food Legend Award
Fleur Sullivan, Fleur's Place (Oamaru)

A unique taste of South Africa on the Cape Town waterfront

The Cape Grace Hotel is one of the most fashionable addresses in Cape Town and its Bascule Bar is one the trendiest spots to visit for a waterfront drink.

Right on the water’s edge at the V&A Waterfront yacht marina and with superb views of Table Mountain, Bascule is a café during the day that transforms into a lively bar when the sun goes down.

The Cape Grace Hotel, recently named one of the “Top City Hotels in Africa”, has launched a new drinks menu as part of its countdown to its 21st birthday.

The new cocktail list features ingredients grown only in South Africa and the hotel says it enables "guests to embark on an exploration of the country’s landscapes, folklore and history".

A variety of new cocktails aim to tell a uniquely South African story incorporating local flavours and fragrances.

Bascule Bar manager Victor Kirkbride says: “It is such an honour and pleasure to be unveiling this new collection of beverages to our guests. Guests are becoming more adventurous with their palates and the new menu is designed to get people excited about local, unique ingredients.

"We champion only the finest hand-crafted local spirits such as fynbos gin, multi-award-winning brandy and Methode Cap Classique (MCC) sparkling wine made in the surrounding winelands.

The new ‘Taste of 21’ cocktail range includes:
Cape Classique: A cocktail variation consisting of KWV 10-year-old brandy and rooibos syrup topped with Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wine.

Amber Martini: A blend of Inverroche Amber Fynbos Gin, orange marmalade, Triple Sec (orange liqueur) and fresh lemon juice.

Rooibos Whisky Sour: Three Ships Bourbon Cask Whisky, fresh lime juice and rooibos syrup.

The bar has a selection of over 400 whiskies from around the world as well as serving classics like negronis.

For further information please visit

Monday, 7 August 2017

Coonawarra and Tasmanian vignerons hit the road

Winemakers from Coonawarra and Tasmania are ready to set off on their annual roadshows to highlight their wares to the rest of Australia.

The Coonawarra Roadshow will have over 100 wines available for tasting - along with the chance to meet the good folk who make the wines.

Here are the dates:

Wed, August 9 5-8pm, Federation Square – The Atrium

Hobart: Thu August 10 5-8pm, The Derwent Room, Wrest Point

Sydney: Fri August 11, 5-8pm, Ivy Sunroom, The Ivy
Brisbane: Sun August 13, 2-5pm, Moda Events Portside
Adelaide: Fri August 18, 5-8pm, The Sanctuary, Adelaide Zoo
Perth: Sunday, August 20, 2-5pm, East Fremantle Yacht Club 

Tasmania's finest will take their VIN Diemen tasting to Sydney and Melbourne this weekend with over 100 wines from 25 producers alongside some iconic Tasmanian gourmet goodies.

Sydney: Sat August 12, Noon-5pm, Cell Block Theatre. Darlinghurst

Melbourne: Sun August 13: Noon-5pm, Melbourne Meat Market, North Melbourne 


Jetstar to launch Hobart-Adelaide flights

In a move that will be welcomed by both tourists and those involved in the wine industry, Jetstar has announced it will begin three times weekly direct flights between Adelaide and Hobart from November 14.

The first direct flights between the two cities since Tiger Airways pulled off the route in August 2010- meaning all flights go via Melbourne and can take up to six hours. 

The new services will be operated by 180-seat Airbus A320s on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Up to 55,000 people are expected to travel on the flights each year.
“Thousands of travellers already fly from Hobart to Adelaide via Melbourne, so we are excited to offer direct low fares between the two cities, making it even easier to travel,” Jetstar group chief commercial officer Catriona Larritt said in a statement on Monday.
“Both Hobart and Adelaide are experiencing record tourism numbers, and we expect inbound tourism to the two cities to further strengthen with the addition of our new direct flights.
"We’ll start with three flights a week, if demand exceeds that, we’re always adjusting our schedule to provide what customers want.” Jetstar last flew the route in 2006. 
The new flight from Hobart will depart at 5:45pm, arriving in Adelaide at 7:15pm, with the return service then departing Adelaide at 7:45pm and arriving in Hobart at 10.05pm.
“The Adelaide-Hobart route has been our largest unserved market for some time,"said Adelaide Airport managing director Mark Young. 
"We know there is significant demand from customers to fly direct rather than via Sydney or Melbourne.” 
Adelaide will become Jetstar’s fifth destination from Hobart, and the Qantas low-cost offshoot says it now operates more flights to and from Tasmania than any other airline.