Friday, 23 June 2017

Somewhere special to stay for visitors to Hobart

There is no shortage of variety in the range of accommodation available in the Tasmanian capital of Hobart, but a newly-opened rental cottage offers a tangible link to the past. 

1870 Hobart Town is a super-comfortable heritage cottage in South Hobart, dating back to, you guessed it,1870. 

It's tucked away on a characterful side street and just a couple of minutes' walk from cafés and restaurants like Ginger Brown and newcomer Miss Jane. 

Not that you'll need them. As with the owners' other rental property, Coast House, outside Cygnet,1870 is stocked with gourmet goodies ranging from fresh free-range eggs and Huon smoked salmon, to fresh artisan breads, a selection of Tasmanian cheeses, fresh strawberries and even a bottle of local wine and some soft drinks.

Coincidentally, the adults-only cottage was once the home of the Pooleys - now one of the state's leading wine producing families. 

The brand new website (1870 was only launched a couple of weeks ago) describes 1870 as "a heritage cottage with character, comfort and convenience."

With open wood fires lit when we arrived, and hugely comfortable furnishings, there is a temptation, particularly in winter, to snuggle up for the night. 

That, however, would be a pity when all the attractions of Hobart are on your doorstep. It is a 20-minute walk to Salamanca and the waterfront and several mountain tracks are available in the foothills of kunyani/Mt Wellington.

For those who want to stay on one level, there are a comfortable queen- sized bed with luxury linens and bathroom downstairs; along with a spacious living area and kitchen. There is a second character attic bedroom upstairs.

For warmer days guests have use of a balcony and an embryonic garden, as well as off-street parking, while internal additions include a coffee maker, dishwasher, washing machine, hairdryer and a stocked pantry. 

You'll find TV and free, fast internet, too, for keeping in touch with those at home, as well as a stereo system. 

My only complaint was the towels; feeble little things that didn't work for a big blubbery boy. Take your own, or give the owner the word. 

Other than that,1870 Hobart Town is just delightful with all city comforts in the quietest of neighbourhoods.

For details and bookings visit Prices start from $250 a night. 

# The writer was guest of 1870 Hobart Town  

Christmas in July and August in the Blue Mountains

There are a lot of people for whom it doesn't seem right to celebrate Christmas on the beach, or beside a swimming pool. 

Usually British, or European-born, they are scornful about prawns and beer; demanding a traditional roast turkey with all the trimmings, along with brisk winds and maybe the odd flurry of snow. 

That's how Yulefest came about; an Australian celebration of all things Christmasy when it really is winter Down Under. 

This weekend marks the start of the Blue Mountains’ annual Yulefest, and while the stiff breezes are blowing and sleet threatening there’s no better place to be than beside the log fire in the lovely surrounds of Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains, MGallery by Sofitel.

To celebrate the reverse season, Fairmont Resort is set to host lavish Yulefest feasts each weekend from June 24 to August 12. 

The newly refurbed Jamison’s Restaurant will be transformed "into a winter wonderland" with a roaring fire, festive feast, storybook scenery, and even the occasional snowflake. Come dinner time guests can craft their own menu from an extensive gourmet buffet, complete with festive favourites such as roast carvery dishes and desserts.

Taking things beyond parody into a world of Hansonesque absurdity, Fairmont Resort will also welcome special guest Santa Claus, "who will pay the children a visit and wish all a merry Yulefest".

I wonder if you can pay him to stay away? 
Friday and Saturday Yulefest dinners cost $92 per adult, $49 per teen (13-17) and $29 per child (5-12). Kids under four eat free. Bookings are essential. 

For those that want to extend the Yuletide cheer, the resort is offering a Bed and Breakfast package from $339 per night which includes overnight accommodation for two adults and adults and two children, plus buffet breakfast the following morning.

For more information visit, call (02)  4785 0000 or email

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Ready to experience Tasmania's Three Capes Track?

The Tasmanian Walking Company has opened bookings for its new Three Capes Walk. 

The company, which also operates walks including the Cradle Mountain Walk and the Wineglass Bay Walk, says the new experience has been "hailed as Australia’s premier coastal walk". 

The four-day guided experience traverses the full Three Capes Track staying in the Tasman National Park’s only private lodgings. 

Groups will comprise groups of no more than 14, led by two experienced guides.

Walkers will sleep in architecturally designed lodges at night and will be served locally sourced fare, matched with a selection of Tasmanian wines.

The first departure will be on September 1, 2018, but walks are expected to book out fast. 

The two lodges have been designed to rest gently in the environment. Both reflect sustainability in their built form; respecting their surrounds. Environmentally friendly features, include bird-friendly wind turbines, water-recycling showers and the latest solar technologies. 

For details email or phone (03) 6392 2211.    

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Champions. Low-cost airline wins for ninth straight year.

There are dozens of low-cost airlines in Asia alone, some operating just a couple of aircraft, others flying large fleets. 

I've flown several times with AirAsia and it came as no surprise to find it had won the World’s Best Low-Cost Airline for the ninth year in a row. 

Air Asia X also won awards for Low-Cost Airline Premium Cabin and World’s Best Low-Cost Airline Premium Seat awards for the fifth straight year.

The long-haul sister airline of AirAsia won the accolades at the 2017 Skytrax World Airline Awards at the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace at Le Bourget Airport yesterday.

Dubbed the “Oscars of the Aviation Industry”, the Skytrax Awards are the global benchmark of airline excellence with over 19.9 million customer surveys completed worldwide by more than 105 nationalities, measuring standards across 49 key performance indicators of an airline’s frontline products and services.

AirAsia and AirAsia X have won a combined 25 Skytrax World Airline Awards since the awards were introduced in 2001.

AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes said: “Today, Asean has created a world record. We are now nine times world champion. To put it into perspective, Brazil won the FIFA World Cup five times, Michael Jordan was NBA champion six times and Michael Phelps holds the record for most first place finishes at a single Olympics with eight gold medals.

“We take the world champion title seriously and we will strive to continue to improve for both our guests and shareholders. Over the last 15 years we have created a great brand and over the next 15, we want to move towards One AirAsia, a truly Asean community airline. We also want to recreate ourselves as a digital airline and use technology to drive more value.
“We are humbled by the support shown by our valued guests and we thank them for voting for us nine times in a row." 

If you like great views you'll love this new bar

I have a strange confession to make for someone who makes his living writing about wine, food and travel: I have never been to Greece. 

I've always wanted to; somehow never managed it. 

One of the places that's on my radar, should I get to Greece as a doddery old bloke, is the luxury boutique hotel Grace Santorini.

Reopened last year after extensive renovations, Grace Santorini is this week launching its "destination Champagne lounge, 363, and a partnership with Dom Pérignon and Moët & Chandon for the 2017 summer season.

So we've got a dream island, we've got Champagne, and we've got these views. I'm in!

Set to offer one of the world’s best bar views, the new champagne lounge sits 363 metres above sea level overlooking the breath-taking Aegean Sea. 

For the rest of summer, Grace Santorini will partner with Dom Pérignon and Moët & Chandon to host Vintages & Vistas, a series of exclusive Champagne events.

Inside 363, a feature wall is made of lava rock from Santorini using local architectural techniques, with mirrors behind it to reflect the light.

A fully-lit honey onyx bar with brass shelves provides a dramatic statement foil to the dark volcanic stone. The bar is furnished with Emperador marble coffee tables, and barstools and armchairs handmade in Greece and upholstered in C & C Milano fabrics. Adorning the walls is a curated collection of modern art from the renowned Rarity Gallery. 

One day! 

Grace Santorini is only open April to October and room prices start from 600 per night including breakfast and taxes. +30 2286 021300. 

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Fico: One place you really must eat in Hobart

Hobart is all grown up now; the one-time culinary wasteland is awash with fun and interesting places to dine, including Templo, Aloft, Franklin and Glass House. 

If you have just one night in which to dine, however, and want to see what is attracting locals (even on Tuesday nights) let me direct you to Fico Bistro and Vino; six months old and now fully into its stride. 

This is a grown-up restaurant with adult food, but also with a sense of whimsy and top-notch service from a floor team that seems entirely European. Professionalism and product knowledge rules.

Fico is the brainchild of Oskar Rossi, the son of leading Hobart artist Tom Samek, and his chef partner Federica Andrisani, who started with pop-up events before opening their own place on Macquarie Street. 

The food is, as you'd expect, Italian-accented, but with nods to both Australia and Australia in terms of flavours. You can order a la carte, or pay $65 (a bargain, given prices in Sydney and Melbourne) for the "let us cook for you option". 

So let them cook - and of a total of eight small dishes that arrived, virtually every one of which was a tour de force of flavour, texture and balance. 

You are never quite sure of what you are going to get, with the menu following the short-hand style of squid, sunflower, lardo; or blini, smoked eel. 

It's a little hipster, but not achingly so. 

The dishes arrived well spaced; first kingfish soy gel, wasabi (two scrumptious slivers), then a modern take on sardines on toast. 

We began with a very good Mediterranee rosé from the south of France ($12 a glass) and then after these two dishes ordered a bottle of the Terre de Pierres Macon-Villages, minerally crisp in style of Chablis ($65). 

The wine choices ranged from reasonably priced Italian and Tasmanian wines to some serious credit card busters (and only a couple of "natural" options, praise the Lord).

Bug tail carpaccio with shiso and rhubarb was one lowlight, lacking in distinctive flavours, but we were wowed by taleggio tortellini with mushroom, some ultra thin grissini and the aforementioned squid, sunflower and lardo. 

A whole grilled flounder with ginger sauce shone - and we finished our savoury courses with going near any red meat - although whole pigeon was on offer as a daily special.

Desserts were chocolate, coffee and mandarin; and quince, bay, white chocolate and lemon. Distinctly different and both downright delicious.

I'm late getting to Fico; Graeme Phillips and John Lethlean have long ago praised it with similar enthusiasm. But standards have clearly been maintained. 

Totally satisfactory - and exactly what a good restaurant should be.

Fico Bistro and Vino, 151 Macquarie Street, Hobart. (03) 6245 339. www. Lunch Wed-Sat; dinner Tue-Sat. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

Art exhibition to honour memory of Leonard Cohen

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Montreal, Canada, has just announced details of  A Crack In Everything, the first major exhibition on the great poet, writer and musician Leonard Cohen.

The presentation will be the first full exhibition dedicated to the legendary artist and its opening will coincide with the first anniversary of his death. 

A Crack In Everything will be unveiled on November 9, and run until April 8, 2018.

Known as a poet, author, singer and songwriter, Cohen remains one of the most enigmatic and iconic figures in modern culture and authorised the exhibit himself before passing.

Featuring 18 new works with 40 artists confirmed including Moby, Lou Doillon and Julia Holter, the show will present pieces from 13 visual artists, seven filmmakers and 20 musicians. A series of concerts will also run in parallel with the showing dates.

The aim of the exhibition is to create an immersive, visually compelling and in-depth experience exploring Montreal-born Cohen’s aesthetics of art and life. 

Through his music and lyrics, songs and poems, Cohen has attracted a huge global audience and influenced countless artists across all disciplines and generations. 

The exhibition will explore the creative impact of his work on the international arts community by presenting a unique selection of commissioned works and installations by artists from different disciplines all around the world who have been inspired, influenced or otherwise moved by Cohen.

Beyond the works that will be created especially for A Crack in Everything, the exhibition will also include innovative multimedia environments in which Cohen’s songs will be covered and performed. 

The museum It is located on the Place des Festivals in the Quartier des Spectacles. Montreal, and is part of the Place des Arts complex. Founded in 1964, it is Canada's first museum devoted to contemporary art. See www.