Sunday, 22 June 2014

Moorilla goes back to its past for new premium release

It was an offer too good to refuse. Would I like to taste the new Moorilla wine range with winemaker Conor van der Reest, enjoy a private tour and dinner at MONA, and stay overnight in one of the luxurious MONA Pavilions to avoid the hour drive home? 

Well, yes, actually I would. 

The new wines are a great story and it is always terrific to say at MONA, where the eight pavilions overlook the Derwent River. 

When textile merchant Claudio Alcorso purchased a block of land at Berriedale, north of Hobart, in 1957 he was told it was more suitable for fruit trees than for growing grapes – but he planted some riesling vines anyway and produced his first wine in 1962; making him one of the pioneers of the Tasmanian wine industry.

Alcorso also later purchased the St Matthias vineyard in the Tamar Valley, which provided some of the premium fruit used in the wines Alcorso made under the Moorilla label.

Both the Berriedale site and the St Matthias vineyard were sold to David Walsh in 1995 after Moorilla went into receivership and while the Moorilla home vineyard remains, the site is now known worldwide as MONA, Walsh's hugely successful museum complex.

Walsh gave globe-trotting Canadian winemaker Conor van der Reest the go ahead to build a new high-tech small batch winery at Berriedale and van der Reest and Walsh also decided to relaunch Moorilla's legendary cloth label with a series of wines that van der Reest determined would represent the pinnacle of what the cool-climate fruit and his winemaking team could do.

All three wines in the cloth label series are made from fruit grown on the St Matthias vineyard at Rosevears, which was planted in 1983 and looks across the Tamar River.

Traditionally the St Matthias vineyard produces wines that are racy and minerally – and those elements shine in the three new releases launched earlier this month at MONA; a 2004 Moorilla Cloth Label Late Disgorged Sparkling, and a pair of wines from the 50th anniversary 2012 vintage; a red blend and a white blend.

All the cloth labels have been attached by hand, as was the tradition in founder Alcorso's day.

The bubbly, with a decade on lees, is outstanding and reflects van der Reest's time working at Moet & Chandon. It is yeasty, rich and intense; a complex but elegant blend of 64 per cent pinot noir and 34 per cent chardonnay with 2 per cent of 2013 base material added. It will sell for $145 - and there will be no 05 release. It will only be made in good vintages.

The white ($110) is a blend of six varieties, a fleshy number that comprises pinot gris, riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, gewurztraminer and a small percentage of lightly pressed pinot noir to add an exotic element to a complex, food-friendly wine with real palate interest.

The Cloth Label red (also $110), my undoubted favourite of the trio; a stunning blend of pinot noir, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, with just a touch of riesling, in a style that calls to mind some of the fine, elegant reds produced in the Loire Valley in France. 

This is a stylish, aromatic and expressive red, with freshness on the lively palate and depth of flavour cloaked in a lightness of being. Medium-bodied, complex and supple with oak just adding structure without any obvious flavour, this is a benchmark on its debut release.

Van der Reest, who is remarkable among winemakers in that he grew up in northern Canada and did not see his first grape vine until he was 18, says he believes he has accomplished the mission Walsh gave to him.

“It has been seven years from concept to release of creating a flagship range and I think the wines we have released pay tribute to a pioneering cool-climate winery that helped put Tasmania on the wine map.” he says. “We wanted to link the past with the future, and I think we have done that.

“I hope we can show Australia something special and unique from Tasmania.”

Of course, wines like these are made in tiny quantities (160 cases of the white, 94 of the red and 140 cases of the sparkling).
And what of my stay? Well MONA remains captivating, the meal was less than memorable (cold and under-seasoned, actually), but the accommodation was as good as it has always been with typical irreverent Walsh touches like a "please make up my room" sign that instead says: "l'm a messy bastard." 

The eight high-tech pavilions offer the most luxurious vineyard accommodation in the Hobart region (and adult toys like double spa baths and heated lap pools), 

The Source restaurant is perfect for leisurely lunches and long dinners overlooking the Moorilla vineyards and the Derwent River. 

Guests can also taste the Moorilla range at the wine bar, as well as sampling Moo Brew beers from the micro brewery. 

The ultra-modern pavilions featuring eclectic artworks from the collection of owner Walsh range from $430 to $950 per night. mona.net.au.







Thursday, 19 June 2014

A flight like no other: braving domestic economy on China Southern


No matter how many times you have flown with EasyJet, Ryanair or Tiger Airways, nothing can prepare you for the culture shock of a domestic leg on China Southern. 

First there are all the signs at the departure gate warning against excess hand baggage - which are ignored by just about every passenger, several of whom seem to want to have all their worldly possessions with them on the short 50-minute leg from Haikou, on Hainan island, to Shenzhen. 

I am the only non-Chinese person on this jam-packed flight, which means I get the seat in the back row, the row that doesn't recline, right across the way from the toilet. With the baggage locker where the staff had stowed all their bags. 

And the bloke in front of me goes into some yoga pose and slams his seat into full recline well before half of the passengers have boarded. My shout of "What the f....?" fortunately discourages him. 

Unfortunately the flight was delayed for an hour on the tarmac, with no explanation and heating on full blast, so the toilet was used by just about every flyer on board before take-off.

When we finally did push back and were making our way to the runway, there were passengers still in the toilet, and a couple wandering obliviously down the aisle. 

Our stewardess left it until the last moment to advise a passenger across the aisle from me that his hand luggage needed to be under the seat or in the locker above his head - rather than on his lap, where he had placed it.

The result was a full-on screaming match between the two of them that lasted for several minutes - right in my ear. At one stage it looked like they might come to blows.

Several passengers felt the command to turn off phones and mobile devices did not apply to them.

When we finally did take off, the in-flight entertainment was Dallas Buyers Club, which lasts 117 minutes. Not the ideal choice for a flight of under an hour. If you fly regularly with China Southern you might become heartily sick of watching the first half of a movie.

The in-flight meal consisted of one sweet biscuit, three dry biscuits and  tiny pack of pickled radishes - not a selection I can see Qantas introducing any time soon. 

After landing, well before the seat belt sign had been switched off, passengers were pushing their way to the front of the aircraft and making phone calls. 

But we all survived. And I had the chance to watch the second half of the movie on Emirates a couple of weeks later.   

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Jacob's Creek and a whisky business strategy

Jacob's Creek has unveiled a pair of new premium red wines that have been first matured in oak and then finished off in whisk(e)y barrels.

The new Double Barrel range comprises a Barossa 2012 Shiraz finished in 20-year-old Scottish whisky barrels and a 2012 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon finished in similarly aged Irish whiskey barrels.
Chief winemaker Bernard Hickin says the new wines, which will retail for around $25 a bottle, have exceeded expectations when it comes to quality – but only after some experimentation in the winery.

Our winemakers quickly learnt that the double barrel finishing process gave additional softness, complexity and flavour to the wines, but it took two years of trials to get the process right,” Hickin said. “Each barrel performs differently so it took us some time to come up with the perfect balance.”

The Jacob's Creek team discovered that bigger red wine styles, like shiraz, reacted best with Scottish whisky barrels and cabernet sauvignon worked better with the less intense, smoother, Irish whiskey barrels.

The wines are made in the normal way with 18 months in French and American oak barrels before spending up to six weeks in the whisk(e)y barrels – which are made in a different way to traditional wine barrels, being scorched at a greater heat, which releases natural wood sugars, and having narrow staves, which allow for more oxygen exchange.

Many of the finest wines from Bordeaux are given similar micro-oxygenation to soften them, and make them more approachable.

We hope the style of these wines will appeal both to wine drinkers and to whisky lovers,” Hickin says. “There has been no attempt to give the wines a spirity flavour, but we think the whisky barrels do give a softening element and add interest on the palate.

We are fortunate that the initial releases are from the excellent 2012 vintage so we can come out with all guns blazing – and we have chosen fruit from two of the best red wine regions in the country.

“We do stress that it’s more of a finishing process – it’s not an aging process. And we’ve done research and found that there are one or two other people on the planet that have done some things similar to what we’ve done, but the way we’ve approached it has been really unique."

Hickin describes the shiraz as a “blokey” wine designed unashamedly to appeal to male consumers - and both are intense, full-blooded wines.

Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel will be available in major retail stores across Australia from July 1. 

Friday, 13 June 2014

Madeira: A treasure island with a World Cup link

The British have been in on the secret of Madeira since the late 17th century.

The rest of the world has been rather slower to catch on to the appeal of this beautiful and isolated island - the birthplace of Portugal's World Cup star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Much more than just an island in the sun, Madeira is politically Portuguese but geographically African, lying some 550km off the north African coast.
It is south of Casablanca and is also probably the only holiday island in the world without a single sandy beach.
Madeira's beaches are, to put it bluntly, small, pebbled and disappointing particularly to Australians used to expanses of golden sand.
Fortunately, the island has a lot more to offer, including its year-round mild climate and slow pace. And, despite its popularity with the British, it is mercifully free of the tour groups that demand fish and chips, Watney's Red Barrel and all-night techno music.
It may be just 58km long and 23km wide, but Madeira has been described as a floating garden.
Its rich, volcanic soil and sub-tropical climate produce wildly colourful displays of flowers all year round and sprawling plantations of bananas and grapes, many of which are used to make the famous local fortified wines.
The entire island is a walker's heaven, from a plethora of beautiful gardens to the cobblestones and cafes of the Old Town in the capital, Funchal (above).
Outside Funchal, Madeira remains resolutely rural (and quite poor).
Inland, there are inaccessible valleys and waterfalls that tumble from cliffs over roads and pathways and the entire island is criss-crossed by levadas (irrigation channels) which can lead you from barren mountain tops to semi-tropical jungle in just a few hours.
It is well worth taking a day trip around the island, making sure to take in the fishing villages of Camara do Lobos (left) and Ribeira Brava, the second-highest sea cliff in the world at Cabo Girao, the untamed inland regions and the delightful rock pools at Porto Moniz.
I'd advise travellers to take a coach tour to get a taste of the real Madeira, rather than hiring a car. The roads are tiny and twisting and local road rules are less than rigorously enforced.
One must-do trip is the short journey to the delightful village of Monte, in the hills above Funchal, from where you can take a toboggan trip (guided by two sturdy locals in costume) over the cobbles and back down into town.
Funchal, founded in 1451, is a terrific town for taking leisurely strolls. There is always something to discover among the Gothic and Baroque buildings. 

A tiny laneway may lead to a wine lodge (make time to visit at least one or two of the producers of the famous local fortified wine) or a small family workshop producing handmade boots and leather shoes or the island's famous (but pricey) embroidery.
Among its major attractions is the Marcado dos Lavaradores, a lively bustling market featuring local fruits and vegetables you will never have seen before, flower sellers dressed in traditional costume and, naturally, a huge and noisy fish market.
Many guide books to Madeira try to direct you to the Marina area, where a dozen or so restaurants overlook flashy yachts. Ignore this advice and head for the nearby Old Town, where the prices are lower and the food tastier.
The local alternative to a hamburger is a prego, a thin slice of steak inside a bun, served with salad and a hot piri-piri sauce. Cheap and delicious.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Bentley moves into top gear in its new digs

For over seven years the Bentley Bar was a Sydney icon; a Surry Hills magnet for wine lovers and gourmets alike, so it came as something of a surprise when partners Brent Savage, the chef, and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt decided to move lock stock and barrel to the Radisson Blu Hotel in the CBD. 

Approaching six months in its new digs, the re-named Bentley Restaurant and Bar has moved smoothly into top gear. 

A friend and I were invited to dine on a Tuesday night and both us were totally impressed by the ambiance (the eatery was close to full), the quality of the food and the excellent wine matches by the glass. And neither of us is that easy to please. 

"This is in every way a dream restaurant for us,” said Savage when the new venue launched. "The fundamentals of Bentley as it was in Surry Hills will remain - serious food and wine served in a relaxed, modern and informal environment, but the beautiful new space will enable us to take Bentley to the next level.”

Fortunately Savage’s food, offered a la carte, as a tasting menu or part of a separate bar menu, remains cutting edge; innovative and impeccably judged, while the service, guided by sommelier and general manager Glen Goodwin, is both informed and efficient. 


The bar area can cater for up to 30 drinkers and diners with casual choices ranging from charred beef tartare to a Bentley sandwich, while the 80-seat dining room has a bustling feel, although the tables are so well spaced so we could not hear what former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally was discussing at the next table. 
Nick Hildebrandt and Brent Savage 

Hildebrandt, one of Australia’s most-awarded sommeliers, has created a wine list of over 1000 labels, with an intriguing selection by the glass. 

The design is by Pascale Gomes- McNabb, famous for her work with Cutler & Co and Cumulus in Melbourne; eateries blessed with a similar vibe. Home to the Radisson Blu since 2000, the heritage-listed building was built in 1856 by John Fairfax & Sons and housed the Sydney Morning Herald for almost 100 years before becoming a bank. 

Highlights of our tasting menu included an amuse bouche of crispy coated brandade of smoked eel partnered but a crisp and fresh Blanc de Morgex from the Val d'Aosta in Italy, followed by a garishly-coloured dish of scallop, foie gras and raspberry (right) - a delightful little mouth explosion of flavours matched to a delightful 2012 Robert Weil Trocken Riesling. 

Next came a delicate but flavoursome onion broth with Jerusalem artichoke and Toma della Rocca cheese (this with a funky 2010 Domaine de l'Horizon Macebeo blend from just outside Perpignan), followed by a charred pork cheek, garlic and yoghurt puree, raddichio and jamon, perfectly paired with a 2012 Pinot Noir by Lucy Margaux extrovert Anton von Klopper. 
Next up; Rangers Valley skirt steak with fennel mustard and olive (left), an unfashionable cut beautifully presented alongside a glass of stunning Luke Lambert 2012 Syrah, then mandarin ice cream with coconut and a licorice leaf, beautifully matched with a simple Tokaj.

Many of the wines on the list are organic, biodynamic or preservative free, but there's also an impressive array of Champagnes. 

If you love wine and food that challenge the senses put this one on your list.

Bentley Restaurant and Bar, Radisson Blu Hotel, 27 O’Connell Street, Sydney. (02) 8214 0505. 

Open Monday-Friday for lunch; Monday-Saturday for dinner. 

Bookings: info@thebentley.com.au, www.thebentley.com.au

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Why a Thai restaurant entrepreneur has Australia in his sights

Thai celebrity chef Pitaya Phanphensophon is scouting Sydney for a venue that would be suitable for the latest in his rapidly growing global collection of Mango Tree restaurants.

Khun Pitaya (as he is known) is a regular on Thai television, and the CEO of the COCA Group, which operates in 16 countries around the world, with new restaurants opening in the US and in China.

Phanphensophon and his Canadian managing director Trevor MacKenzie have pinpointed Sydney and the Gold Coast as their two areas of interest in Australia after a proposed deal with the Crown Casino complex in Melbourne fell over.

Crown wanted us to invest $3 million in a fit out when we felt $1.7 million was more than adequate,” McKenzie said.

Phanphensophon, described as one of Thailand's foremost cultural ambassadors, says he is looking for a “class A Sydney location with a mix of clientele” but McKenzie, aware of the issue of penalty rates, says the proposed Australian eateries might not open on public holidays.

We need to find a place that charges the right rent, because we are aware Australian labour costs are high,” he says.

Mango Tree International has plans for lifting its branded restaurants and cafes to 100 outlets worldwide by 2015. The company operates a chain of high-end restaurants under its flagship Mango Tree brand, as well as under the Mango Tree Bistrobar and Mango Tree Café brands, and COCA restaurants. 

And despite the unrest in Bangkok, a new Mango Tree is being built on the banks of the busy Chao Phraya River. 


Khun Pitaya plans to add market tours and a cooking school to his latest venture, making it easy for visitors to get up close and personal with Thai cuisine from the many different regions of the country. 

For those inexperienced with Thai flavours, the Mango Tree restaurants make for an easy introduction – particularly the original restaurant which has, you guessed it, a Mango Tree in the courtyard.

Here, think authentic but approachable dishes like watermelon with dried fish, lobster with lemon-grass, young coconut, chilli and tamarind, stir-fried sa-to (rice wine) with clams or even a green chicken curry, albeit made with home-made pastes and free-range poultry – not something you find at most food stalls.

And Thai-style tapas dishes have been added to the menu at the OP Garden offshoot of Mango Tree; think dishes like sai oua (Northern Thai sausage) or maybe moo ping jim jaew (grilled pork neck).

Mango Tree: 37 Soi Tantawan Surawongse Rd, and Mango Tree OP Garden: Soi Charoenkrung 36, Charoenkring Rd. www.coca.com/mangotree

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Cointreau goes back to the future with a new blend

It is a marketing adage that you never mess with a successful formula; but Cointreau has just added to its worldwide range for the first time since it launched in 1849. 

La Maison Cointreau, known for its iconic square-bottled orange liqueur that sells around 
13 million bottles each year, in more than 150 countries, has just launched a new variant: Cointreau Noir.

Bernadette Langlais, Cointreau’s master distiller, says she was inspired by “Majestic”, which was a premium blend of Cointreau orange liqueur and cognac crafted by Edouard Cointreau in the early 1900s. She decided to put her own spin on Majestic,create Cointreau Noir.

Cointreau Noir is a blend of Cointreau orange liquor and Fine Champagne Cognac: described as "an irresistible marriage of Cointreau’s perfect balance of sweet and bitter orange peels and world’s finest cognac, Rémy Martin".


Well that's what the marketers say. I'm pretty much a wine and beer drinker nowadays other than the odd Tanqueray and tonic, but a I found one glass of this over ice post dinner was not enough. It's delicious. 

Langlais enriched the original recipe by adding macerations of nuts and almonds, adding aromas and complexity. 

There is still the bright orange peel flavour; a touch of spice, some vanilla and honeyed characters, and it finishes with plenty of smooth, mellow length. 

“We have spent the last few years endeavouring to hone the final product and reach the perfection we set out to achieve,” says Langlais with considerable hype.

The end result, however, midway between a liqueur and a cognac, and is designed to appeals to dark spirit connoisseurs and cocktail lovers. The recipe, like that of the original Cointreau, is a secret.  

Alfred Cointreau, a sixth generation member of the Cointreau family, visited Australia to launch Cointreau Noir (my invitation must have got lost in the post) and Cointreau Noir is now available at an RRP of $64.99.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Cahors: One of France's best-kept wine region secrets

So you've done Champagne, Bordeaux and Burgundy and still want more. How about a French wine region that specialises in just one grape variety: malbec. 
Pretty Cahors in the Quercy district, is the capital of the Lot department, famous for the ‘black’ malbec wines that have been grown in the region since the Middle Ages.

It dubs itself the global ‘Capital of Malbec’ and Château de Haute-Serre and Château de Lagrezette are two local producers who welcome visitors. 

Lagrezette has a tasting facility right on the riverbank in Cahors, while Haute-Serre offers tastings (and has an on-site restaurant) at nearby Cieurac.

The medieval quarter of Cahors, with its many narrow streets and alleyways and the unique 14th-century fortified Valentré bridge, is popular with history buffs and it hosts a major blues music festival each July. 

Surrounded on three sides by the River Lot, Cahors was founded in the 1st century BC and was once home to a massive Roman amphitheatre. Pope John XXII, who was born Jacques Duèze, was born in Cahors in 1249.

The Valentre Bridge, the symbol of the town, was completed in 1378 after 70 years of work. The Tourist Office offers walking tours that take it in, along with the Saint-Etienne Cathedral, a national monument surrounded by lovely gardens, that dates back to the 12th century.

There is, inevitably, a petit train (May to September), while street markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the shadows of the cathedral – and are considered one of the best country markets in France, which is no mean feat. Many sell local wine, a perfect match with regional charcuterie.

The Grand Hotel Terminus, near the railway station, offers rooms from 70-160€ and has free wi-fi in public areas. It is also home to the upmarket Le Balandre, regarded as Cahors’ finest dining room, where young chef Alexandre Marre is building quiet a reputation. 


We also much enjoyed the atmospheric Auberge de Vieux Cahors (try the duck foie gras tart or the scallop salad), while Le Marche comes highly recommended and Le Vinois is surrounded by vines. 


Qantas Airways and its partner Emirates offer access to 33 European destinations, including daily A380 flights to Paris and Rome. www.qantas.com.au. 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Sapa: A place where time has (almost) stood still

There are few places on the globe nowadays that are completely untouched by the modern world. Even in the most remote villages on earth you'll find locals with mobile phones and kids wearing Manchester United replica tops.

One of the few places that remains (largely) authentic is Sapa a small and remote town in northern Vietnam that was established as a hill station by the French in 1922. 

Sapa today is a fascinating destination offering views of cascading rice terraces, high mountain ranges (with Mount Fansipan the highest of all), alarming ramshackle roads and hill-tribe people, many of whom still live in the traditional manner of their forefathers.

Take an overnight train between Hanoi and  Lao Cai (and then a minibus taxi on to Sapa) to explore the local villages and markets and maybe enjoy some trekking torwards the Chinese border and the settlements of Lao Chai and Ta Van

Lao Chai is a small settlement populated by the Black Hmong ethnic minority hill tribe, the majority of whom still wear traditional garb.
It can be hard to communicate with the locals, but a glance inside some of their huts showed just how tough life is for the minorities, most of whom are subsistence farmers or live from sales of hand-made clothing and jewelry to tourists.

The villages have schools and makeshift clinics – and the odd hut even has a satellite dish, even though the electricity is generated by the water from local streams.

The huts are gloomy with bare earth floors and large families often eat, work and sleep in just a couple of rooms. The air is thick with the smell of woodsmoke.

Our next stop was the village of Ta Van, home to the equally colourful, if more reserved, Giay people. 
If the weather had been better, and we’d had more time, we could have continued to the Red Dao village of Giang Ta Chai. Alas, we were beaten by the elements.

Back in the frontier town of Sapa there are plenty of restaurants – the pig on a spit is particularly appetising - and a splendidly colourful market at which the Hmong and Dao women will attempt to sell you their brightly dyed clothes, blankets and cushion covers and you can buy a range of fresh spices (right).

The town is home to dozens of ethnic minority groups, whom you can distinguish by the colours of their distinctive traditional garb.

This is the real thing, however, not for the squeamish. We saw a buffalo being butchered by several eager locals after being slaughtered at the side of the road and several dead (unidentifiable) animals hanging up in one local’s home, being preserved by the smoke. Our guide fell silent, so they may have been dogs.

The Hmong women sell jackets, bags and shirts, and the Dao women, wearing striking red headdresses, some wonderful deep-blue clothing dyed with indigo. They are surprisingly aggressive and insistent salespeople, not at all shy with visitors and keen to haggle over prices.
Some of the accommodation can be rough and ready, so make sure you book in somewhere where there is heating available. We met one couple who paid just $10 a night for their room in a local guesthouse, but spent it with teeth chattering as all the heaters had been allocated.

Be prepared, too, when you go out walking, as temperatures plunge below zero in the winter months – quite a shock when it has been 35 degrees in Hoi An just a few days earlier.

Things will go wrong, Sapa was only opened to tourists in 1993 and the infrastructure at times struggles to cope with the demands of worldly tourists. The compensations, however, are many and varied.

The Victoria Sapa Resort and Spa, built in alpine chalet style (above), is the only luxury hotel in the area, although there are plenty of homestays and boutique hotels of varying quality. Opened in 1998 and staffed by a mix of Europeans and charming locals, it offers all mod cons, including comfortable bathrooms and satellite TV. Phone +84 20 871 522 or see www.victoriahotels-asia.com.

New Qantas Hong Kong lounge dresses to impress

Qantas has had some recent issues; but judging by flawless economy and business class flights from Melbourne to Hong Kong return and the chance to check out the new Qantas Hong Kong Lounge, it is once again hitting the heights.

While signage is poor (something staff say is being addressed), the service in the lounge is outstanding. 

Guests are greeted at the door, given a tour and shown a range of seating options.

They can sit at the bar and enjoy cocktails, wines, beers and spirits, perhaps accompanied by some delicious barbecued pork and rice, or enjoy table service in the restaurant area (think dishes like stir-fried beef with black bean sauce).

Alternatively there is a very good buffet with a range of vegetarian options and some five desserts from which to choose.

Staff say that many Qantas Club, business and first class flyers are opting to have a full meal in the lounge and then go straight to sleep when they board their flights.


Qantas International CEO Simon Hickey has said the new multi-million dollar lounge is designed for that specific purpose.

“All of our flights from Hong Kong to Australia are overnight, so we know customers will enjoy being able to dine in the lounge before they fly so they can maximise their sleep on board,” he said.

The Hong Kong lounge builds on the menus of consulting chef Neil Perry, focusing both on local flavours and international dishes.

I was delighted to watch flights land and take off from my seat, which had power/USB points and was regularly visited by lounge staff offering dishes like steamed pork dumplings from yum cha trolleys, and constant drink refills.

The bar staff can conjure up Spice Temple-inspired cocktails – and there is a very good selection of wines from the Treasury Wine Estates stable, including names like Wynn's Coonawarra Estate and Heemskerk.

The usual lounge facilities like showers are available, and premium flyers can access services including shirt pressing and shoe shining.

The Hong Kong lounge is chic and modern with a range of seating options. It can cater for 300 guests, has 12 showers, a family zone and a flexible working area.

Qantas operates 28 return services each week from Australia to Hong Kong, with daily flights from Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Visit www.qantas.com.au for details.