Friday, 25 July 2014

Aravina Estate - a beautiful Margaret River winery you may never have heard of

The name Aravina Estate may evoke shrugs from even the most knowledgeable wine aficionados, but the former Amberley Estate facility is quickly becoming one of the "must visit" cellar door facilities in Margaret River.
Aravina Estate cellar door

The kitchen here is one of the major drawcards with former Cape Lodge chef Tony Howell creating some superbly innovative dishes; many with an Asian twist. 

Howell spent 14 years at luxury bolthole Cape Lodge before leaving to take up a position at nearby Aravina, which was established in 2010 by multi-millionaire Perth businessman Steve Tobin.

While the name is new the property is not; it was established in 1986 and now has 28 hectares under vine with plantings of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec, shiraz, tempranillo, sauvignon blanc, semillon, chenin blanc and chardonnay.

Tobin has completely revamped the cellar door areas, giving the rooms a French provincial feel, opening a private tasting room and the Aravina Gallery store selling homewares, as well as installing a children's play area and manicuring the beautiful gardens.

The Gallery sells everything from tea pots to cushions, books, jewellery and stemware. 
Chef Tony Howell

Under the Tobin regime, Aravina uses innovative viticultural practices, including the use of natural pest reduction remedies and minimal application of chemical sprays.

Chef Howell's team source local ingredients to showcase the meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits and cheeses available in the Margaret River region, sourcing organic and sustainable produce where possible with their seasonal menus. 

Some of the ingredients are sourced from their own potager and many guests choose to lunch outside on the deck, taking in the afternoon sun. 

Starters may include the likes of grilled palm sugar Carnarvon prawns with papaya salad and coconut and pandan rice ($24); crispy pork belly served with oxtail soup and noodles ($34) or braised Arkady lamb neck with house-made pappardelle, spinach and fetta. 

If is on the menu you must try the steamed duck yellow curry, crispy skin, fried peanuts, pickled chilli, herb salad (pictured left), while the flourless chocolate cake with marquise is another favourite among an impressive array of desserts.

There is also a new sports car gallery that will delight rev-heads and lovers of old vehicles, with the collection including a 1965 Aston Martin DB5, a 1973 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona “Competition”. a 1974 Holden L34 Torana and a 1984 Porsche Carrera 924 GT. 

Aravina Estate is at 61 Thornton Road, Yallingup, Margaret River. (08) 9750 1111. 



Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Wine bar? Fast food joint? Hobart has a new hotspot

He's the man with blowtorch and giant grill at events like Taste, Dark MOFO, the Cygnet Folk Festival and the Huon Valley Winter Feast - but now Stuart Addison wants to concentrate on his Hobart wine bar/eatery/bottle shop rather than catering to the masses at major Tasmanian events.
The revamped Tasman Quartermasters on Elizabeth is the brainchild of well-known wine identity and cook Addison, a colourful character who likes dining out to have a sense of theatre. 

TQ on Elizabeth serves a range of wines from Tasmania and around the world by the glass and bottle – and they can be matched with snacks like quesadillas, nachos and shwarma sandwiches, along with gourmet burgers, steak sandwiches and occasional surprises. Addison describes the offering as "ethical fast food".  

We started as a restaurant but now we are a wine bar that serves food,” he says.

The menu features slow-roasted South American-style “Picanha” steak with salad and fries ($19) or quesadilla with chorizo and roast capsicum ($8), perfect for snacking at any time of the day or night.   

Wines may range from the likes of premium Tasmanian labels Winstead and Bream Creek to imports from France and Spain. There are well over a dozen options by the glass; maybe something a little different like a sparkling chenin blanc from the Loire Valley or a cabernet franc from the same under-rated region. 

There is also a range of ciders featuring the likes of Ebenezer by Derwent Estate, Spreyton Dark, Willie Smith's Bone Dry and Lost Pippin Sparkling and a selection of craft beers both local and from interstate. 

TQ on Elizabeth is at 134 Elizabeth Street, Hobart. (03) 6239 9119. It is open 10.30am-late seven days a week. www.tasmanquartermasters.com.au

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Mornington Peninsula's best new serious/casual eatery

Terre is creating a lot of excitement on the Mornington Peninsula with its casual but innovative food and relaxed vibe. 

It pays to book well in advance at weekends when the joint can be packed to the rafters; not bad for an eatery that has only been open six months.

But Terre's popularity comes as no surprise as the team behind the restaurant at the old Tuerong homestead overlooking the Dromana Estate vines, has plenty of experience in top-end restaurants with front-of-house maestro Clinton Trevisi and kitchen couple Rowan and Janine Harrald all having enjoyed long stints at the legendary and much-awarded Royal Mail in Dunkeld. 

The dining room here is light and airy and casually dressed staff are mature and professional but never stuffy.
The menu changes constantly, reflecting what is available locally, and seasonally, but check out the house-cured meats, including a Wagyu bresaola. The charcuterie plates here, including duck salami, are justifiably in demand

There is an on-site kitchen garden providing vegetables and herbs and produce is sourced, occasionally foraged, from across both the peninsula and Gippsland. 

All pastries and desserts, Janine's speciality, are also made in house. 

The food here is described as "high-end bistro" in some publicity material, but it is of a far higher standard than that would indicate. 

The menu lists ingredients rather than dishes, so every plate that arrives is a surprise.

I started with "smoked eel, house-made pancetta, macadamia, white gazpacho, grapes" ($19 and pictured in the right) - which turned out to be an ultra-modern take on surf and turf, visually and texturally interesting and delicious - and a sensibly-sized portion, too. 

Other options included "foie gras brulée, brioche soldiers, duck ham, radicchio, pomegranate" and "prawn, stinging nettle and buckwheat 'risotto', lemon, saltbush'. So far so enticing.

For mains the options ranged from "duck breast, lentils, beetroot, quince, bitter cocoa" to "Jerusalem artichoke, mushrooms, cannellini beans, parmesan, thyme".

Being in a fishy kind of mood, I opted for "today's fish, parsnip, coffee, citrus, carrot coriander ($34)". From memory, the fish was a perfectly fresh, brilliantly cooked piece of John Dory fillet, with a starburst of other flavours; much like a gentle opera in your mouth (below). 
Everything on the plate was beautifully judged and some potatoes roasted with duck fat and rosemary ($9) would have been overkill midweek, but very welcome at the weekend.  
      
There are some tempting dessert choices like "lemon tart, meringue, candied fennel, coconut sorbet ($18)", or a selection of local cheeses served with walnut bread, lavosh and fruit paste ($27) to share.     

"We are not trying to replicate the Royal Mail in any way," Trevisi says. "It's about stripping back the formal dining experience and offering high quality service and interesting food with a relaxed atmosphere." 

The wine list here is small, certainly in comparison to that of the Royal Mail, but is well composed with a selection of 10 wines by the glass including the Eldridge Estate 2013 Fumé Blanc and a Dromana Estate 2012 Pinot Noir. 

The list sways from small Mornington producers like Garagiste and Cappi Estate through eclectic choices from interesting regions of France and Italy; a comfortable journey through both the New World and Old World.  

There are several terrific places to eat on the Mornington Peninsula and this is among the best - and it is only a 50-minute drive from Melbourne, making it a perfect day trip destination.  

Terre, 555 Old Moorooduc Road, Tuerong, Victoria. (03) 5974 3155. www.terre.com.au. Lunch: Wednesday-Sunday. Dinner: Friday-Saturday.     

# The writer was a guest of Mornington Peninsula Tourism. For other local options see www.winefoodfarmgate.com.au.   



Thursday, 17 July 2014

How a Tasmanian family is putting organic cider in the spotlight

A small family business in Tasmania's picturesque Huon Valley is helping put organic cider on the map.
Launched less than two years ago by a fourth-generation apple farming family, Willie Smith's Organic Cider is now widely distributed on the mainland.
Andrew Smith and his business partner Sam Reid have drawn inspiration from Andrew's pioneering forebears to create Australia’s first certified organic apple cidery and recently opened an apple museum and tasting facility.

“The great thing is that we can guarantee that everything in our ciders is 100 per cent natural,” says Andrew Smith. “We see our business as a tribute to the pioneers who first transformed Tasmania into the `Apple Isle’ with honesty and hard work.
The Smith family is synonymous with southern Tasmania – and apples. Andrew Smith’s great grandfather William first planted apple trees at his Grove property, just outside the town of Huonville, in 1888 and the orchard has operated continuously since.
While many orchards across the state have been pulled out as demand for Tasmanian apples has declined, the Smiths have persevered through tough times to prosper as the country’s biggest organic apple orchard (115 acres) and the sole organic apple supplier to Woolworths nationally.
A $250,000 cidery has been built on the family farm to brew Willie Smith’s Organic Cider - a premium product that aims to provide consumers with an alternative to highly-processed, artificially-sweetened ciders that are often made with Chinese apple concentrate.
Willie Smith’s direction is inspired by the cider making process of Northern France and is matured in oak vats to deliver a distinctive farmhouse style (or in the case of some special-release ciders, in barrels that have been used for whisky maturation). All products are made without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers or genetically modified organisms and with a focus on sustainable practices.

Andrew’s business partner in Willie Smith’s, former Diageo marketing manager Reid, is also originally from Tasmania and firmly believes the cider will be on par with the best from France.
“I'd like to think Tasmania and Australia can be recognised as world class producers of cider and perhaps even do what the wine industry did and export our product back to where it originated,” he said.
“We feel that with our cider and other Tasmanian ciders that have recently come on to the market, that Tasmania can regain the 'Apple Isle' moniker and return the apple industry to long-term and sustainable growth.’’
Reid and cider maker Rowl Muir-Wilson last year spent two weeks travelling to the world’s most famous cider regions - Normandy in France, Spain’s Basque region and Somerset in England, to explore the history of the cider-making craft.
“Linking with world class producers can only benefit us locally as we bring some of the knowledge, skills and experience back to Tasmania,’’ Reid said.
“Our business is in its infancy whereas most of these producers have been making cider for at least 200 years and many of them have links going back 400 or so years. We are hoping to learn from that experience and help move the Australian cider industry forward in the same way the wine industry learnt French techniques in the 1970s.”

The opening of the Apple Shed Museum and tasting facility just before Christmas was the latest step in the Willie Smith's story.
``We had so many people interested in what we are doing and just dropping into the packing shed, where we make the cider which has been fantastic,’’ Andrew Smith said. “Unfortunately it was a working operation which was not designed to handle visitors at any scale. We decided the Apple Shed would provide a much better experience.”
The development includes detailed history exhibitions about the apple industry – with artifacts dating back to the mid 1800s, including portraits of Willie Smith’s family – as well as cider displays, a tasting bar and a providore-style shop-front. The next stage of the project includes a copper still for the production of organic apple brandy.
The Apple Shed - 1942-built apple packing shed which previously housed a run-down museum, has now been totally restored and it and the tasting facility are key components of a soon-to-be-launched Tasmanian apple trail.
The facility, developed at a cost of more than $450,000, including a State Government grant of $150,000, has been inspired by European cider houses and features regional and seasonal produce platters developed by local foodie Michelle Crawford.
“We're conscious that Tasmania competes internationally for the tourist dollar and so we felt we had to do something world class to draw people down here.” Reid said.
Andrew Smith added: “The Apple Shed is a place that both acknowledges the apple industry's significant and at times challenging history and celebrates its vibrant future through the development of the cider industry.”
Willie Smith’s Organic Cider is available on-tap in bars and pubs and also available for purchase at premium locations in Australia. 

# A version of this article originally appeared in Nourish magazine 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Southwold: a quintessentially English seaside resort

A favourite retreat of well-heeled Londoners, the genteel Suffolk seaside town of Southwold  is hugely popular because of its many old buildings, cosy cafes and trendy gastro pubs.

On the North Sea Coast at the mouth of the River Blyth, Southwold was an important fishing port at the time of the Domesday Book but is now home to just a couple of thousand people — although its population swells dramatically over the summer months.

It's the perfect English beach town in microcosm with a massive lighthouse, built in 1887, a pier constructed in 1900 and refurbished in 2001 that extends 190 metres into the sea and boasts a collection of coin-operated novelty machines, and a picturesque village green. 

The parish church of St Edmund was built between the 1430s and 1490s and the town was recently described as "the crown jewel of the Suffolk coast" by The Daily Express. It closely resembles the set for a period TV drama and has been used as the setting for numerous films and television programs

There is a rowing-boat ferry service between Southwold and nearby Walberswick while the PS Waverley, the last ocean-going paddle steamer in the world, sometimes berths at the pier, while the brightly coloured beach huts are much photographed .

Known as the childhood home of writer George Orwell, Southwold is also the base of Adnams, brewers of traditional ales, and in more recent years wine merchants of renown. 

Adnams own and operate several local pubs and The Swan and The Crown both have excellent restaurants specialising in local seafood.

 The Swan, 350-years-old, is an endearingly old-fashioned pub with a warm bar, a traditional a la carte menu and 42 refurbished rooms. 

The menu features dishes like roulade of Dingley Dell pork shoulder, or roast sea bass with Jerusalem artichoke, mussels, fondant potato, ceps and truffle oil.
The Adnams gourmet store, Cellar & Kitchen, under the same ownership, is a "must visit" for lovers of fine food and wine while brewery tours are also popular.

For a terribly British experience invest in some fish and chips from Mark's Fish Shop and eat them al fresco in the bracing local air. Just don't expect too much of the beach.  

Qantas has daily flights to London from major Australian capitals. See www.qantas.com.au for details. Southwold is a two-hour drive from central London, or visitors can catch a train from London Liverpool Street or Stratford to Darsham and then catch a local taxi. 



Sunday, 13 July 2014

The best address in Venice? Style, great service and fab location

Venice can be an intimidating city for first-time visitors. Brash, alive, full of history and colour but very different with its waterways serving as the main transport arteries and its myriad of laneways, many leading nowhere. 

That makes choosing the right hotel even more important than usual. 

No one without intimate knowledge of Venice wants to stay on one of the outer islands, or in a remote suburb from which its takes an eternity to reach key tourist destinations like St Mark's Square and The Rialto Bridge.

So if it is position, position, position you are looking for let me present the gracious M Gallery Hotel Papadopoli. 

At the intersection of the Grand Canal and the smaller Tolentini canal adjacent to the Papadopoli Gardens, this grand hotel is just a short walk from the bus station and one stop, or an easy walk across the the Constitution Bridge to the Piazzale Roma vaporetto stops and the main Santa Lucia railway station. 

Lines 1 and 2 on the vaporetto (water bus) system take you to the Rialto market in around 10 minutes and St Mark's in 20 minutes.   

Gondola excursions can, of course be arranged with the concierge, with picks-ups directly at the front door.    

I described the Papadopoli on Twitter as "brilliantly situated and very well equipped" which might be an understatement, even in a city with plenty of beguiling locations. 

There are some excellent wine bars and trattorias within just a short stroll and the Scuola Grande di San Rocco with frescoes by Tintoretto is similarly close. Those aiming on shopping can find Murano glass outlets just around the corner. 

Set in an 18th-century mansion, the hotel has a boutique feel with just 97 rooms and suites, some with magnificent views like this one from room 328 (below), where I felt very comfortable indeed.


The rooms offer all life's luxuries, with both air-conditioning and windows that open, TVs with a range of international channels, a multi-device charger, safety deposit boxes, bathrooms with bathtub and shower, bathrobes, hairdryer and classy Culti bathroom amenities.

There is a rather grand restaurant serving regional specialities for lunch and dinner seven days a week, a bar that makes a pretty decent Bellini (this is Venice after all), served with some snazzy little snacks, and a computer in the lounge area for those keen to catch up on emails.

There is also, however, free wi-fi throughout the property - a nice treat. 

As you'd expect with an MGallery property there is a multi-lingual workforce well versed in hospitality - and local knowledge - although the breakfast servers (and there is an excellent buffet breakfast in the European style) did seem a little distracted.  
    
Prices here start from a very reasonable €155 per night, which seemed very fair to me for such stylish digs.   

M Gallery Papadopoli Hotel Venezia, Giardini Papadopoli- S. Croce, 245, 30135 Venezia. +39 041 710 400. www.hotel-papadopoli-venice.com.   

       

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

In the lap of luxury: travelling business class with Emirates

It is the travel equivalent of winning the lottery, or getting a date with a Hollywood movie star.

It's unlikely, unusual and very much appreciated. 

Like most readers of this blog I travel almost exclusively in economy class, so I've learnt to live with restricted leg space, sleeping while sitting upright, picking at dubious meals and sipping on second-rate wines. 

To be fair, Emirates' economy class is one of the best around - I even managed to enjoy a packed leg from Melbourne to Dubai en route to a recent assignment in Europe.

But being handed a business class boarding pass for the Dubai-Sydney leg when I checked in at chaotic Venice airport for the return was manna from heaven after a two-week trip away. 

How good is it to have a fully flat bed in which to sleep for as much of the 13 1/2-hour journey as possible? How good to have your own minibar with soft drinks and waters. How good to have a little bag with eye shades and travel socks? 

But is it really worth the extra money you pay (a considerable sum, or a whole lot of frequent flier points) to sit at the pointy end of the plane? 

I think it depends on your reason for flying. If you are on holiday with two or three weeks to wind down and relax after the flight, probably not. But if you are a businessman with an appointment a few hours after you arrive then it would be somewhere between tempting and essential. 

Business class customers on Emirates (those paying full freight, not freeloading journalists) get chauffeur-driven limousines to take them to their airport and meet them at the other end. 

Their baggage (and you get 40kg a head in Emirates business) gets express tags and, theoretically at least, comes out first at the other end. They are given fast-track coupons so so they can skip the immigration and customs queues - and get to use the luxurious business class lounges, which feature a choice of meals, spa facilities and even a shoe-shine stand. 

And on Emirates Airbus A380s, the aircraft that fly from Australian ports to the Middle East, the cabins could not be more luxurious (unless you stump up for first class, of course, where there is even a shower you can use at 30,000-feet).
There's a bar at the rear of the business class cabin, where you can enjoy a beer, wine, cocktails or finger food throughout the flight - and toilets where you probably could swing a cat. 

You can sign-up for in-flight wi-fi if you need to work during your flight, or you can choose from literally thousands of movie, TV and music choices - including first-run films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Nelson Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. A total of 1500 channels.

And unlike the folk in economy you can eat and drink when you want - before or after a movie, or during. Before or after you catch a nap stretching flat out.

There's a good choice of meals on Emirates, a selection of appetisers followed by either roast lemon chicken, green Thai curry seafood, lamb shank with spinach or a Reuben Sandwich (which was very good), as was the chocolate cheesecake for dessert.

Wine choices range from familiar names like Moet & Chandon, Craggy Range and Voyager Estate to a very good 2005 Les Fiefs de Lagrange Bordeaux. 

You can select from "light bites" like a deli selection, steak and mushroom pie, or fried udon noodles with prawns, at any time - and there are copious amounts of hot towels to make sure no one overheats amid the excess. 

And there are even four main course choices for breakfast and extremely solicitous service from very attractive people throughout the journey. 

Did I love it? Yes. Did I feel ridiculously pampered? Yes. Would I use points to upgrade to business? Yes. Would I pay? Maybe. 


Emirates flies from Australia to Dubai 84 times per week, with daily onward connections to 35 European destinations. Emirates provides 30kg of checked luggage per passenger in economy class and 40kg in business class. 1300 303 777 or www.emirates.com/au




        

Sunday, 6 July 2014

New range value adds for Tasmanian truffle producer

It is a frequent criticism of Tasmanian producers that they do not value add to their base product. 

Until recently apple growers were complaing about shrinking markets, yet very few of them made apple pies to sell to tourists. It is only the recent cider boom that has kept the industry afloat. 

Tasmania's truffle industry is soaring right now, and one producer is looking to cash in with a new range of products that includes some state firsts.

Tamar Valley Truffles has partnered with some of the state's most innovative producers to create value-added products that it says will be marketed across the globe - a bold move. 

From a truffled olive oil to a truffled sea salt, the range certainly offers some different flavours - and will be launched at the Melbourne Truffle Festival on July 11. 

Tamar Valley Truffles marketing manager John Baily said the business had formed relationships with many boutique brands from around Tasmania to create the range.

"We are really impressed with the first-class quality of our truffle range and proud to be leading the way in the truffle industry,"' he said. 

"Our freshly harvested truffles, often referred to as black gold, are sent around the world and this is a great way to keep some of the exclusive product close to home for everyday families to be able to enjoy.''

Tamar Valley Truffles says it believes its new olive oil is the first Tasmanian olive oil to be infused with Perigord truffle and is produced in conjunction with the Caccavo family in the Coal Valley - who own the largest olive grove in the state. 

A pre-packaged truffled risotto, also believed to be another first, has a shelf life of 12 months while Tasmanian Truffled Sea Salt is part of a partnership with Chris Manson and Alice Laing, from Tasman Sea Salt at Mayfield on the State's east coast. 

The range also includes truffle-infused shortbread, Tasmanian truffled bush honey and Tasmanian rainforest creamed truffle honey from Lindsay Bourke at Australian Honey, one of the largest apiarists in Tasmania. 

A Tasmanian truffled honey seeded mustard is also in the pipeline, while truffled cheeses are already in the market. 

See www.tamarvalleytruffles.com.au for details.


 


Saturday, 5 July 2014

A chic boutique hotel in one of Europe's most beautiful capitals

Slovenia, often described as the sleeping beauty of Europe, is one of the hottest European destinations in 2014 and its capital of Ljubljana is a beautiful old city that, unlike Budapest and Prague, is not yet over-run by tourists. 

The funkiest base from which to explore Ljubljana is the Vander Urbani Resort, a Design Hotel (www.designhotels.com) with ultra-cool rooms and public areas in the heart of the old town, where many of the buildings date back several centuries. 
The Vander Urbani, part Australian owned, comprises just 16 rooms in four renovated old houses just under Castle Hill on the banks of the River Ljubljanica - in a pedestrian-only district dotted with cafes and eateries. 

The hotel entrance is tucked away down a quiet laneway.

There's a rooftop terrace with a tiny pool, a yoga studio and a 35-seater bar/restaurant serving breakfast, set lunches and a la carte dinners, featuring traditional Slovenian specialities like slovenski struklji, dumplings with asparagus, cottage cheese, chives and wild garlic (€15).

Other choices include fillet of sea bass with clams, wine sauce and celeriac puree (€21) or maybe for lighter eaters gnocchi with smoked duck breast and silverbeet (€10).  

The menus devised by French chef Benjamin Launay feature seasonal ingredients from the local market and surrounding farms - and the lower level wine cellar (guests are welcome to walk in and make their selection) features some intriguing wines from Slovenia (more than 170 labels) and bottles from France, Italy, New Zealand and the US. 

The eco-friendly hotel, which has been open less than two years and was the first Design Hotel in Slovenia, also offers a tasting menu of Slovenian wines with local snacks, which can be enjoyed in the restaurant, or al fresco in the lane. 

The rooms are in five different categories, ranging from 16-35 square metres (and cost from between €120-280 per night). Most can be configured as twins or doubles and all feature safes with laptop chargers, TVs with over 200 channels (including a couple of porn offerings, so those with children beware). 

Minibars, Molton Brown bathroom amenities and designer furniture pieces are standard and, as is the case virtually everywhere in Ljubljana, there is free wi-fi throughout the premises. The best rooms overlook the river and there are plans for 10 more to be added as part of an expansion.

On the top floor you'll find a Chill Out zone with a unique glass yoga box, and a tiny infinity swimming pool (7m x 2m) which overlooks the Ljubljanica River.

In the other direction there is a fantastic view of the Ljubljana Castle and there are dozens of excellent eateries and bars within a very short walk, with excellent wine bar Movia less than a block away. 

The staff here are young and funky but with a "can do" attitude and the fact the old city is pedestrian only means the area is quiet. The downside is that there is a walk of several hundred metres to your car (parking is a subsidised 20 a night), although the hotel can call one of the city's free urban golf buggies to transport you if you are weighed down by luggage.

Vander Urbani Resort, Krojaska ulica 6, 1000 Ljubljana. +386 1 200 9000. www.vanderhotel.com. Bookings through www.designhotels.com. 


   

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

An airport hotel that gets everything spot on

You've just spent 24 hours flying halfway across the world. It's late and all you want to do is sleep. 

You've booked into an airport hotel but have to wait 45 minutes for the Sydney Supershuttle (a misnomer if ever there was one) to arrive, load your luggage, take you to your hotel (which is actually not at the airport at all, but in a nearby suburb) and then unload your luggage again. 

Or, alternatively, you could walk 50 metres across the road from the international arrivals hall and be asleep within a couple of minutes if you are staying at Rydges Sydney Airport. 

The hotel is part of the international airport precinct and you can check-in online, meaning you just pick up your room key and head upstairs. 

Having stayed at the hotel this week after a series of flights from Ljubljana in Slovenia I was extremely impressed. Here is an airport hotel that gets all the basics right: comfortable rooms, free wi-fi for all guests, a free shuttle running very half an hour to the domestic terminal and a restaurant that serves breakfast from 4am - recognising the fact that some guests might have early morning flights and need sustenance. 

And while the hotel virtually overlooks the runway - making it perfect for plane spotters - it is also extremely quiet. 

There are 318 rooms here, but the facility retains a boutique feel and the facilities include a bar, café, restaurant and gymnasium. 

And the beds, described as "Rydges Dream Beds", are extremely comfortable - so comfortable I was concerned about sleeping in and missing my connecting flight. 
All rooms feature air-conditioning, iron and ironing board, hairdryer, broadband and wi-fi, cable TV channels (and flat-screen TVs), minibar, tea- and coffee-making facilities and blackout curtains for those who want to sleep during the day. The bathrooms are large and well equipped.  

I didn't get to try dinner at the Blackwattle Grill restaurant, but it serves a very good buffet breakfast, while another dining option is the Touchdown Sports Bar. 

Overall I couldn't find a single thing to complain about - which will come as a surprise to those who know me well. Online prices start from a very reasonable $186. 


Rydges Sydney Airport Hotel, 8 Arrivals Court, Sydney International Airport, 2020. +61 2 9313 2500. www.rydges.com/SydneyAirportHotel‎.