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.

Parramatta moves upmarket with new five-star hotel

Parramatta,which has ambitions to be recognised as Sydney's second CBD, this week gets its first five-star hotel. 

SKYE Hotel Suites Parramatta opens its doors with 72 apartment-style suites. 

Each features L’Occitane toiletries, in-room dining from a modern on-site restaurant, a pre-stockable maxi-bar, the ability to choose your mattress firmness on each side of the bed, keyless entry and ‘virtual concierge’ tablets to enable access to all hotel services from each suite.
Amenities include a state-of-the-art gymnasium, pool, sundeck, spa, sauna and new restaurant, Husk & Vine Kitchen and Bar, which opened at lobby level on July 1.
Later this year cocktail operative Sven Almenning (the press release calls him a cocktail legend) will open a 26th-floor rooftop bar. 

When breaking ground for the development, Crown Group discovered archaeological remains integral to Parramatta’s historical and cultural past, including an 1840s house, an underlying convict hut, wheelwright’s workshop and the cellar of the Wheat Sheaf Hotel, which were preserved for public display and have inspired Husk & Vine’s decor.

The building itself is an architectural centrepiece for Parramatta, located less than 300 metres from Parramatta Square and a short walk from Parramatta’s train station and ferry wharf. 

Future SKYE Hotels Suites openings include Sydney CBD in 2018 and Green Square in 2019. 

SKYE Hotel Suites Parramatta, 30 Hunter Street, Parramatta. (02) 7803 2388.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

I want nothing this society's got; I'm going underground

The White Cliffs Underground Motel – the largest underground accommodation in Australia – has embarked on a major makeover including subterranean digging to further expand the 32-room hotel in the remote outback town.

One of only three ‘dugout’ motels in Australia, the White Cliffs Underground Motel attracts guests from around the world who enjoy a constant temperature of 22 degrees as well as a licensed restaurant, café, bar and above-ground swimming pool. 

It is located in a tiny opal-mining township is located in far western NSW, 1025km from Sydney and 781km north-east of Adelaide.

The motel dates back to the early 1900s when opal miners sought sleeping quarters away from the heat. It later became a family home and opened as a motel in 1989, with a new outback tourism company, Out of the Ordinary Outback, purchasing the property in 2016 as part of its growing stable of NSW outback experiences.

Unveiling details of the motel’s redevelopment, Out of the Ordinary Outback owner Scott Smith said eight rooms had already been completely renovated with new bedding and furnishings while beer on tap had also been added recently. 

Works to be completed by April 2018 included underground excavations to add en suite bathrooms to 12 rooms, a new family entertainment and games room, a new, outdoor lounge bar with wood-fired heater and flat-screen TV for use in winter, as well as eco-misting to cool down guests in outdoor areas in summer.

“Our underground motel in White Cliffs, a desert hamlet full of raw charm and colourful characters, is world famous so the aim of our upgrade is to improve amenities and further enhance the property’s appeal to guests from across Australia and overseas,” Smith said.

As part of the redevelopment, White Cliffs Underground Motel is offering a discount on two-night stays. Bookings made by September 30, 2017, are available from $291 per couple for two nights – an 11 per cent saving – or from $261 for solo travellers – a 13 per cent reduction. Tariffs include a continental breakfast both days.
Tri State Safaris and White Cliffs Underground Motel are owned by Out of the Ordinary Outback which also owns The Argent Motel in Broken Hill, the Warrawong on the Darling tourist camp and cabins at Wilcannia, the Copper City Motel in Cobar and the Ivanhoe Hotel. 

It all sounds like great fun. To book visit or call 1300 688 225.

A beginner's guide to alternative grape varieties

There is a world of new grape varieties out there just waiting to be discovered. 

It used to be quite simple when you popped into a bottle shop to buy a bottle of wine. If you wanted white you'd probably go for chardonnay, semillon or New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

If it was red you were looking for then shiraz, cabernet sauvignon or maybe pinot noir were what you zeroed in on.

Nowadays, the choices are endless. In addition to natural wine, biodynamic wine, organic wine and gluten-free wine there are hundreds of imports to choose from. Even more confusingly there are wines made right here in Australia made from grape varieties ranging from aglianico to zweigelt.

It is estimated that there are now close to 150 different wine grape varieties grown in Australia. Here is an A-Z guide of some worth keeping an eye out for.


Arneis: Originally from northern Italy, particularly Piedmont, arneis is a white grape that was often blended with nebbiolo in Italy. Known as “little rascal” because it is difficult to grow, in Australia it produces floral dry table wines for early enjoyment. Holm Oak Arneis from Tasmania is a benchmark.

Assyrtiko: A crisp, white grape variety from Greece that has just debuted in Australia, made by Jim Barry in the Clare Valley.

Aglianico: A red variety believed to originate in Greece that's now largely grown in southern Italy, it is tannic and tough in its youth. Used in a rose by Sam Scott for his La Prova label, it thrives in warm regions.


Barbera: The third-most planted grape in Italy, barbera is a red variety most found in Piedmont. It has been planted in Australia for half a century but has yet to find a real home despite being grown in the Barossa, McLaren Vale and warm regions of New South Wales like the Hunter, where Margan make an outstanding example.


Carignan: One of the mainstays of France's Languedoc region, carignan is found through the Mediterranean regions of Europe and is a high-yielding red grape often found in French bulk wines, along with cinsault. Often used in blends by wineries like Yangarra in McLaren Vale.


Fiano: Originating from Campania in southern Italy, fiano was imported to Australia in 1978 and has found favour with both younger producers and drinkers. A lively white variety that stars at Oliver's Taranga in McLaren Vale and Pike's in the Clare Valley.


Gamay: The classic light-red variety from Beaujolais in France, gamay is a refreshing red grape that is often blended with pinot noir – and can be chilled in summer. Look for examples from Sorrenberg in Central Victoria and Eldridge Estate on the Mornington Peninsula.

Graciano: A Spanish red grape that is grown primarily in Rioja, graciano has thrived in warmer parts of Australia. Woods Crampton source some excellent fruit from the Barossa.

Gruner-Veltliner: A spicy, white wine grape from Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic that can be made in both sweet and dry style. The first Australian version was made by Lark Hill outside Canberra, but there is a movement being led by Hahndorf Hill and other Adelaide Hills wineries.


Lagrein: This red grape originates from the cooler Alto Adige/Trentino regions of northern Italy and produces intense wines with plenty of length. Look for Hand Crafted by Geoff Hardy.


Mencia: Many good wine judges are upbeat about the future of medium-bodied mencia in Australia and this northern Spanish variety from Galicia has enjoyed something of a boom at home over the past 20 years. Oliver's Taranga is the flag-bearer here.

Montepulciano: Widely planted in central Italy, this is a versatile, rich and expressive red variety that has shown great promise in several warmer regions of Australia. Try examples from di Giorgio in Coonawarra and Amato Vino in the Riverland.


Nero d'Avola: Known as Calabrese in its native Sicily, Nero d'Avola is one of the success stories of new varieties in Australia, red-fruit flavours to the fore and easy to drink. Try standouts from Brash Higgins, Hither & Yon and Mount Horrocks.


Pedro Ximenez: Used as a fruit source for the sweet sherry-style wines of Spain and Portugal, “PX” is sometimes used in Australian fortified wines for Campbells and Turkey Flat, and has also produced some excellent sweet wines for the likes of St Hallett in the Barossa Valley.

Pinot Blanc: Grown in Alsace, France, as well as Italy (Pinot Bianco), Germany and Austria (Weiss Burgunder), this neutral but easy drinking white offers stone-fruit flavours and thrives in the Yarra Valley (try Hoddles Creek or De Bortoli).


Saperavi: One of the most ancient grape varieties in the world, this inky red originally came from Georgia (the country, not the US state) and is also grown in Kazakhstan and Moldova. Several Australian producers, including Symphonia and Patritti, are hopeful about its future.


Touriga Nacional: This Portuguese grape is one to watch and has been planted by high-flyers including d'Arenberg and St Hallett. It is used extensively in the production of vintage port at home and for both fortified and table wines in Australia. Look for Three Dark Horses and St Hallett.


Vermentino: One of the most successful new varieties in Australia, vibrant and fresh white variety vermentino is the most important white in Sardinia and also thrives in southern France (where it is known as Rolle). Dozens of Australian wineries have planted it: check out Billy Button or Chalmers.


Zweigelt: A lighter Austrian variety that is a cross between blaufrankisch and St Laurent, it is the most widely planted red grape in its homeland and has shown potential for Hahndorf Hill in the Adelaide Hills.

Zibibbo: An alternative name for the Muscat of Alexandria grape, and is also sometimes known as lexia. It is often blended in sweeter wines, but has enjoyed success as both fresh and crisp white and rosé sparkling wine styles for Brown Brothers. 

# This story is an edited version of one that appeared in Nourish Magazine 

Friday, 4 August 2017

A landmark Wynns Black Label hits all the right notes

A few decades ago now (Peter Douglas was still chief winemaker, so that makes it at least 25 years back) I attended an unintentionally hilarious wine tasting at Wynns Coonawarra Estate. 

This was well before Wynnsday and someone in the marketing department had decided to invite several writers from glossy women's magazines to join the usual grubby wine hacks to check out vintage. 

The ladies, all impeccably dressed and more used to fashion parades than crusher de-stemmers, watched as a load of fruit arrived - then recoiled in horror as two of the fattest rats seen in the Coonawarra region scurried across the fruit but failed to avoid being crushed and de-stemmed. 

The ladies screamed and whatever wine that fruit was used for had a higher than usual protein count. Which is why wine is rarely "totally" suitable for vegetarians. 

Nowadays, Wynnsday, held annually in the first week of August is Wynns big promotional event - marking the release, this year, of premium wines from the 2014 and 2015 vintages. 

I missed out on a structured tasting of 60 years of Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon (you can't expect an invite to every event) but have tried enough Wynns wines over the past decade to opine that winemakers Sue Hodder and Sarah Pidgeon, along with viticulturist Allen Jenkins, lift standards every year. 

Hodder says the range aims to reflect both house style and seasonality; and the 2015 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon is absolutely outstanding; cruising to a 96/100 score. 

The 1954 vintage of this wine was the first Australian-labelled cabernet sauvignon. Over the years it has become an affordable collectable. 

This year marks two milestones for Wynns. Senior winemaker Hodder celebrates her 25th vintage, along with the release of this 60th vintage of  Black Label cab sav. 

It is very approachable now; more Nick McKim than Eric Abetz, with a wonderful mouthful, balance and texture. Classic Coonawarra but with the ageability that comes with the appellation. Complex, beautifully integrated, and well worth every penny of the $45 being asked. 

I'd like to guide you through the rest of the Wynnsday releases (five in all), but my samples must have gone missing. You can't trust the post or courier companies nowadays! 

For details go here:

Thursday, 3 August 2017

A ridiculous travel bargain in Tasmania's Gourmet Farmer country

Anyone who has watched the Gourmet Farmer television series will be familiar with the jaw-dropping natural beauty of southern Tasmania's Huon Valley.

Just a scenic walk from Fat Pig Farm, you'll find Huon Valley View Cabin - an Airbnb property that offers one of the best-value accommodation that I've come across. 

If a Friday Feast long lunch at Fat Pig Farm is on your agenda, or you plan to explore Huon attractions like the Tahune Air Walk, Cygnet's cafes and artisan stores, the Hartz Mountains or Bruny Island, then Huon Valley View Cabin should be on your radar. 

Run by a local family au fait with all the regional gourmet secrets, this former artist's studio is bright and airy and has been converted into a very cosy completely self-contained country retreat with sweeping views down to the Huon River and across the water to the delightful hamlet of Franklin. 

You'll find a comfortable double bed and a single suitable for a child, a very functional kitchen and a brand-new bathroom with shower; fast, free wifi, digital TV, DVD player, music system, a wood fire for cool winter nights and a deck for taking in the views. 

There is a dining area and comfy chairs in front of the fire.

What's remarkable is that Huon Valley View starts from just $80 a night, with $15 per extra person. That means two nights of very comfy accommodation comes in at under $200 for a couple, which makes it a ridiculous bargain. 

There is even cereal, fresh milk and coffee thrown in, alongside some cupboard necessities. The village of Cygnet is just an eight-minute drive away for those who want to stock up on goodies prior to their arrival. 

And you'll find a couple of chocolates from local chocolatier Cygneture on your pillow - you don't even find that at five-star hotels nowadays. 

It's lovely downhill 30-40-minute walk to Fat Pig Farm and several local vineyards, as well as the river - and hosts Jane and Philip will pick you up if the climb back uphill seems too arduous. 

One warning; you'll need a car, as the rustic chic cottage is on a dirt road a few clicks off the main highway, which means it is perfectly quiet and home to wildlife including possums and raptors. 

Guests are invited to stroll the grounds and help themselves to vegetables, or eggs from the resident chickens - a real country experience. 

Beaches, bushwalking, markets are all close by. My only complaint is that the towels were too small, but I find that a lot nowadays.

For those who want to rustle up a meal or two using local ingredients, the kitchenette has a microwave, induction cooktop and a bench-top oven. 

The wifi is super-fast NBN - so you get big city conveniences in the country. I'm tempted to check in and I live just down the road! 

The new series of Gourmet Farmer screens on Thursdays at 8pm on SBS TV. 

Huon Valley View Cabin is available on Airbnb at:


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

What is it that hotel guests really want?

What really gets hotel guests excited? 

It certainly isn't the chance to party, or meet new people. And they hate being out of digital contact.

A survey of over 5,000 travellers from around the world conducted by AccorHotels and GFK research institute to find out who an ideal travel companion would be in 2017 revealed that a fast and free internet connection is what 47% of people surveyed chose as what they missed most when away from home. 

This is especially true in the 18-24 age bracket, with 54% wanting to stay in touch. 

Preferred travel companions remain spouses, children and friends. But 19% of travellers consider their favourite travel companion to be themselves. 

A remarkable 25% of Germans, Americans and Indians surveyed said they prefer to go away on their own.

The survey showed 38% of respondents said that their bed and pillows are what they miss the most when they’re away, which was almost as many as those who said they missed friends and family the most (40%).

In contrast to the Aussie stereotype, only 16% of hotel guests told Accor they were travelling to party. Younger travellers, aged 18-24, were keenest on the idea of solo trips, but were also the happiest to travel with friends.

Overall, fewer than half of respondents wanted to travel with their friends, and only about half were keen on the idea of taking kids on vacation.

# Online study conducted by, assisted by the research institute GfK in 2017 with 5,939 men and women aged between 18 and 65 who have spent at least one night in a paying establishment (hotel, guesthouse, bed and breakfast etc) over the past 12 months. Study conducted between April and May.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Las Vegas: a magnet for winners, and losers

It's been a while, but there is nowhere on the planet quite like the Las Vegas strip.

Six kilometres of neon excess; 24-hour entertainment; casino after casino, hooker after hooker (sorry, hostess after hostess). Replicas of an Egyptian pyramid, the Venetian Grand Canal and the Eiffel Tower.

The scent of optimism, balanced by the bitter stench of desperation. The whole world in one city. The entertainment capital of the world. The casino capital. The fight capital.

Would-bes come from all over the world to this garish temple of overindulgence and intemperance in the Nevada desert.

Most arrivals at the airport dream of making it big; on the roulette wheel, as heavyweight champion, as the next Elvis Presley, or marrying Mr Right.

Like Hollywood Boulevard, it can be a road to glory or a place of broken dreams.
The greed here dwarfs any greed you have experienced; everyone is on the make. There is only one currency that matters; how much money you have in your pocket (or perhaps the colour of your American Express card). Same same.

That's the thing about Las Vegas. The glitz and the promise of better days can grab you; give you unrealistic ambitions. It is all too easy for a high-roller at ringside to morph within 24 hours into a low-roller with a seat so far from the action it is like watching ants in combat.
You can spend day after day chasing the almighty dollar, not sure whether it is day or night. Winners are celebrated and feted; losers trudge through the heat and dust and head for the bus station.
While it is a magnet for high-stakes poker players and gourmets, five-star hotel lovers, fight fans and night-life lovers, Las Vegas can also be an outdoor destination for those willing to step away briefly from those flashing bright lights.
Close to the city are the Red Rock National Conservation area, Lake Mead National Recreation area and Mount Charleston. 

There are also Las Vegas helicopter tours, Grand Canyon tours, the Hoover Dam, and Las Vegas strip tours departing every few minutes.

Las Vegas continuously reinvents itself, so even regular visitors among the 43 million who make the trip annually will never run out of fun things to do.

This is not a city for taking lightly. There is a grit underneath the glitter but the adventurous will be well rewarded; until their money runs out.
Qantas return flights to Las Vegas from Sydney and Melbourne via Los Angeles start from $1200. Visit