Saturday, 30 September 2017

Head for the sun - and a tennis lesson with a Grand Slam champion

Soneva Fushi is one of those impossibly beautiful Maldives resorts.

All azure blue waters and hot and cold running luxury. 



It is a destination resort, but one which doesn't stand still.

Soneva Fushi's Christmas season packages include the chance

of private tennis lesson with former world No.4 Jonas Björkman 
of Sweden, a nine-time grand slam doubles champion and former 
coach of top 10 duo Andy Murray and Marin Cilic. 



The resort boasts that you can "celebrate your new rock-solid
backhand with a private sandbank dinner under the stars, while
learning the secrets of the universe from our resident astronomer".

Other highlights of Soneva’s festive programme include fine dining
with award-winning chefs, glass blowing, desert-island picnics 
and much more.

Limited slots are available and will be confirmed on a first-come, 
first-served basis.

For reservations visit the resort website at 
or call +91 124 451 1000.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Island paradise: A perfect family destination on Phuket

When you don't want to spend too much money but want to make sure the whole family has a great time in Thailand, note down the Manathai Surin Phuket; a delightful mid-range boutique hotel set back around 100 metres from sleepy Surin Beach.



The Manathai, part of a small but fast-growing chain, is an ideal base from which to explore Phuket and perfect for all ages, with an absence of sleazy bars making the area family-friendly.


With two swimming pools, activities including a cooking school and a luxury spa, and beachfront food stalls just a stroll away, there is plenty to keep both children and adults occupied.



Surin Beach is a magnificent long uncluttered beach perfect for children and good for snorkelling, kayaking or boogie boarding im summer.

Unlike at other, snootier resorts, the staff here seem to genuinely enjoy interacting with younger guests.

The on-site Pad Thai Restaurant at The Manathai offers an intriguing mix of Thai and western dishes and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Enjoy a traditional western breakfast, or opt for a spicy noodle soup or traditional Thai porridge. Even the fussiest eater will find something to their taste.



Within a few minutes' stroll are several family-friendly restaurants and a wine bar, while the hotel offers excellent cooking classes with one of the resort's top chefs.

There are those two pools and spacious, well-equipped rooms, including satellite TV stations offering a range of movies. Kids will enjoy looking at the traditional local fishing boats dotted along the coastal walk.

The front desk can arrange trips to the island’s aquariums, gardens and Buddhist temples with activities on offer including exploring sea caves in a canoe; walking tours of historic Phuket Old Town, elephant safaris, zorbing and bungee jumping.



There are plenty of souvenir shops and low-key massage joints within a few minutes of the Manathai. 

The verdict: an impressive small hotel with warm and helpful staff, great value and a good location less than 30 minutes from the airport.

Manathai Surin Phuket, 121, 1 Moo 3 Srisunthorn Road, Cheng Talay, Thalang, Phuket. +66 7636 0250. www.manathai.com/phuket

Manathai Hotels & Resorts is swinging into high season with an early bird promotion. Guests receive 30% discount when booking 60 days in advance for stays from November 28 onwards. Room rates are inclusive of breakfast for two persons.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Forget the food fraudsters: Here's French cuisine from the experts

How many recipe books do you have on your shelf? Probably dozens. 

And how many of them are a complete waste of time?

A well-known Australian chef goes to France for a month and returns with dozens of recipes. Or a British TV personality spends a few weeks in Mexico and comes back with the recipes he says we all need to have. 

I call bullshit. Many of these books look great but rehash the same old dishes or subtle twists on them. Or use ingredients we cannot access in Australia.



These trips are a nice little tax deduction/holiday with the wife/girlfriend but who can taste and reproduce 60 or 70 dishes over just a few weeks? The generic recipes are often sourced by the chef's assistants/acolytes. 

Far more useful, if less impressive on the coffee table, is a cookbook in the style of Lonely Planet Food: France From the Source. 

Here you'll find authentic French recipes "from the people who know them best". 

Divided up regionally, here you'll find recipes (often simple ones) from well-known chefs who specialise in regional and seasonal cuisine. 

Here are 63 recipes drawn from all over France with the ingredients and techniques described by those who have been making them for decades; not someone who just got off the plane and became an instant expert.

Think dishes like sardine pate, boeuf bourguinon or apple and rhubarb tartlet. And think chefs like Michel Guerard, Franck Lafon, Jean-Pierre Hocquet and Lionel Freitas. Local chefs who have perfected their regional specialities. 

Beautifully illustrated, this is worth more than a dozen glossy coffee table tomes to anyone interested in serious French cooking. 

Lonely Planet Food, France From the Source. RRP: $34.99.
  

Capital idea: How wine took off in and around Canberra.

Younger wine drinkers perusing reference books or guides from the 1960s or early 1970s will be struck by an obvious anomaly.

They will find no reference whatsoever to wines of the Canberra District, now the most established wine region in southern New South Wales.

Tim Kirk of Clonakilla
No mention of the iconic reds from Clonakilla, the stellar rieslings from Helm or the organic and biodynamic gems from Lark Hill.

The reason is simple. While Canberra wines are now a mainstay, the first vines were not planted until 1971, when a CSIRO scientist named Edgar Riek planted vines near Lake George.

Riek was followed by 20 or more small producers enticed by the massive variation between summer and winter temperatures; a major plus for grape growers.

Cool-climate regions tend to produce wines which have tart fruit flavours and more acidity, which fits with current wine fashions. Visionary Riek died last year at the age of 95.

One of those following in Riek's footsteps was Irish-born John Kirk, a scientist working for the CSIRO. He purchased a farm at Murrumbateman, around 40km north of Canberra, and planted riesling and cabernet sauvignon. He named the property Clonakilla (‘meadow of the church’) after his grandfather’s farm in County Clare.

In the late 1990s, Kirk was joined in the vines by his son Tim, a former traineee priest and Jesuit teacher, who bought a neighbouring plot of land and planted it with northern Rhone varieties including shiraz and viognier.

He blended those two grapes together, red and white, to create what became Clonakilla's flagship wine and one of the greatest reds in Australia.

Around the same time as Riek and Kirk were planting vines, another CSIRO scientist was also caught by the wine bug. Ken Helm, like Kirk, was captivated by riesling and cabernet and for over 40 years has played a key role in convincing Australians that dry riesling is an outstanding style.

Ken Helm of Helm Wines
Helm is still active in the wine industry and has been joined at Helm Wines by his wine-making daughter Stephanie, who also has her own label.

Throw in the likes of the Carpenter family from Lark Hill, former academics who started with chardonnay and pinot noir at Bungendore in 1978 and who now specialise in organic and biodynamic wines, and the Canberra District industry was built on firm foundations.

More recent arrivals including Eden Road Wines, Collector, Four Winds, Lerida Estate, Mount Majura, Nick O'Leary Wines, Capital Wines, Gundog Estate, Ravensworth and Shaw Vineyard Estate have added to the region's vinous reputation.

What was just four decades ago a region with small wine farms owned by hobbyists, is an important slice of the Australian wine industry and a leader in the production of cool-climate wines.

Clonakilla leads the way, not surprising as John Kirk came from a family of hoteliers and as a teenager in Lisdoonvarna, Ireland's matchmaking capital, he used to work behind his parents' bar.

Kirk produced the Canberra District’s first commercial vintage in 1976 – a riesling/ sauvignon blanc and a cabernet shiraz blend.

Soon after, inspired by a visit to the great producers of the Rhone Valley in France, his son Tim caught the wine virus.

Teaching at a Jesuit school I had the opportunity every year to attend a prayer retreat,” he recalls. “Every time I tried to reflect on the scriptures I found myself thinking about the best ways to manage shiraz ferments.”

In the style of Cote Rotie, the Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier was born, a red wine with just a couple of percent of white grapes to add lightness. The great and good of the wine business attended a remarkable dinner to mark the 20th anniversary of the wine a couple of years ago.

Some argue this is Australia’s greatest red wine; it is certainly one of the greatest shirazes,” the Wall Street Journal reported. 

The over-riding principle that governs the work at Clonakilla is that the winemaking has to respect the fruit. In Tim’s view: “The task of the winemaker is to capture something that is present in the fruit; something good, unique, worthy of inspection, perhaps even beautiful. Carefully grown grapes from a noble site deserve the opportunity to express themselves in as pure a form as possible.

“It is important to resist the temptation to bury the fruit in too much winemaking artifice. The winemaking inputs we bring should serve the purpose of capturing the personality of the fruit, rather than imposing the winemaker’s vision for what the thing is supposed to taste like.”

Today, visitors to Clonakilla taste in an impressive new cellar door. It is a contrast to the tasting facility at Helm, where tastings are conducted in a former school hall once used for Temperance Union meetings.

The winery uses a combination of modern and traditional equipment and adopts a minimalist approach to winemaking, so that what you get in the bottle is as close as possible to what came out of the vine,” says Ken Helm, a long-time evangelist for the region.

Lunching at Lark Hill
Lark Hill, another of the pioneers, is now overseen by 2017 Young Gun of the Year finalist Chris Carpenter and is home to one of the best winery restaurants in regional Australia.

If you time your visit to coincide with the October long weekend (September 30-October 1), you can enjoy all the colour and diversion of the Murrumbateman Moving Feast, a low-key but very enjoyable food and wine festival, and sample wines from the Murrumbateman Cool Climate Wine Show.

On the Lake George side of town, Lerida Estate's Café Lerida is a popular lunchtime spot and the winery makes excellent pinot noir and pinot gris. Also try to find time to pop into Mount Majura (very close to the city) and Shaw Family Vineyard, which boasts a new restaurant.

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

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

First Adelaide; now the Gold Coast. Hobart gets connected.

First Jetstar announced direct flights between Hobart and Adelaide and now Tigerair Australia has announced a new route between Hobart and Gold Coast, providing the only direct, low-cost travel option between the two popular tourism destinations.


Starting from December 7, Tigerair will operate four weekly return services between the Island state and Gold Coast on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

At the same time, the airline will also add four additional return services each week on the existing Melbourne-Hobart route to meet growing demand.

In total, up to 16 additional return services will provide close to 3,000 additional visitor seats through Hobart Airport each week.

The new flights are timed for leisure travellers, departing Hobart at 8:50am (AEDT) to arrive into the Gold Coast at 10:20am (AEDT). The return services depart Gold Coast Airport at 10:50am (AEDT) and arrive into Hobart at 2:30pm (AEDT).

“This new route provides the only direct, low-cost link between two very popular travel destinations providing faster, cheaper access to both cities for tourist, budget and leisure travellers," Tigerair Australia acting CEO Peter Wilson

“Our great-value fares grow and stimulate air travel in this country. These new flights launching in December provide a welcome boost for tourism in both cities, covering the upcoming peak summer holiday travel period and the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in April."


Monday, 25 September 2017

The seductive appeal of sweet wines

Australia's wine industry was built on sweet fortified wines: among them ports, muscats and tokays.

Back in the 1940s and 50s, the days before anyone had even thought of planting chardonnay, or cool-climate pinot noir, “wine” usually meant port or sherry.

Fortified wines represented more than 75% of all wine sales - and most were extremely sweet. In those days beer was the average Australian's beverage of choice.


But times change and fortified wine styles have been swamped in popularity by the likes of New Zealand sauvignon blanc and Barossa shiraz.

Wine fashion, however, is proving itself determinedly cyclical.

Sweet wines are rising in popularity with moscatos taking centre stage for summer quaffing and a groundswell movement to lift the profiles and popularity of Australia's world-class fortified wines.

Many wine drinkers are unfamiliar, or uncertain, when trying to match sweeter wines with suitable dishes, but the general rule is that your wine should always be sweeter than the dish you are eating.

Wine and food pairings are matters of personal preference, however; so feel free to be a rebel. Food and wine orthodoxy is dead, (well almost).

It used to be that sweeter wine styles, particularly those made from semillons and rieslings, were always paired with fruit desserts, tarts and cakes. Today, you can throw that rule book out the window and have some fun experimenting.

Pair a botrytis riesling or semillon, sweet wines with a good level of acidity, with pâtés, a terrine, or, for the truly decadent, foie gras.


Pour rich fortified wines over vanilla ice cream, or maybe enjoy a Jacob's Creek Prosecco Spritz with some smoked almonds as an aperitif.

That said, some classic pairings like sauternes-style wines and blue cheese, or a port-style drink with Stilton or Cheddar cheeses are timeless matches.

Sweetness in wine acts as a foil to rich foods, and as a counterbalance to spicy dishes, while sweet foods can make dry wines seem over-acidic and tart.

Sweet, high acid wines like De Bortoli's benchmark Noble One, made from semillon infected with botrytis cinerea, has the acidity that will cut through the fat in pâtés and the wine's sweetness will complement rich dishes.

Fortified wines comprise grape juice to which a distilled spirit, usually brandy, added. They are made in many different styles, including port, sherry, Madeira, marsala and vermouth. In regions like Rutherglen in north-east Victoria, and the Barossa Valley, Australian fortified styles still include tokay (topaque) and muscat. 

Sweet table wines, often very intense, are either made when botrytis, or noble rot, occurs in the vineyard when drier conditions follow wet weather. This is the case with Sauternes from France or Tokaji from Hungary.


Sweet wine has residual sugar in it, because during fermentation the yeasts did not consume all the sugar.

Other winemaking methods include when grapes are left to hang out on the vines after achieving full ripeness, while cheaper sweet wines can be made by simply adding sugar, a process known as chapitalisation.

While many people automatically pair red or fortified wines with cheeses, sweet whites are a delight, particularly with washed-rind and softer cheeses.

In the US, the big, sweet reds made from zinfandel grapes are a popular pairing with bitter, dark chocolate, while Australian sparkling reds are often paired with a traditional Christmas turkey. Different strokes for different folks.

There's a lot of fun to be had experimenting but there are three key factors to be considered when you decide which wine will go best with dessert.

For custard or vanilla-flavoured desserts opt for late-harvest whites or demi-sec (semi sweet) sparkling wines like moscato, Asti Spumate or Domaine Chandon's Cuvee Riche.

For fruit and spicy desserts try botrytised white wines, while for caramel and chocolate desserts, port and muscats generally work well.

When it comes to main courses, off-dry wines like late-harvest-style rieslings or gewurztraminers, can be matched with fiery Thai, Hunan or Szechuan dishes as a splash of sweetness can temper spice impact.

Many of the sweeter wine styles match brilliantly with the more pungent cheeses, especially blue cheese.

Moscato is a sweet, lightly sparkling wine that is usually enjoyed as an aperitif. Some adventurous friends of mine insist it is the perfect partner for eggs and bacon around brunch time.

That is a combination backed by leading Gold Coast sommelier and author David Stevens-Castro, who recommends pairing fluffy scrambled eggs with mango salsa in his book Paired.

Sugar, fat, and salt, consumed together, can produce the most ethereal gastronomic harmonies like sweet table wines with chicken liver mousse or pâté, or moscato with charcuterie.

Port and blue cheese and you have a wine match made in heaven, while muscats and topaques, often seen as wines for older folk, are ideal when enjoyed late at night in front of the winter fire, perhaps with a coffee, or even as a cocktail ingredient.



Try Blue Wren winery's white port mixed into a long drink with lime and soda: delightfully refreshing and a fun mix of old and new.

DID YOU KNOW?

Farewell sherry, good evening apera. So long tokay, greetings to topaque.

Under a deal with the European Union that calls on Australian winemakers to stop using European names or regions, many wine styles now bear new names.

The names to disappear from Australian labels include Burgundy, White Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Manzanilla, Marsala, Moselle, Port, Sauternes, Sherry and Tokay.


All of them are names of towns or regions in Europe. Sherry, for instance, is an old English name for the Spanish city Jerez, while port comes from the Portuguese city of Porto.

Port-style wines made in Australia are now labelled simply as vintage, ruby and tawny fortified. Ruby is the least expensive and youngest while tawny is aged longer in barrel to take on a darker colour. Muscat, however, can still be called muscat, as it is the name of a grape variety.

For wines in these timeless styles try labels including Seppeltsfield, Campbells, Morris, Chambers, All Saints, McWilliam's, Penfolds, Seppelt and Yalumba. 

# This is the original version of a story that appeared in Nourish Magazine 

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Why one flyer is seeking a big, fat payout

What, exactly, are your rights if you are flying and the morbidly obese person in the seat next door spills over into your space? 

Even more concerning, what are your rights if the infringement into your personal space causes you injuries? 

It is a growing concern both for airlines and passengers given the increasing number of flying fatties; particularly in the US. It is not about fat shaming, it is about making sure you get value for your money.


An Australian passenger is seeking hefty compensation from American Airlines after being "squashed between two 'grossly obese' " flyers on a 14-hour flight from Sydney to Los Angeles.

Michael Anthony Taylor, 67, is seeking $100,000 (about US$72,000) for his uncomfortable flight which, he says, exacerbated his pre-existing scoliosis, and caused back and neck injuries.

He said he spent most of the flight "crouching, kneeling, bracing or standing."

The flight which took place in December 2015, was fully booked. Should the airline have upgraded Taylor, or re-booked him onto a later flight?


I guess we will find out when judgement is handed down - although airlines often seek to settle cases like this to avoid a precedent. 

I hope Taylor gets a big, fat payday. If you've paid for an airline seat you deserve all of it, not just a percentage.  

Are you fussy about which hotel room you get? Help is on the way.

Are you the style of traveller who likes a corner room with different views? Or do you prefer to be right by the stairs in case of fire, or at the end of a long corridor for the peace and quiet? 

Whatever room you want, you will soon be able to book it in advance. 



British travel agent Thomas Cook has launched a new service that allows customers to choose their specific hotel room before they leave home.

For a €30 fee, per booking, customers can see a floor plan of the hotel and then select a specific room from those available in their room category.

They will receive an invite to use the service six days before departure.

The new initiative is already available in 50 hotels, across all six of Thomas Cook's own-brands, in destinations including Gran Canaria, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Majorca and Tenerife.

Thomas Cook says it will be available in 300 hotels by summer 2018.

Its research showed 87% of customers said they would likely use the service and a trial in a small number of hotels resulted in a 20% conversion rate.

Thomas Cook says it is the first UK package holiday company to offer the option.

"We have always prided ourselves a pioneer in the travel industry and this innovation is receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from the customers who've taken advantage of it," said Thomas Cook UK managing director Chris Mottershead. 

Agents are being informed of the new service via a video, so they can explain how it works to their customers.It surely won't be long before the service spreads globally. 


Elderton's new cellar door is a real family affair


It is all change at Barossa Valley winery Elderton, where second-generation owners Cameron and Allister Ashmead have opened up their family home in Nuriootpa as the wine label’s new cellar door.

The opening of the former Tolley Homestead was low-key, marked by a Facebook post: "After more than 30 years in our old cellar door, things have moved to the next level. We welcome you to come and share the excitement in our new space, the original Elderton homestead."

After a major restoration to the building and surrounding gardens, the new Elderton Wines cellar door is one of only a handful to showcase a winery's heritage and history by opening up the family homestead to the public.


The new Barossa winery cellar door celebrates the Ashmead family history and their successes in the wine industry since their arrival in the Barossa in 1979.

The new cellar door overlooks the old-vine Command shiraz block and features a private lounge and dining room, a 20-metre swimming pool, helipad and tennis court for Elderton Wine Club members, four private tasting rooms and multiple outdoor areas including a vine-covered dining area overlooking the lawns.

It is a very exciting development for our family winery, and the whole team at Elderton cannot wait to show it off,” co-managing director Cameron Ashmead said.

The brothers grew up in the house with their parents, Elderton Wines founders the late Neil and Lorraine Ashmead.


Cameron Ashmead describes the building as: “One of Australia’s grandest examples of gentleman’s bungalow architecture from the World War I period.”

The new cellar door will provide facilities for private bookings, personalised wine experiences, bespoke wine events and corporate functions. 

Visitors can also enjoy seasonal platters and tasting plates, coffee, learn about Elderton’s award-winning wines in the public tasting room and enjoy the lawns and gardens surrounding the homestead.

Elderton is at 3-5 Tanunda Road, Nuriootpa. Weekdays 10am-5pm, weekends 11am-4pm.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

New venture for wine's perpetual-motion man


There are seldom enough hours in the day for global wine industry player Martin Krajewski.

A self-made man, the English son of Polish immigrants, he owns wine businesses in France and South Africa and is casting glances towards Australia for the second time.

He recently sold his Bordeaux business, Chateau de Sours, to one of the world's richest men, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma. He's close to Ma and is helping him as a consultant.

The sale of Chateau de Sours, home of one of France's most vaunted rosés, enabled Krajewski to concentrate on his impressive Grand Cru St Emilion estate, Clos Cantenac, and his South African venture; Aristea.

Krajewski, who worked with former Penfolds Grange maker John Duval on the Songlines/Bylines business in Australia, also owns Chateau Seraphine in Pomerol and has recently invested in a private distillery in Norway called Oslo Handverksdestilleri.

The former owner of a recruitment firm in the City of London is a major figure in the world of contemporary art and is casting covetous glances at cool-climate vineyards in Tasmania, saying: "I will be down next year to have a good close look."


Like many of the super-rich, Krajewski is down to earth and humble with few airs and graces. He's been a friend for a while now, and our most recent meeting was at a pub in La Perouse when he hit Sydney to promote both Chateau de Sours and Clos Cantenac, both of which are distributed in Australia by Oatley Fine Wines.

Now he and his business partners - Florent Dumeau, a leading oenologist from Bordeaux, and Matt Krone, a local winemaker whose family pioneered sparkling wines in South Africa some 12 generations ago - have released their first Aristea wines.





"The aim of Aristea is to produce exceptional wines which speak of their terroir and reflect the Cape itself, from its harsh landscape to its raw beauty," Krajewski says.

"Even the name, Aristea, reflects one of the many plants found only in the Cape which requires the brutality of fire to allow it to flower, and then for just one day."

Aristea owns no vineyards but draws on long-established relationships to source some of the best fruit from around Stellenbosch.

For its market début, Aristea has released a 2016 chardonnay and 2015 cabernet sauvignon from Stellenbosch but there are some MCCs - Méthode Cap Classiques - in the pipeline, needing a few more months on the lees before they are released.

The launch in London early this month proved a success, with quantities already limited. For those interested go to www.privatecellar.co.uk or www.aristeawines.com.

"These wines are the result of four years of very hard work, struggle and careful planning, but it has been well worth the long wait as they 'sing' a new song about South Africa and it's wonderful promise and for that Matt Krone, Florent Dumeau and I are happy and grateful to have experienced the long journey together," Krajewski said.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Somewhere sophisticated, sexy and safe to stay in Johannesburg


If I am staying in much-maligned Johannesburg then boutique hotel Ten Bompas is my accommodation of choice; budget permitting.

The helpful staff, brilliant location and chic surroundings make Ten Bompas my home away from home in this vibrant, edgy African city.



The hotel is situated in a tranquil garden setting in the upmarket neighbourhood of Dunkeld West and is close to the business and entertainment hubs of Rosebank, Hyde Park and Sandton.

There are just 10 rooms at this leafy oasis and personalised service is a major drawcard for me at the all-suite hotel and restaurant complex.

Each suite is furnished individually and there is an unmistakable European vibe (the owners also own a property in France).



The inspiration behind the name of the Ten Bompas restaurant Winehouse is a painting of Amy Winehouse by Joanna Flatau a Poland-born artist living in Paris.

The owners of Ten Bompas first met Joanna in Lagrasse, Languedoc, where they purchased her iconic painting for the quirky hotel eatery.

Space, meanwhile, is a contemporary event and conference centre designed for Ten Bompas by award-winning architect Enrico Daffonchio.Wrapped in glass and steel, the interior of SPACE is a blank canvas, allowing users to customise their functions and events.

There are all the luxuries you'd expect from a boutique hotel; security, a swimming pool, gardens and same-day laundry.

All suites comprise a separate lounge with guest toilet, workstations and wood burning fireplaces, a large bedroom with king or twin beds and full bathroom and steam room.

Each suite leads on to a private garden or terrace and free high-speed wifi in all rooms, lounges and public areas.

Ten Bompas is part of the Design Hotels portfolio and is at 10 Bompas Road, Dunkeld West, Johannesburg. +27 11 325 2442. Rates start from $4000 a night (under $400) and are inclusive of breakfast, complimentary in-room mini bar, hot beverages and laundry service.
http://tenbompas-accommodation.co.za/ 


# Winsor Dobbin visited South Africa as a guest of Amarula and was assisted by South African Airways.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

A hotel bothers to ask guests what they really, really want

Hotel rooms and facilities often seem to designed by some strange creature who has never spent a night away from home. 

Stupidly placed lights, unworkable showers, uncomfortable pillows, power points that need to be accessed by climbing under the bed, ridiculously expensive wifi and so many more issues. Anyone who spends more than a few nights away from home has encountered them. 

So it was nice to hear about a hotel that actually bothers to ask its guests what they actually want. No surprise that hotel was the uniformly excellent Rees Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand. 

In preparation for launching its new luxury Rees Residences, general manager Mark Rose wanted to gauge what former guests thought and surveyed 5000 - who didn’t hold back on their feedback.

“So often we think we know what people want, but when you actually go to the market you actually find out – and some of the results were surprising” says Rose.

Top hotel and room amenities combined and ranked in order were: 
1. Free high-speed wifi, 2. Complimentary breakfast 
3. Car parking, 4. A room with a view, 5. Daily housekeeping. 

The items and amenities that made the least favourite list were the in-room Bible, turndown service and complimentary magazine selection. 

The survey identified a parochial preference for ‘Linden Leaves’ when it came to a choice of bathroom amenity brands in order of popularity. The Kiwi brand beat international rivals L'Occitane en Provence, Hermes and Molton Brown.

Many guests were surprised to sight condoms in a mini bar and thought hotel shower caps were “very 1980’s”.

Taking all these passionate responses into account, Rose says The Rees Hotel will now have fresh eyes and inspiration when it comes to deciding on which amenities and in-house comforts to provide guests.

Turn away now, unless you have an black Amex card


I love to dream about holiday destinations. Particularly exotic ones.

And when it comes to exotic, it would be hard to beat Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort, which sits on Quirimbas Archipelago off the northern coast of Mozambique.

Untouched, remote and exclusive, the African island hideaway measures just one kilometre long and 300 metres wide and boasts white powdery sands and azure waters.

And for those who have oodles of cash to splash, Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort has just launched Naturally Exclusive, a rare opportunity to enjoy the tropical paradise with a hand-picked selection of your friends and loved ones.

Naturally Exclusive offers a luxurious setting perfect for gatherings, intimate weddings or special occasions for the family.

The island accommodates up to 24 guests in 12 luxury villas, each with its own private plunge pool boasting endless views of the ocean.



Chefs are on hand to create breakfast, lunch and dinner menus; including traditional Portuguese-accented seafood.
Guests are offered a feast on the beach or an evening sail on a traditional dhow.

The region is part of the Quirimbas National Park, renowned for its coral reefs, and whale, dolphin and dugong populations.

Resort buildings are designed in tribute to the surrounds, with sustainable materials used wherever possible. Recycling and conservation are major trademarks.

How do you get here? A three-hour flight from Johannesburg's OR Tambo Airport and a 45-minute helicopter ride should do it.

The Anantara Medjumbe Naturally Exclusive opportunity costs $12,900 per night, for a minimum three-night booking, including accommodation for 24 guests, full-board dining created by personal chefs, and a selection of non-alcoholic drinks, house wines, beers and spirits.

Actually, that doesn't sound so expensive at all. If only I had some credit left on my cards. 

For more information about Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort’s Naturally Exclusive offer, visit 

http://medjumbe.anantara.com/Naturally-Exclusive-Private-Island/

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Discover one of the most romantic getaways in Asia


Sala Phuket, one of Thailand's leading independent hotels, is located on one of Phuket's quietest and cleanest beaches but is just a 20-minute drive from the international airport. 

It is regarded as one of most romantic hotels and is a popular wedding destination. No wonder. The setting is simply stunning.


This deluxe pool villa resort features private swimming pools in 63 of its 79 rooms, villas and suites, along with beautiful daybeds and outdoor showers. You can enjoy complete privacy if you opt for in-villa dining but you'd miss out on the spectacular sunsets from the poolside Sala restaurant.

There is a wide range of traditional Thai and western dishes on offer, with the signature Kanom Jin dish; rice noodles served with spicy red coconut curry slowly simmered with daily market fish and infused with ginger, kaffir lime leaf and shrimp paste.


The vibe here is chilled with Sino-Portuguese architecture combining with modern five-star facilities; a beachfront bar and, during summer, rooftop dining, offer cool spots for a cocktail or glass of wine from the award-winning list.

Mai Khao beach is great for a sunset stroll – and is often almost deserted. If you want to really get away from it all and spend some quality time with a loved one, then this is a perfect location.
  

Activities on offer for couples include snorkelling, elephant trekking, cooking classes and yoga, while on-site facilities include a gym, library, business centre, sea kayaks, bicycles, two beach-front pools, steam rooms, while there is high-speed wireless internet for those who simply must stay in touch.

Accommodation choices in this tranquil sanctuary include the signature pool villas and one- and two-bedroom pool suites and, as a special treat, guests can enjoy a long-tail boat day trip to the limestone cliffs of Phang Nga.

My bet, however, is that most guests will not want to leave their own little slice of paradise. 

Sala Phuket, 333 Moo 3, Mai Khao, Thalang, Phuket. +66 7633 8888. www.salaphuket.com


The writer travelled with assistance from Singapore Airways. SIA has operated services to Australia since 1967 and has grown from twice-weekly flights to Perth and Sydney to operating 126 weekly flights from six Australian cities. Alongside its regional wing, SilkAir, and low-cost carriers Scoot and TigerAir Singapore, SIA provides Australian travellers with access to a global network of 131 destinations in 36 countries through the world-famous Changi Airport hub, including Phuket. 

Airline flies its environmental credentials

British Airways has entered a partnership to design a series of waste plants that convert household waste into renewable jet fuel to power its fleet. 


I've been no great fan of BA's service in the past but this partnership with Velocys, a renewable fuels company, is part of the airline’s plans to develop long-term, sustainable fuel options. And that has to be a good thing.

The first plant will take hundreds of thousands of tonnes of household waste per-year, destined for landfill or incineration, including nappies, plastic food containers and chocolate bar wrappers, and convert it into clean-burning, sustainable fuels. 

This will contribute to the airline’s commitment to reduce net emissions by 50% by 2050.

As well as helping the airline industry reduce its carbon emissions this initiative will also significantly reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. The United Kingdom still sends more than 15 million tonnes of waste per year to landfill sites which not only damages Britain's natural environment but also releases further greenhouse gases affecting climate change.

The planned plant will produce enough fuel to power all British Airways' 787 Dreamliner-operated flights from London to San Jose and New Orleans, Louisiana for a whole year. It would be the first plant of this scale. 

The airline plans to supply its aircraft fleet with increasing amounts of sustainable jet fuel in the next decade. 

The jet fuel produced at the plant will deliver more than 60% greenhouse gas reduction, compared with conventional fossil fuel, delivering 60,000 tonnes of CO2 savings every year. This will contribute to both global carbon emissions reductions and local air quality improvements around major airports.

For details on British Airways see www.ba.com