East Coast Wine Trail

East Coast Wine Trail
East Coast Wine Trail

Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Go behind the scenes at world-famous Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world - and a symbol of modern Australia.

Celebrating its 50th year, it is one of the world’s busiest performing arts centres, the nation’s premier tourism destination and an architectural masterpiece.

It is mark its 50th anniversary with a year-long season of special events and performances and today announced a brand new intimate tour, Hidden House, launching for a limited-run from June to October.

From pulleys to props, scenery to sound-checks, the new tour has been specially curated to open up more of the Opera House to locals and visitors, exploring never-before-seen areas of Australia’s most recognised building.

The tour will journey into back-of-house spaces including the Concert Hall’s world-famous organ - believed to be the largest mechanical action pipe organ in the world – the follow-spot lighting room, which puts a spotlight on world-class talent from Lizzo to The Cure, and the Joan Sutherland Theatre’s backstage lift, which carries up to twenty tonnes of set props for performances by Opera Australia and The Australian Ballet.

Intimate groups of just 10 people will be hosted by two Opera House tour guides, and - for the first time on an Opera House tour - stage and lighting technicians will share anecdotes of what it’s like to work in the landmark.

Following the tour, a leisurely high-tea brunch will be served at Portside restaurant, known for its sweeping harbourside views.

“The Opera House is more than just a piece of beautiful architecture. It is a living stage for culture, creativity and imagination," said Sydney Opera House Chief Customer Officer Jade McKellar. 

"During our milestone 50th anniversary year, we’re opening up our doors in new and exciting ways so that more people can experience the magic of the Opera House. With this brand new tour, we’re drawing the curtain back on the building’s thriving epicentre and the powerful stories that bring our icon to life every day.” 

"The new Hidden House tour complements the Opera House’s quintessential tour which is available in seven different languages, the Mobility Access Tour, the Architectural Tour, Taste of the House, a guided culinary adventure through all of the Opera House’s on-site bars and restaurants, and the Junior Adventure Tour, perfect for little explorers."

More information can be found on the Opera House website.

Images: Ken Leanfore 

Qantas unveils details on its future strategy

Qantas has released new detail on its strategy through to 2030, as the Australian national carrier moves from what it describes as "recovery to renewal and growth".

My flight from Melbourne to Hobart yesterday was only an hour late, so things appear to be on the up.

At its first Investor strategy day since the Covid pandemic, members of the airline's management committee outlined long-term plans across key categories of customer experience, sustainability and satff.

The details unveiled included the next-generation fleet arriving from this year onwards (A220, B787 and A320-family). 

There are also plans for an overhauled Qantas app, launching towards the end of 2023, that will give customers more control over their bookings and the introduction of baggage tracking.

There will also be changes to Qantas’ boarding process from October aimed to improve on-time performance and to better recognise tiered frequent flyers.

Qantas will also launching a $400 million Climate Fund - promoted as the largest of its type for any airline - to accelerate progress towards sustainability targets.

Income is important, however, and through cost and revenue improvements, Qantas aims to sustain margins of 18% for Qantas domestic and 15% for Jetstar domestic from FY24 onwards.

Outgoing Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce (above) said: “This is a structurally different business than it was before Covid, operating in markets that have also changed. We’re very well placed to take advantage of the opportunities that creates and the detail we’ve released today shows our strategy to do it.

“New technology is central to our plan and the next-generation aircraft that have started arriving will transform our network over the next few years. We’ll be able to serve our customers better, reduce our cost base through lower running costs and carve out some new competitive advantages.

“Our revenue projections and track record for ongoing transformation show we can invest heavily in people and technology at the same time as generating strong returns for shareholders. That’s exactly the kind of national carrier we want to be.”

Group CFO and CEO-designate, Vanessa Hudson, said: “We’ve been clear on the significant level of investment in the pipeline and today we’ve given some detail on the returns we expect from it.

“We’re confident in reaching our FY24 margin targets and we’ve set some ambitious but achievable earnings goals beyond that, because we think ambition is key to long-term performance.

“All of the extra activity we have planned has to be underpinned by a focus on sustainability, particularly decarbonisation. We’re determined to be a leader in this space and that’s supported by the new commitments we’ve made today, as well as calling for more action industry-wide in the form of a sustainable aviation fuel mandate."

Monday, 29 May 2023

A new spirit from Scotland is a gin, not a whisky

The competitive Australian spirits market has a new contender from Scotland - but the newcomer is a gin, not a whisky.

Tulchan is a new super-premium gin from Speyside, with a bagpipe player on the label to make sure you know where it comes from.

Taking its name from Tulchan Estate, it is made with botanicals inspired by the terroir of the estate, which is located on the banks of the River Spey.

Tulchan Gin is being touted as a “a full bodied, juniper forward, London Dry gin, featuring 14 deliciously fragrant botanicals including sloe berries, elderflower and blackberry leaves”.

Asparagus (a little weird) also features.

Tulchan Gin is presented in an embossed blue glass bottle with Tulchan Gin’s own tartan running down the side. Another broad wink to its origin.

The gin is part of the Stoli Group portfolio of wine and spirits brands and is distributed by Amber Beverage Group in Australia.

Tulchan Gin global brand lead Kara Anderson says: “We are delighted to bring a slice of our wondrous estate to Australia. 

"Distilled in Speyside, in the heart of whisky country, we’re looking forward to introducing Tulchan Gin to whisky drinkers as well as gin lovers throughout the world.”

Available from Dan Murphy’s stores and Hairy Dog online. RRP $95.

See www.tulchangin.com

Leading chef offers a spiritual Sydney experience


Hickson Rd Distillery in Sydney is getting into the spirit of the Vivid Sydney festival with special celebratory distillery dinners on June 8 and 15.

The new Seven Spice Gin will be paired to new dishes created by chef Sean Connolly at Hickson House.

The venue was recently named among Asia Pacific’s Top 10 Best New International Cocktail Bars by Tales of the Cocktail (or so I am reliably informed).

Hickson Rd Seven Spice Gin is spruiked as "a unique culinary gin, created to enhance the meal occasion and provide a credible alternative to beer and wine".

It features seven local ingredients: native lemongrass, mountain pepper leaf, aniseed myrtle, finger lime, wattleseed, bush tomato and lemon myrtle.

Bar maestro Mikey Enright and his bar team have built a range of new cocktails around Seven Spice Gin, collaborating with friend and chef Connolly to create a menu of dishes to match the drinks.

Think dry-aged Muscovy duck paired with Seven Spice carrotini, a savoury-style martini; or scallops with native citrus butter matched to Seven Spice Myrtle Mayhem.

You can find Sean’s recipes with matching drinks here.

“I loved the challenge of creating a botanical-based menu," Connolly said. "Each dish heroes one botanical with the others supporting. Sitting at the bar learning about gins with Mikey and his expert team was a spiritual experience - pun intended.

"As we tasted Seven Spice Gin the culinary magic just happened naturally.”

The Hickson House ‘Distiller’s Table’ dinners cost $195 per person including all food and drinks.

For details see www.hicksonhouse.com.au

Sunday, 28 May 2023

Britain is not so great when it comes to travel technology

If there was a world championship for travel cock-ups then post-Brexit Britain would be a near certainty for a gold medal.

The past 48 hours have been particularly impressive.

British Airways, as is often the case, led the way with ‘chaos’ with a second day of flight cancellations following an IT issue.

BA cancelled at least 42 flights on Saturday due to knock-on effects.

Most were on short-haul routes from and to Heathrow Airport. The IT glitch grounded around 80 flights on Friday.

All passengers have been advised to check their flight status before leaving for the airport

“While the vast majority of our flights continue to operate, we have cancelled some of our short-haul flights from Heathrow,” BA said.

BA says most cancellations are on routes where there are multiple departures a day, Travel Mole reported.

In-coming passengers, meanwhile, suffered delays of up to four hours after passport e-gates failed.

Travellers were stuck in queues at airports including Heathrow, Manchester and Gatwick.

All airports across the country using the technology were affected.

The e-gate system speeds up passport control by allowing some passengers to scan their own passports. It uses facial recognition to verify identity and captures the traveller's image.

People flying into the UK had to have their passports checked manually, with larger airports with e-gates most affected.

Sculptures below the sea for tourists and locals


Busselton Jetty is one of the biggest tourism attractions in Western Australia.

It is the longest timber-piled pier in the southern hemisphere at 1.8km long and dates back to 1865.

The jetty features a rail line along its length and an underwater observatory, one of only six natural aquariums in the world, which opened to the public in 2003.

A new observatory, the Australian Underwater Discovery Centre, opens next year.

Now, as part of a major environmental project, Busselton Jetty will gain an Underwater Sculpture Trail and artificial reef.

A total of 13 underwater sculptures, like the one above, will be installed on the seabed, 8 metres below the surface at the northern end of the jetty to provide a new experience for divers, snorkelers, swimmers and marine life to enjoy.

The area surrounding the jetty is a vibrant and diverse habitat for over 300 marine species.