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Saturday 31 October 2015

Enjoying the best of the Barossa Valley

The Barossa Valley is Australia's unofficial wine capital – home to brands like Penfolds, Jacob's Creek and Wolf Blass that are sold around the globe.  

Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace are the regional icons, with Torbreck's The Laird hot on their heels, but you can find lots of value in red wines from smaller labels including Teusner, Langmeil, Kalleske, Yelland and Papps, Schild Estate, Rick Burge, Torzi-Matthews, Glaetzer, Charles Melton, David Franz, Rockford, Schwarz and Two Hands.

Barossa Vines 
The Barossa is arguably the best-known “new world” wine region on the globe and a gourmet's delight. It has been rated alongside Bordeaux, Tuscany and the Napa Valley in terms of quality wine tourism.

And the Barossa is now just a one-hour drive north of Adelaide, thanks to some intensive work on the local roads. 

It is a region that is about a lot more than just wine. It's about the people, many of whose families have been farming the land for five or six generations. It's about history; the region is dotted with old churches and cemeteries; and exploration: there are plenty of biking and walking trails through the vineyards.  

It's also about the  hearty food and ingrained German heritage; just visit the local butcher shops like Linke's, where all the smoking is done using a secret family recipe, and the traditional bakeries, to unearth some unfamiliar gourmet delights. 

German-speaking settlers, many devout Lutherans from Silesia seeking to escape trouble-torn central Europe, arrived in the 1800s and brought with them culinary traditions from their homeland. 

Today visitors to the Barossa can try dill cucumbers, pickles and preserves, smoked and cured smallgoods (try mettwurst and lachschinken at Schulzes), dried fruits, locally made egg noodles and a range of German-style cakes and pastries (sample a Black Forest Torte at the Tanunda Bakery or maybe a streuselkuchen cake).

Henschke cellars
The nearby Apex Bakery, with its famous wood-fired oven, has been a local favourite since 1924 and is just one of the many local shops, farm gates, wineries, markets and restaurants at which to discover the flavours of the Barossa.  

A warm region viticulturally, the Barossa is synonymous with big red wines, usually made from shiraz and grenache, and previously for fortified wines, while the cooler Eden Valley is best known for rieslings. Some of the Barossa vines are among the oldest surviving anywhere in the world.  

Leading wineries include Penfolds, Wolf Blass, Seppeltsfield, Yalumba, Jacob’s Creek, Henschke, St Hallett, Peter Lehmann and Grant Burge, along with smaller producers like Elderton, Turkey Flat, Schild Estate and Torbreck. 

Many younger Barossa growers and winemakers are experimenting with Italian, Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties including sangiovese and tempranillo, which are proving highly popular. 

Sixth-generation vigneron Damien Tscharke from Tscharke Wines is one of the trailblazers in this field, making wines from savagnin, touriga, tempranillo, graciano and montepulciano, while the Domaine Day range features viognier, sangiovese, saperavi, lagrein, gargenega and sangrantino. 

The wine industry here has deep roots. Penfolds was founded by an English doctor, Christopher Rawson Penfold, in 1844 – as visitors are reminded by a large roadside sign as they enter the valley. 

Today, tourists visiting the Penfolds winery can try their hand at blending their own red wine in a laboratory with guidance from young winemakers. 

Penfolds cellar door
The Barossa spreads across a number of small towns and villages; Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Greenock, Angaston and Lyndoch are among the more prominent but some, like Marananga, are mere specks on the map. 

While tradition lives on, there is also plenty of modern tourism infrastructure to meet the 
demands of the growing numbers of visitors from around the world. The Butcher, Baker, 
Winemaker Trail guides visitors to stops including the Lyndoch Lavender Farm and Café, Maggie Beer's Farm Shop (check out quince paste, local olives and verjus) and the Barossa Valley Cheese Company. 

The Artisans of Barossa cellar door offers a quick snapshot of the region and is a facility shared by some of the region’s most talented winemakers, including Hobbs, John Duval, Massena, Schwarz Wine Company, Sons of Eden, Spinifex and Teusner. 

Leading regional chef Mark McNamara is the man behind the food offerings at Artisans, and he also has an extremely popular cooking school. 

McNamara was formerly head chef at the region's benchmark restaurant, Appellation at The Louise, but his focus is now on teaching the basics of good, wholesome cooking. 

He says he favours “time-honoured techniques” over new technology and his Kitchen Studio, a beautifully converted shop front, has been created to give people real food experiences.

"At its essence it’s all about handmade food,” he says. “We designed the Kitchen Studio to be a warm and inviting space, the perfect place to learn new skills and sharpen old ones.”  

Would-be masterchefs should also check out Casa Carboni in Angaston. Run by chef Matteo Carboni and his Australian-born wife Fiona, it is a café, wine bar (enoteca) and cooking school rolled into one.

Chateau Tanunda
The cooking school provides hand-on classes for groups of up to six people, while the enoteca serves Italian-style platters, fresh pasta and European wines by the glass, as well as a Sunday lunch using Farmers' Market produce.

This Barossa newcomer was established in 2012 after the Carbonis moved to Australia from Parma, northern Italy, in late 2011. 

“Casa Carboni is an extension of our house where we welcome friends, family and visitors to enjoy a true Italian experience made of food, wine and being together or ‘stare insieme’.” 
Matteo says. “We want to create an environment where we exchange information." 

For some other authentic local tastes, visit the Barossa Farmers Market, which is held every Saturday morning and is something of a meeting place for local vignerons. 

This authentic producer's market boasts over 40 stallholders offering a selection of “fresh, seasonal produce including fruit and vegetables, freshly baked artisan breads and sweet treats, ethical meats, free-range eggs, sauces, condiments, olive oils, nuts, milk and cream, and a whole raft more”. 

Seppeltsfield, which dates back to 1851, has always been one of the de rigueur stops in the 
Barossa and that is the case more than ever with the opening of the winery's 115-year-old cellar door and new restaurant Fino. 

The new development, which also includes superb new gardens, was opened late in 2014 and has been hailed as one of the Barossa’s most significant gastronomic tourism endeavours in recent history. 

Seppeltsfield managing director Warren Randall said the old winery – known for its magnificent fortified wines – is “now back to where she belongs, as Australia’s iconic wine estate.” 

The Centennial Cellar at Seppeltsfield here holds every barrel of Tawny (port) from 1878 to the current vintage.

Adjacent to the new tasting facility is Fino at Seppeltsfield, where David Swain and Sharon Romeo (the couple behind Fino at Willunga in McLaren Vale) are serving a small but locally focused menu featuring dishes including Mayura station wagyu pastrami, Coorong mulloway brandade and Hutton Vale lamb pasties with silverbeet and sheep’s milk yoghurt. 

Other “must visit” cellar doors include historic Penfolds and the modern Jacob’s Creek Visitor’s Centre where the display vines show visitors the difference between different grape varieties on the vine. 

Chateau Tanunda, established in 1890, is widely regarded as one of Australia’s most beautiful winery estates, while family-owned Yalumba has atmospheric tastings rooms, wonderful old buildings and an eclectic range, including a number of whites made from the rare viognier grape.   

There is no shortage of great places to eat, either, with Appellation part of the luxury The Louise complex and widely regarded as one of the best regional restaurants in Australia. 

Hot on its heel come the new Fino and Hentley Farm, the home of talented chef Lachlan Colwill, who made his name at The Manse in Adelaide. For more exotic flavours, FermentAsian is a popular hangout for winemakers. 

Other attractive options include Jacob’s Restaurant at Jacob's Creek, Salters at Saltram, the Maggie Beer Farm Shop, Vintners Bar and Grill and 1918 Bistro and Grill. 

Beer lovers are also catered for at the Barossa Brewing Company in Greenock, which is well known for its traditionally fermented beers while Rehn Bier in Angaston is an idiosyncratic micro brewery. 

If all the gourmet goodies become too much then the Barossa Regional Gallery at Tanunda and The Jam Factory at Seppeltsfield offer some artistic diversions.   

When to visit  

The Barossa Vintage Festival, which bills itself as “Australia's original wine event”, is held every two years with the next scheduled for March-April 2017. 

The three-day Barossa Gourmet Weekend festival held annually each August.

# This is a version of a story originally written for Quest Kudos magazine.

Friday 30 October 2015

A new Tasmanian wine showpiece nears D-Day

There are huge plans in train to make Riversdale Estate, in the Coal River Valley, one of Tasmania's leading wine destinations.

Located in the shadow of the famous UTAS radio telescope, Riversdale Estate has until now been best-known for its luxury accommodation in several vineyard cabins.

The vines produce pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, pinot meunier and shiraz and much of the fruit has in the past been sold to labels including Treasury Wine Estate's Heemskerk.

As of December 1, Riversdale Estate is set to welcome visitors to a new vineyard cellar door tasting room and French Bistro restaurant.

The newly completed developments – which have spectacular views of the estate’s 37-hectare vineyard and adjacent wetlands, will be complemented by the opening of a Peter Rabbit-themed children’s garden scheduled to open in January.

Visitors to the property will be able to sample and purchase wines in the cellar door tasting room, while those able to linger longer will be able to enjoy French-inspired cuisine while dining in the estate’s elegant eatery.

Owners Wendy and Ian Roberts (above) say their project will boost tourism in southern Tasmania. The new facility will be open seven days a week 9am-5pm and will only close on Christmas Day and key public holidays. 

Stay tuned for updates. 

Riversdale Estate, 222 Denholms Rd, Cambridge, Tasmania. (03) 6248 5666 

Thursday 29 October 2015

The latest Tasmanian gourmet export: sea salt

Australia's island state of Tasmania is synonymous with gourmet goodies ranging from cool-climate wines and ciders to artisan cheeses, Wagyu beef, fresh oysters and abalone and even saffron and wasabi. 

To that list you can now add sea salt. Tasman Salt, one of Australia’s purest natural sea salts, is now available nationally.

The producers say that Tasmania’s pristine air and nutrient-rich waters give the sea salt their point of difference and the flakes are flavoured by naturally occurring marine minerals. 

Tasman Sea Salt is harvested from the waters of Great Oyster Bay on the east coast of Tasmania, providing for a salt which is rich in potassium with lower levels of sodium than many other salts.

Tasman Sea Salt also boasts that its production process is energy efficient, minimising the 
impact on the surrounding environment - and the end product is certainly tasty and crunchy. 

Founders and salt farmers Chris Manson and Alice Laing have a passion for and background in artisanal food production in the UK, and returned from Europe to live in Chris’s home state, starting their business in 2013.

"We wanted to make the most of Tasmania’s incredibly clean seas and pure air, so we’re really proud to have designed a system which uses technologies new to salt making that allow us to tap into sustainable energy sources and keep our beautiful environment untouched."

Tasman Sea Salt is available through fine food purveyors, provedores and Simon Johnson Quality Foods and comes in two sizes: 250g for $8.65 and 1.5kg for $38. 

Wednesday 28 October 2015

A new boutique hotel in Adelaide ticks a lot of boxes

Attention to detail is important when opening a new high-end hotel - and there has clearly been a lot of attention to detail put into designing Adelaide's newest five-star boutique hostelry - the Mayfair Hotel.

If you want to be right in the centre of the action this is an ideal choice with the hotel located on the corner of King William and Hindley Streets in renovated Colonial Mutual Life building. The eateries and bars of Hindley street and refurbished Rundle Mall are on your doorstep and the casino, Riverbank Entertainment Precinct and Adelaide Oval are just a short stroll away. 

In a blend of the old and the new, the facility also includes a 'jewel box' addition. the Mayfair offers excellent service and impressive rooms. 

It was a thoughtful touch to be greeted by a gin and tonic in my room on check-in. Little things matter. 

There are eight different room configurations, starting from the 25 Superior Queen Rooms up. All feature custom-designed, locally-made beds. The en suite bathrooms are large with quality amenities, luxurious bathrobes and fluffy slippers. 

All room styles have complimentary wifi (great to see), a well-stocked mini bar, Appelles Apothecary amenities, an overhead rain and hand shower, flat-screen smart TV, writing desk, on-demand movies, air conditioning, safe, hairdryer and iron and board. 

After checking in quite late, I ordered room service and fish and chips arrived piping hot and beautifully presented - a lot of hotels could learn from service like this. 

The buffet breakfast, however, was rather less impressive. I don't want to make my own coffee in the morning and I enjoy fruit yogurt, Weetbix, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, none of which were available. The toaster, too, was one of those infuriatingly slow versions and the restaurant manager was not particularly interested in my observations.

This is a full service hotel with a restaurant, bar, café and lounge with the Mayflower restaurant the fine dining option. 

By the end of the year a 13th-floor roof top bar will be launched, which should be fun. The Mayfair is quiet, elegant, has some personality and the staff are very helpful. I'd stay here again.
Online prices start from below $200 a night but vary seasonally. 

The Mayfair Hotel: 
(08) 8210 8888
#Update: Locally-grown tomatoes and mushrooms are now part of the breakfast buffet.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

The magnificence of MONA

MONA, David Walsh's splendid Museum of Old and New Art, is a gallery like no other. 

It has become a "must visit" for anyone visiting Tasmania, and has put Hobart on the global arts map. 

Visitors to Tasmania often ask if it worth visiting. Even if you are not into the arts, the answer is a resounding yes. 

And in addition to the many diverse exhibits, MONA is also home to The Source, a fine dining restaurant, a wine bar featuring the excellent Moorilla wines made on site, several bars, a cafe and plenty of room to just laze around in the sun. 

Here are some images to give you an idea of what to expect (although it might all have changed by the time you arrive). 


But not everyone finds it engrossing. 

Sunday 25 October 2015

New book helps demystify the complex world of wine

If you are pondering whether to open a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée Conti La Tache or Richebourg tonight then a new book called How To Fake Your Way Through A Wine List is unlikely to be of much help to you.

Likewise if you are a voracious reader of the columns of Jancis Robinson and James Halliday, and a subscriber to Decanter and Wine Spectator. Move on, nothing to see here.

Similarly if you can name all the 10 cru of Beaujolais and are familiar with gamay's role in the world of wine. 

If, however, you are a fan of sampling wines from different parts of the world and would like a little more information and knowledge, then you've come to the right place.

Written by American wine writer Katherine Cole, How To Fake Your Through A Wine List, is designed for anyone is worried they might be pronouncing sancerre incorrectly, or who isn't quite sure of the difference between mourvedre and muscadet. 

This book is designed for an American readership - and some of the language can be a little bit twee (very twee, to be honest) - but there is a lot of solid information here packed into a pocket-sized paperback. 

The book features a well-illustrated guide to 75 of the world's most prominent wine regions and styles. 

The layout and mnenomic devices make it easy to learn and retain information and Cole avoids a lot of wine jargon; using simple English to get her point across. There are also some useful food and wine matching suggestions that can easily be adapted.

While there are chapters on Washington Riesling and Sonoma County Zinfandel that might be of limited interest to Australian readers, the Yarra Valley, Hunter Valley, Margaret River, Marlborough and Hawke's Bay also feature along with other prominent wine regions from around the world.

Flick to the Loire Valley, for instance, and learn about Vouvray and Pouilly Fumé and how to pronounce them, and why you might want to sample some Muscadet. 

Towards the end of the book the role-playing scenarios are particularly good. 

If you enjoy this you might soon be ordering a gruner-veltliner or a vermentino rather than a standard sauvignon blanc.   

How To Fake Your Way Through A Wine List is available in Australia through and costs $19.99. It can also be found in good book shops.      

Saturday 24 October 2015

Meet Julius; a wine with an impeccable pedigree

Meet Julius Henschke. He was a stone mason, sculptor, an accomplished artist, band member and a wizard on the euphonium.

He was also an ancestor of the Henschke winemaking family, who make some of Australia's finest wines from organic and biodynamically-farmed fruit grown in vineyards in the Eden Valley and Adelaide Hills. 

Think names like Hill of Grace, Cyril Henschke and Mount Edelstone.  

The benchmark Henschke Julius Eden Valley Riesling is named in his honour and his photo takes pride of place in the new Henschke private tasting room at Keyneton.

The Henschke family has been making fine rieslings for over 150 years - and for the past 20 years they have been bottled under screw cap. 

Stephen Henschke, a perfectionist in all that he does, detests cork and uses either stelvin or Vin-O-Lok closures for all his wines. 

"Winemakers want their customers to enjoy their wines the way they design them to be; they don't want the characters changed by faulty cork," he says. 

"Under cork you lose control and are at the mercy of a God-awful closure. It can turn wines in to awful beasts. 

"In Australia we have seen the benefits of the switch to screw caps first hand; once you've emerged from the dark side into the light you will never want to go back." 

The Henschkes proved their point this week with a museum tasting of Julius rieslings from 1996-2015 - believing they are the only winery in Australia able to show off 20 consecutive vintages under screw cap; the last 15 under Stelvin.

I was fortunate enough to be among the handful of wine writers invited to attend. 

Even given vintage variations there was not one disappointing wine in the lineup (excluding, perhaps, the still sluggish 2011 from a difficult vintage). 

Among my favourites were the still hugely impressive 1996, the elegant 2001, graceful 2003, delicate and floral 2006, and the brisk, tangy 2010. 

The new-release 2015 (which retails for $40) is, thanks to biodynamics, perhaps, but certainly due to improved vineyard management and better closures, a model of floral freshness. 

An enticing aromatic pot-pourri nose leads on lemon, lime and tangerine notes on the palate, fresh herbs and bright, focused minerality with crisp, refreshing acidity. History tells us it will cellar for two decades or more.

More importantly it is delicious. But you really wouldn't expect anything else from the Henschke family. 


Friday 23 October 2015

Two gourmet reasons to visit a small town in Tasmania

Geeveston is a small town on a road to nowhere in the south of Tasmania

It is on the Huon River, around 60 kilometres south of Hobart, and is reputedly the largest town in Tasmania without a pub. 

Not that it is that big. At a guess, the population of this former timber town, now reinventing itself, would around 1000 people. 

The town takes its name from William Geeves, an English settler, and is the gateway to the Hartz Mountains National Park, as well as being on the Huon Highway, which ends south of the town as the road eventually runs out south of Dover and Southport. 

Geeveston is one of Tasmania's main apple growing centres (the local speciality is, no kidding, the Geeveston Fanny apple) and was once home to a pulp mill. 

Today, most people pass through Geeveston en route to the National Park, or the Tahune Airwalk, a tourist attraction that overlooks the state's majestic southern forests (which some of the local would be happy to see chopped down). 

Geeveston is home to several cafes and craft shops, but it is also home to two gourmet destinations; both of which draw visitors from around the state - and further afield. 

Attraction No.1 is Masaaki's Sushi, home of what many good judges consider to be the best Japanese food in the state - by a long margin. 

Masaaki Koyama, a Japanese sushi chef married to a local woman, Lucy, serves a limited menu two days of the week for lunch. But if you arrive without a booking, particularly after 1pm, you might find he has sold out. 

Go for a set menu at $30, a delicious lobster-based miso soup using local vegetables, a sushi platter using local seafood and vegetables (and local wasabi, when available), and maybe some delicious roasted duck on the side. 

It is ridiculously fresh, absurdly tasty and mind-blowingly cheap. But Masaaki's is only open Friday and Saturday (when he is not in Japan). On Sundays you can find him at the Farmgate Market in Hobart. 

Just around the corner from Masaaki's is the Wall of Lollies (left), a traditional English-style sweet shop with hundreds of different lollies from around the world in jars. Whether you are looking English favourites, Dutch licorice or American treats you'll find it here. 

And the Wall of Lollies is open seven days 9am-5pm and also sells ice cream. If you catch a Tassielink bus from Hobart and the driver's name is Grant, ask him where his wife's lolly shop is. 


Wednesday 21 October 2015

Hobart the spot to taste Tasmania's new-release white wines

If you love fresh and vibrant cool-climate white wines then Princes Wharf No. 1 in Hobart should be your destination on the weekend of November 7-8.

The Tasmanian White Wine Weekend, with guest presenters including the fabulous Jeni Port and Natalie Fryar, brings together more than 20 Tasmanian wine producers, offering tastings of more than 70 wines.

Sparkling wines, riesling, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and grigio, rosé and dessert wines will all be available for both tasting and purchase.

The weekend features several workshops that are designed to appeal to a mix of wine buffs and novices alike.

The event will be held from noon-6pm on both the Saturday and Sunday, with a range of classes on both days. No. I'm not doing anything this weekend, other that sipping and savouring, but I will be presenting at the Red Wine Weekend early next year.

Pre-sale tickets cost $25, or $15 if purchased in conjunction with one or more workshop, while a weekend pass is $40. Tickets at the door cost $30, or $20 if purchased in conjunction with one or more workshop, with a weekend pass $50.

All prices include tastings, premium Plumm tasting glass, notes and entry into the lucky door draw for a dozen Tasmanian wines.

To pre-purchase door entry and workshops visit

Dining in style - with superb views a bonus

I rarely have high expectations of restaurants that float, revolve or involve movement of any kind. They usually offer views alongside culinary mediocrity. 

When was the last time you had a great dining experience on a train, tram or airplane? Views rarely equate to gourmet satisfaction.

Fortunately the very classy Altitude restaurant on the 36th floor of the lovely Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney offers superb views without movement - and what views they are, too, stretching from Luna Park and the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Opera House and beyond.

I think it would be fair to say the views are unsurpassed by any other eatery in Australia's glitziest city.

The good news is that the food and wine more than matches the setting. Sommelier John MacKinnon has put together a very smart list of 400+ bottles ranging from familiar to avant garde, while the kitchen is adventurous without scaring the horses.

Given the views it is a very popular romantic destination: it was close to full (mainly couples) on a recent Thursday night.

We started with a tiny but very tasty amuse bouche of sous vide pumpkin, caramelised yoghurt and puffed quinoa that matched superbly with the 2010 Clover Hill Vintage Brut, a delicious Tasmanian bubbly.

Next came cured yellow fin tuna, confit quail egg yolk, black sesame and grapefruit - brilliant with a Thomas The OC 2014 Semillon; a Hunter classic.

Hapuka with squid ink, miso, clams, leeks and purple daikon were paired with a Michael Hall 2013 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, impressively restrained.

The meat course, Riverina lamb two ways with braised Savoy cabbage, sprouts, roasted almonds and eggplants was less successful with the rare meat actually undercooked and tough. The slow-cooked lamb was lovely, however, with a 2010 La Violetta La Cornia Shiraz from Great Southern maverick AJ Hoadley.

We concluded with a world-class selection cheeses; Pyengana Clothbound Cheddar, Holy Goat Brigid's Well, Cropwell Bishop Shropshire Blue, The Extravagant from Timboon, 

Cropwell Bishop Shropshire Blue; and a sublime Pont-L'Évêque.

Two wines were needed this time around: a 
2013 Hermann J Weimer ‘Late Harvest’ Riesling from the Finger Lakes in New York and a 
Stanton & Killeen ‘Classic’ Rutherglen Muscat.

All in all, hugely impressive and a great venue to impress out-of-towners.

Altitude Restaurant, Level 36, Shangri-La Hotel, 176 Cumberland St, Sydney. 

Hotels sometimes forget they are in the hospitality industry

So far this morning I have had a hotel try to rip me off and then waste my time, had a receptionist insinuate that I was liar and been treated with rudeness and disrespect by a duty manager - all before 7am. 

To be fair, I have stayed a couple of time before at the Parkroyal Melbourne Airport. It is superbly situated, offers comfortable rooms and generally helpful staff, and the room service nasi goreng I enjoyed last night was excellent. 

But it all went horribly wrong this morning when an "express check-out" envelope showing a balance of $50 on my room account was posted under my door. The only problem was that there was a $40 food credit applied to my booking that should have been deducted (as had been confirmed when I checked in). 

This meant I had to stop at reception rather than heading straight to the airport; and the receptionist couldn't find any trace of the credit, or so she claimed.

"No," she said. "There is nothing there." I asked her to check again. No joy. I pointed out that the receptionist the previous evening had seen it. "Who checked-in you in?" she asked.

Infuriated, and fearful of missing my plane, I asked to speak to a duty manager. Big mistake. 

The duty manager turned out to be a young fellow; cocky, rude and dismissive and perhaps annoyed at having his morning coffee interrupted. But after a few keystrokes and a furrowed brow he'd solved the problem and found the credit note. The missing missive had miraculously reappeared. 

"It's sorted," he said. No apology. 

Incensed, I then pointed out that I had a GHA Discovery card which had failed to earn me a room upgrade, or "local amenity". "It wasn't registered," he said. I pointed out that I had emailed the hotel two days earlier with the card details. 

"I'll sort it out," he said brusquely. Presumably he plans to cart a cheese platter or fruit plate down to Tasmania personally. Or maybe the card wasn't valid. That's by the by, but indicative of a greater malaise.  

Given the fact that the hotel wifi had also dropped out several times during my stay, I handed over my business card and asked that the hotel manager ring me. "I'll do what I can," said Mr Charisma. 

"No, you misunderstand," I said. "I am a hotel guest and I want you to ask the the GM to call me."

"I'll do what I can," he said again, before walking away. 

Now it is easy to dismiss my complaints as nitpicking, "first-world problems" and self-indulgent.

Go ahead. But the reality is that tourism is a major money earner for Australia and if the rip-off and inability to find paperwork had happened to an overseas tourist with limited English it could have been more than embarrassing if they had felt they were being accused of lying. 

Australian hotels, some of them at least, need to lift their game and remember they are in the "hospitality" industry. Guests are supposed to be assisted, not insulted. Maybe better staff training is in order, or maybe some arse-kicking for cocky "managers".

UPDATE: The general manager called me the following day and was most apologetic. My message had not been passed on to him, but he had been advised of this blog. Action is being taken on the check-out systems, and I understand words have been had with staff.  

Sunday 18 October 2015

So you want to get a big group together at the beach?

There is something special about an Australian beach holiday - particularly if it involves being right on the water. 

Sundara Beach House in Gerringong on the New South Wales South Coast is a brand new option for large families or groups of friends who are looking for a quintessential Australian beach experience.

The house is a luxurious six-bedroom, architect-designed property with spectacular ocean views located just footsteps from the golden sands of Werri Beach - and with the property only having been launched this month everything is brand spanking new, including the furniture. 

Designed for groups of up to 10 adults, the house features a 10 x 4-metre heated pool and spa, entertainer’s deck, six-burner barbecue and a detached games room with pool table and bar. 

There is plenty of space to relax and unwind with a sun room and two lounge rooms - one framed with large glass windows overlooking the ocean. Dolphins and humpback whales have been spotted during the migration season.

Sundara Beach House is owned by husband and wife team, Melanie Horner (who grew up in Gerringong) and Gaurav Singh. Sundara is the Sanskrit word for 'beautiful' and the couple chose the name as a nod to Gaurav's homeland, as he was born in Lucknow, India. 

“I've lived in some amazing cities around the world, but Gerringong will always be my home and is very close to my heart," says Melanie, who has widespread experience in the travel industry and had a stint with Tourism New South Wales. "By launching Sundara Beach House, we're thrilled to be able to share our holiday home with others so they can experience the beauty of Gerringong and the NSW South Coast.” 

“Gerringong is a gorgeous town, with a stunning backdrop. Quite literally where the mountains meet the sea.”  

Close by are several beaches, a selection of restaurants/cafes and wineries, nature walks, including the 22-kilomtre Kiama Coast Walk, plus shopping and art galleries.

The house is just 90 minutes’ drive from Sydney and two hours from Canberra and guests flying into Sydney airport can hire a car or use Shoalhaven Shuttle's door to door service. 

Sundara is priced from $750 per night midweek and $1000 per night on weekends - and I can't wait to try it. For bookings visit