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Monday 27 February 2017

New taste trail unveiled on the 'quiet' side of Geelong

Last year I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of days exploring the Moorabool Valley, north-west of Geelong, and home to picturesque villages, rolling hills, rivers and valleys, and some outstanding food and wine experiences.

A little off the beaten track, but not far from Avalon Airport, the Moorabool Valley has often been in the shadow of better-known Victorian wine regions.

To address that issue the new Moorabool Valley Taste Trail has just been launched, to help cement this flourishing region firmly in the minds of gastronomic visitors. The new trail features wineries, farm gates, cafés, restaurants, produce stores, events, markets and much more.

There are many boutique, family-run vineyards in the region. A number feature in the acclaimed James Halliday five-star list including destination vineyard Clyde Park Vineyard and Bistro, which is, to my mind, one of the best winery eateries in the country.

Perched on a stunning hilltop with sublime valley views, Clyde park produces a range of wines and delicious fare ranging from wood-fired pizzas to long summer lunches.

Nearby, Lethbridge Wines, recognised as one of Australia's most environmentally sustainable vineyards, uses innovative organic and biodynamic methods to produce savoury and textured wines.

At Sutherlands Creek in the heart of the Moorabool Valley is Austins & Co, where the family have been producing world-class wines for more than 30 years, while Del Rios Cellar Door and Café continues a family tradition with Spanish-inspired fare including paella and traditional tapas.

Provenance Wines, Eagles' Rise and Moorabool Ridge are other small wine labels to look out for, along with Rowsley Fault, Barwon Ridge and Spence Wines, which all open on the first weekend of each month.

The cool climate of the region also creates the ideal environment for producing an abundance and great variety of foods. From olives to cheese, berries to eggs, leafy greens, herbs and fruiting crops. Camilo Olives is particularly well known for its award-winning olive oil, while Meredith Dairy is the largest sheep and dairy goat farm in Australia and Sage Farm is a busy and genuine paddock-to-plate farm with an on-site butchery providing beef, lamb and veal. Berries can be found at Summer Sensations and Berry Organic Farm.

The flagship restaurant of the Moorabool Valley, operated by celebrated chef Matt Dempsey, is Gladioli at Inverleigh. Another jewel in the crown of the valley is Bannockburn Station, a fully licensed restaurant set in a restored 150-year-old bluestone railway station.

The region is also home to some great events, festivals and Farmers' Markets throughout the year. The Real Food Festival runs from March 4-18 offering cooking workshops, farm tours, local produce dinners and gardening events. Toast to the Coast is held over the Melbourne Cup long weekend in November and features three days of wine tasting and entertainment with a number of Moorabool Valley wineries taking part.

For further information go to

Sunday 26 February 2017

Tasmania sweeps the board at national tourism awards

Tasmania just gets more and more desirable as a travel destination. So much so that when I landed at Hobart Airport on Saturday there were not enough berths for all the aircraft.

The Apple Isle still has its issues; a couple from the Central Coast recently told me how amazed they were that it was almost impossible to find dinner in tourist country towns after 7.30pm, and a South African game ranger told me that "Tasmania is where they cut down all the trees".

Overall, however, Tasmania continues to boom - collecting five golds at the weekend's Qantas Australian Tourism Awards. Not only that, Tasmania collected seven silver, two bronze and The Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

What’s more, Tassie, the smallest state, picked up the most awards out of every state. Such is Tasmania’s allure that Roy Morgan Research has just delivered hard evidence. Hobart now outranks Perth and Brisbane as a capital city holiday destination Australians want to visit.

Tourism Tasmania’s CEO John Fitzgerald said: "Tasmania has had another fantastic year for tourism and our popularity shows no signs of letting up as a record number of Australian and overseas visitors discover the people, the produce, the places, the stories and the experiences that make Tasmania such an exciting travel destination.

“I am really excited that we could back up our last two award-winning years with another outstanding performance at this year’s Australian Tourism Awards. It reconfirms the quality of Tasmania’s tourism and hospitality businesses and the amazing holiday experiences they provide for our visitors - the kind of experiences that our visitors keep returning for and talk about with their friends and family members long afterwards.”

The Three Capes Track is a new "must-do" experience and won the award for new tourism business on the national stage. The four-day Tasman Peninsula walk features dolerite chasms, architecturally-designed lodging, eucalypt forests and towering sea cliffs.

The Tasmanian Walking Company took a familiar trek to the podium, collecting gold for ecotourism. Walking in some of Tasmania’s most iconic locations, they add more than a touch of class to the experience with the Cradle Mountain Huts Walk, Bay of Fires Lodge Walk (and spa) and, more recently, the Wineglass Bay Sail Walk.

The luxury lodge Saffire Freycinet was awarded gold for luxury accommodation, while the Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel also won gold for business event venue, entering into the Australian Tourism Hall of Fame.

The other Tasmanian winner was RiverFly 1864, which won gold for specialised tourism services for its three-day guided fly fishing trips up at the Western Lakes in private eco-friendly huts.

Other Tassie medalists were:

Silver: Tourist Attractions: Bruny Island Cruises;
Major Tour and Transport Operators: Par Avion Wilderness Tours; Unique Accommodation: Pumphouse Point; Self-Contained Accommodation: Avalon Coastal Retreat; Tourism Restaurants and Catering Services: Josef Chromy Wines; Deluxe Accommodation: The Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel and Destination Marketing: Great Eastern Drive.

Bronze: Major Tourist Attractions: Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service - Freycinet National Park; Hosted Accommodation: Curringa Farm Accommodation.

For more details visit:  

Saturday 25 February 2017

A star Sydney hotel finds itself on top of the world

The staff were all wearing broad smiles when I checked into the ultra-luxe The Darling Hotel late last week. 

My arrival coincided with the announcement that The Darling had been named as the first five-star hotel property in Sydney by the venerable Forbes Travel Guide, which has been handing out its international ratings for 60 years.

To celebrate, perhaps, the hotel upgraded me to a $1400 a night suite - a ridiculous extravagance, but a gesture I was happy to accept.

So I was all alone in one of the finest suites in the country. Think 76 square metres of space; brilliant floor-to-ceiling views; large granite and marble bathrooms with massage jets and exclusive Molton Brown accessories, and superbly equipped mini bars. 

Gerard Inzerillo, chief executive of the Forbes Travel Guide, says: "Only the best properties in the world own our coveted five-star awards."

So I was flying high, alongside Jarryd Hayne and a couple of what appeared to be supermodels (separately). 

The Langham Sydney and the Park Hyatt were the only Sydney properties to earn four stars with the InterContinental Sydney (which I do not rate that highly), InterContinental Double Bay and Shangri-La Hotel were recommended. 

The Darling was described by Forbes as having virtually flawless service and outstanding facilities. The check-in and bar staff were impeccable, my suite (as you'd expect) superb with brilliant views, and the bar staff in Sokyo, the bar and restaurant, welcoming and knowledgeable. 

My only black mark went to the security staffer whose stern approach was in stark contrast to the hotel's otherwise happy vibe. 

Crown Towers Melbourne was the only other Australian hotel to pick up five stars and be rated alongside legendary hostelries like The Ritz in Paris and The Darling, which is part of The Star entertainment complex, but completely removed from the hustle and bustle.

The hotel has its own lobby and amenities, including 171 rooms, suites and penthouses along with a 25-metre pool and a day spa. 

"Being awarded five stars by Forbes Travel Guide is such and achievement - and puts The Darling among the most reputable hotels in the world," said The Star managing director Greg Hawkins. 

"We are thrilled to have received this rating and the team has worked incredibly hard to create a level of guest service that is truly first class."

The Darling, ultra modern with electronic curtains and blinds, bespoke furniture and state-of-the-arts TVs and music systems, also won the gold medal for luxury accommodation at the 2016 NSW Tourism Awards and was named one of the 60 best new hotels in the world by Conde Naste Traveler when it opened in 2012. 

The Forbes Travel Guide for 2017 has just 175 five-star hotels globally.

The Darling, 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont, NSW 2009. (02) 9777 9000.  

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Shock, horror: green ants are all the rage in artisan gins!

There is nothing like a bit of controversy to spark some publicity - and I'm biting.

When I get a press release telling me that green ants are all the rage in gins, I raise a very suspicious eyebrow.

My guess is that most people might be interested in trying an ant-infused gin once only, and I'm going to be an old killjoy and point out that something made in quantity of 300 bottles is far from being "all the rage".

What is true is that green ants are being used as botanicals in two Australian craft gins.

Two distilleries in the Adelaide Hills region of South Australia have this month released gins made with green ants, a traditional indigenous food eaten for thousands of years by Australian Aborigines for their high protein and medicinal benefits.

The gins also use a range of other native botanicals to provide a fresh Australian interpretation of a London Dry Gin.

Applewood Distillery released its Green Ant Gin on Valentine’s Day, while Something Wild Beverages launched its Australian Green Ant Gin today.

Adelaide Hills Distillery is making the gin under contract for newly-formed Something Wild Beverages, a division of native food company Something Wild, which specialises in sustainably sourced indigenous foods such as kangaroo, wallaby, magpie goose, native herbs and fruits.

Adelaide Hills Distillery founder and head distiller Sacha La Forgia said it took him several months to be persuaded to eat green ants and allow them to be put in his still.

“But once I did it was like an incredible flavour explosion in my mouth of lime and coriander flavours as well as a fresh acidic zing,” he said.

“It was just beautiful and I thought straight away ‘wow, they exist to be in gin’.”

A "pinch" of green ants, which are sourced under permit from the Northern Territory, are also put into the bottles in the same way worms are used in tequila to provide the finishing touch.

“That acidic zing doesn’t carry over in the still so we include some ants in every bottle and it just lifts the palate a bit,” La Forgia said.

“By putting them in the bottle, I’m hoping to encourage people to eat one and taste it.

“When people try one their eyes light up and they get a big smile on their face.”

Other Australian native foods used as botanicals in the gin include finger lime, pepper berry, the native juniper boobialla and leaves from strawberry gum and lemon myrtle trees.

“By using more leaves I was able to use less juniper while still maintaining those same characteristics that you would normally associate with gin,” La Forgia said.

The Australian Green Ant Gin has an ABV of 42% and is priced at $97.50 on the Something Wild Beverages website for a 700ml bottle.

The company aims to have national and possibly international distribution for the product, depending on demand.

Under the collaboration between Adelaide Hills Distillery and Something Wild, profits from the botanicals gathered on Aboriginal lands flow back into those Outback communities.

“I think now is quite an important time because we are seeing the popularity of native foods increasing very quickly,” La Forgia said.

“It’s a feel good thing but it’s also very necessary to make sure that these ingredients are sustainable and that they are still there in the future.”

Applewood Distillery’s Green Ant Gin, meanwhile, is almost sold out of its limited edition of 300 bottles. The 500ml bottles are also 42% ABV and cost $120 each.

Head distiller Brendan Carter said the response to the gin had been “insane” and he expected the 300 bottles to be sold out by the end of the month.

He said the main constituent that gave the green ants (these are from New South Wales) their distinctive sharp, citrus flavour was formic acid.

“In this particular one we also wanted to emphasise the native citruses, which I think a lot of people are getting their heads around at the moment so there’s finger limes and a little bit of strawberry gum leaf in there too,” Carter said.

“Our limited editions are a complete once off so we’ll do that and move on to something else challenging and uber creative in typical Applewood fashion.”

Monday 20 February 2017

A night at the footy - South African style

South Africans take their soccer pretty seriously. And no team's fans are more serious than those of Johannesburg side Kaizer Chiefs, who are revered around the country. 

When I flew into Durban on Saturday morning, I discovered Chiefs were playing Highlands Park at the superb Moses Mabhida Stadium that night. 

So I hopped on the bus and headed for stadium - along with around 45,000 other people, virtually all of them from the townships. 

To say I stood out like a sore thumb is an understatement. I bought a ticket for R60 ($6) that had been originally sold to a "Mr Bongani Nhlapho",  at face value from a helpful fellow outside main gate. 

I was made very welcome, however, in a stadium that was a riot of colour and noise. 

Think vuvuzela horns, elaborate costumes and non-stop noise - with a few waves thrown in - and roars from the fans - almost entirely clad in Chiefs' gold - whenever a "home" player excelled. 

Chiefs got up 1-0 - sparking wild celebrations. I hope you enjoy these pictures. 

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Meet Craig. He is a bit of a dick.

Some of you may have met Craig. He's the restaurant manager at the Hussar Grill in Stellenbosch.

It's a lovely restaurant in the town centre with excellent steaks and mouth-watering prawns, along with an excellent wine list. 

It was busy on  Monday. Far busier than it should have been. Young university student waitresses rushed backwards and forwards. Far busier than they needed to be. 

It was obvious to even the casual observer that the staff was stretched too thinly. 

Craig was cajoling and chastising his staff. It was clear that it was his systems that were not working. It took out 45 minutes to place even our food order. 

After an hour or so of observation I let Craig know. First, he accused me of "raising my voice" - which I wasn't. Then he accused me of disrespecting him in his workplace. He denied we had waited 45 minutes to place an order. 

When he realised I was sober and logical he promised he would "fix everything up".

Craig was never seen again. A liability to his employers; and a rare embarrassment in a country with general excellent service standards. 

An excellent dinner with a dickhead in charge. Pity really, and I felt sorry for waiter Semone. 

Sunday 12 February 2017

Taking a step back in time

It is a magnificent hotel that should be on the agenda of anyone visiting Stellenbosch - the heart of Afrikanderdom. 

Dating back over 200 years to 1802 the Oude Werf Hotel is an artful union of old and new - the older part is the oldest continually operating inn in South Africa. 

This boutique hotel gets everything right. When I arrived early and feeling unwell, a room was quickly prepared for me. Impressive. And stylish. 

The staff are slick and almost entirely black. The guests are, with two exceptions I've noted, are white. 

The vast majority of those staying are well-heeled and in their fifties and sixties. Many speak Afrikaans. Only, one, possibly, is gay. 

Neil Diamond's Hot August Night is playing on the audio. Some are reading Die Burger. 

For this still group, at least, it is as if South Africa has not changed one iota. 

The Oude Werf Hotel, 30 Church Street, Stellenbosch, 7600. South Africa.

Friday 10 February 2017

Adventurous brewer releases Australia's first lentil craft beer

Believe it or not, Australia's first lentil beer has been released by a craft brewery in the Adelaide Hills.

Lobethal Bierhaus’s new Lentil Pale Ale was launched this week - in tiny quantities as part of a collaboration with pulse processor AGT Foods.

Around 3,500 bottles and two kegs are part of the first run but the brewery sees it as a first step towards producing a gluten-free craft beer.

Whole and diamond-cut red lentils with grey seed coats are used as an adjunct and are milled with the with the grain at the rate of 30% lentils, 70% barley.

Head brewer and owner Alistair Turnbull although the lentils did not produce fermentable sugars, they added mouthfeel, head retention and flavour to the beer.

“I would describe it as a fairly earthy flavour that we’ve balanced with local hops that match with it," said Turnbull. "But we’ve also tried to make sure that we haven’t made it overly bitter or hoppy so it hides the lentil flavour.”

The brew follows a collaboration between AGT Foods’ Canadian parent company and Rebellion Brewing Company  in Regina, Saskatchewan, to brew a Lentil Cream Ale.

“They put me in touch with the Canadian brewery to pass on some of their research and the beer we have released was the result of that,” Turnbull said.

“I’m already really impressed with how it behaves. What it does for the beer is fantastic."

Lobethal Bierhaus opened in 2007 in the Adelaide Hills town of Lobethal, about 40km east of the South Australian capital Adelaide.

Wednesday 8 February 2017

How is it some hotels get things so wrong?

I never cease to be amazed at how hotels can manage to get so many of the basics wrong.

From the snotty buffoon who checked me in at Melbourne's Crown Metropol a couple of weeks ago, to being charged $30 a day for the use of ludicrously slow wifi in Sydney, there are an awful lot of hotels that don't even seem to be trying to be hospitable.

One thing every hotel should do, for instance, is make sure that guests can easily find their intended address. I'm not even sure which one is the Park Hyatt in Melbourne and which one is the Grand Hyatt. I don't know if there is a Hyatt Regency or not.

Nuo Hotel Beijing, or Beijing Hotel Nuo?
That makes the behaviour of Chinese luxury hotel brand Nuo Hotels almost unbelievable.

It currently has a Nuo Hotel Beijing. But now it has purchased the former Grand Hotel de Pekin and Raffles Hotel, it has renamed it  - wait for it - Beijing Hotel Nuo.

Yep, that's right. Instead of giving it an identifier like north, south, east, west or central, it has given it a name almost identical to its sibling.

All of which simply makes things hard for anyone who doesn't speak fluent Chinese. Imagine trying to explain to a taxi driver the difference between the Nuo Hotel Beijing and the Beijing Hotel Nuo.

That's a big fail - one clearly decided by a clown who does not stay in hotels.

And Hyatt is back in the act in Sydney with the opening of the new Hyatt Regency Hotel in what used to be the Four Points by Sheraton Darling Harbour. I wonder how many guests will end up here when they are actually booked into the Park Hyatt in the Rocks, or vice versa?

What would be wrong with Hyatt Regency Darling Harbour, or Park Hyatt Waterside?

It's just plain stoopid, particularly if you are a confused Japanese or Chinese tourist, the market segment the city is trying to woo.


A Coonawarra date for the diary

Coonawarra is a wine region well worth a trek; whether you drive from Adelaide or Melbourne or fly into Mount Gambier.

Pop the dates of April 7-8 into your diary for the next of Coonawarra's many food and wine festivals: Coonawarra After Dark, which celebrates the 2017 vintage.

The program of Friday night events includes a vintage stomp at DiGiorgio Family Wines with fresh produce platters; vintage celebrations and Mrs Zema's legendary pizzas and live music on the verandah at Zema Estate; and a winedUp party at Brands Laira with entertainment and fish and chips.

On Saturday, visitors can enjoy wines in the raw at Katnook Estate (a tasting of newly picked juice accompanied by a cheese platter) followed by Chris Raidis' charcoal grill (Greek-style food hopefully with some goat) at Raidis Estate.

Throw in a visit to Wynn's Coonawarra Estate and you have a perfect gourmet getaway.

A shuttle bus will circle between venues on the Friday night for a $10 fee.

For information on accommodation, attractions and restaurants ring Penola Coonawarra Visitor Centre on (08) 8737 255 or visit 

Tuesday 7 February 2017

New gourmet experiences in a magical city

Vancouver is one of the most spectacular cities on the planet.

The West Coast Canadian city is not only brilliantly situated so you can surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon; it is also a clean, green destination with a buzzing gourmet scene.

Here are four new experiences recommended by the local tourism types; who have some of the easiest jobs on the planet. Much like Sydney, Vancouver sells itself.

Fairmont Hotel Vancouver
  • Off the Eaten Track’s Sip, Savour, Shop on Main Street three-hour tour (starting February 2017) combines the best of this edgy neighbourhood’s food, apothecary shops and kitschy stores. The adventure starts at the Honey Shoppe for a local honey tasting, then continues on to a sampling of gluten-free Brazilian pastries; a knife-cutting lesson at a neighbourhood knife store featuring the largest collection of Japanese knives in Canada; samplings of cold-pressed juice, kombucha and ginger beer; a button-making lesson at a paper shop; and a taste of mind-blowing fish tacos with a sustainability message co-delivered by a local biologist and Iron Chef.

  • Harvest Community Foods, located in trendy Chinatown-Strathcona, started as a community project and has flourished into a hub for urban produce and small-batch vegan foods. At lunch, lines quickly build for the fresh noodle bowls packed with organic greens. Harvest also offers community-supported agriculture shares intended to cultivate a closer connection between people and their food.

  • Timber Restaurant’s Long Table Canadian Supper is the perfect way to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. Intended for groups, the experience features a family-style dinner with cribbage boards, a Canadian themed “photo booth” and make-‘em-yourself s’mores (marshmallow and a layer of chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of crackers) at the Timber campfire. All guests depart with a small gift.
  • Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s new afternoon tea takes a page from the classic Brothers Grimm stories to transform Notch8 Restaurant into a fairytale wonderland. Guests can enjoy treats that include Red Riding Hood’s basket of savoury and sweet scones, as well as an enchanted forest tier of tea sandwiches.

Saturday 4 February 2017

Cygnet gets a new pop-up Italian takeaway

The southern Tasmanian town of Cygnet has a reputation as a gourmet hotspot, but despite its several cafés and eateries it can still be hard to find quality cuisine early in the week.

That grated with talented local chef Darryl Gillespie, who is well-known for his high-quality Huon Valley Kitchen pies sold at many Hobart and regional markets.

So he decided to launch a pop-up Italian takeaway every Tuesday from 3.30pm on the main street of Cygnet, adjacent to R&D Butchers.

If all goes well and locals support the venture, another pop-up featuring Asian flavours is a possibility.

The Italian menu will include dishes like hand-made ricotta gnocchi; spaghetti with prawns, chilli and garlic, penne Napolitano with pork sausage, and chicken scallopini. 

A great idea - and one that deserves to succeed. Line-up behind me on Tuesday. 

For details: 0419 012 233.


Up the Creek: an excellent wine tourism destination

Langhorne Creek, less than an hour from Adelaide, is often overlooked as a wine travel destination behind the Barossa. McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills - a big mistake.

Producers like Bremerton, Bleasdale and Lake Breeze are producing some of Australia's best-value wines and there is a wonderfully laid-back country vibe.

This weekend (I'm a bit late with this post), Langhorne Creek is celebrating its alternative grape varieties but if you don't make it this time, there are plenty of other opportunities.

Cheese and wine masterclasses, live music, a giant Jenga game, gourmet sliders and special menus specifically paired to alternative wines are all part of this weekend's Love Langhorne Creek festivities.

There is even a shuttle bus to move people around. Transport and a free glass of wine - all for $30. 

There are six venues involved in the Love Langhorne Creek weekend.

Angas Plains are featuring their first-ever tempranillo, while Bleasdale have been inspired by Argentinean and Portuguese influences as their malbec and verdelho take centre stage.

Bremerton's alternative varieties include malbec, lagrein, mourvedre, vermentino and fiano, while Lake Breeze offers moscato and vermentino.

The Winehouse is the place to try a range of different alternative wines including the popular dolcetto & lagrein, montepulciano (both sparkling and still), and malbec, while Rusticana are pairing two of their most loved indulgences; wine and chocolate. 

There will also be live entertainment at The Bridge Hotel on Sunday.

For details see:

Thursday 2 February 2017

New hotel brand plans to focus on Sydney city fringes

Sydney is set to welcome a new boutique hotel brand with big plans. 

Veriu Hotels and Suites will unveil a 64-room serviced apartment hotel, Veriu Broadway, in April this year, with four more properties due to open under the same brand by the end of 2018.

Veriu Broadway is an $18 million conversion of a former warehouse space offering self-contained studios, each over 40 square metres, and one- and two-bedroom split-level apartments. 

Located close to the International Convention Centre, the hotel will provide 24-hour reception with staff trained as local area guides plus on-site food and beverage in keeping with the precinct’s contemporary café and bar offerings.  

Veriu Hotels is the brainchild of property and hospitality specialists Alex Thorpe and Rhys Williams. 

Having successfully developed a long-stay accommodation business, Furnished Property, in 2002, Thorpe and Williams have now moved into the hotel space to create a portfolio of hotels with a diverse mix of heritage and new developments, all located in Sydney city fringe locations.

"We have been providing long-stay-style self-contained accommodation for 16 years under Furnished Property, where we developed a passion for sharing 'local'," says Williams.

"We created Veriu because we saw no reason why a hotel brand can't provide that authentic local experience backed up by traditional hotel services, excellent customer service and attention to detail in rooms.”

Veriu Broadway will be the marquee hotel for the brand following its first foray into the market with the successful opening of Veriu Camperdown – a new-build all-suite hotel which opened in March, 2016.

"Camperdown was our first test and it was amazing to bring the brand to life in such a vibrant area. You only need to look at places like Deus Cafe and Camperdown Commons to see what local business can deliver and we want accommodation to be a part of this,” says Williams.

The current network is complemented by a pipeline of hotel developments to take place under the Veriu brand by the end of 2018, including: Veriu Randwick (35 rooms) opening April 2017, Veriu Central (110 rooms) opening early 2018 and Veriu Green Square (142 rooms) opening late 2018.

Veriu will specialise in operating sites with 20-120 rooms in CBD and city fringe areas with capacity to go larger if the location is right.

In celebration of individuality, Veriu says its hotels will all have its own with its own distinct personality and style.

"We have seen Sydney emerge as a city of villages and we want to share the uniqueness of Sydney's diversity through the Veriu brand in areas like Camperdown, Broadway, Green Square and Surry Hills," says Thorpe. "These villages really excite us for the leisure market but equally corporates want these bespoke experiences."

With an authentic local experiences paramount to the Veriu ethos, guests will also receive complimentary drinks and snacks from local area operators and local artists are also engaged to incorporate designs based on the genuine character of the building and neighbourhood.

"Beyond this, we want our guests to move freely through our properties so we have developed a unique concept called "Veriu Connect"," says Williams.  "This allows any Veriu guest to drop into one of our other locations, flash a room card and have a complimentary locally sourced drink and ask the concierge about the best places to explore."

Guests will be able to discover their surroundings with use of the hotel’s complimentary ‘explorer bicycles’ – a service that will be offered in all future Veriu hotels.  Other complimentary offerings common to all Veriu properties include a welcome drink, wifi and in-room tunes via Smart TV technology.

Wednesday 1 February 2017

The return of the Sturmtrooper; a cider with personality

If you order a cider called the Sturmtrooper you are unlikely to expect a pale, delicate flower of a beverage. 

This macho-sounding seasonal release from Willie Smith's Organic Cider in the Huon Valley of Tasmania is a special blend based on the Sturmer Pippin apple - hence its name. 

It's available only on tap - and only in major cities right now. 

Wild-fermented Sturmer Pippin juice along with 15 cider apple varieties and two table varieties has what the good folk at Willie Smith's describe as "more body than Jabba the hut", with racy acidity. I'll be popping by the Willie Smith’s Apple Shed this week for a taste.

“We are on a journey to excite people's palates and enable them to explore the range of flavours traditional cider apples offer as against the relatively homogenous styles offered by mainstream ciders,” says Sam Reid, co-Founder of Willie Smith’s. 

“At the same time we want to start bringing some level of consistency to our limited releases, and so those that have really excited drinkers we are endeavouring to repeat annually, as our apple crop allows.” 

Sturmer apples are a heritage variety of apples that have high acidity and pronounced tannins.  

Head cider maker Dr Tim Jones said: "The excitement with last year's release was met with really blew us away and so this year we have tried to ensure the second release matches the lively crisp summer drinking style of the first."

STURMTrooper - Venues

Scratch Bar; Brewski; Bloodhound Bar; The Burrow and The Mill on Constance

The Royal Albert; Noble Hops; The Welcome; The Local Taphouse; Bitter Phew and Wayward Brewing

Boilermaker House; Brunswick Street Cider House; Two Birds Brewery – The Nest; Carwyn Cellars; Foresters Hall; Wandiligong Hotel; The Alehouse Project and Hop Nation Brewery 

The Whaler; The Winston; St John Craft Beer; Jack Greene; The New Sydney; West End Pumphouse and Willie Smith’s Apple Shed