Friday, 16 April 2021

Turning back time as a new whisky makes it debut

Meet Bad Boy Billy, the first whisky to be made in the Geelong region for four decades that will be released on April 26. 

Billy is the first barrel of single malt whisky from Bellarine Distillery. 

The release maintains the tradition of naming their products after the family’s four-legged friends with the honour of the first barrel goes to Billy the Staffordshire terrier distillery dog.

 Bad Boy Billy will be the first whisky to be made, matured and bottled in the Geelong region since the closure of Corio Distillery in the 1980s.


Bellarine Distillery was established in 2015 by Russell Watson & Lorelle Warren, with the dream of making a single malt whisky.


Commercial production began in 2017, when distillery manager Craig Michael joined the team and in 2019 he and his wife Nicky came on board as business partners.


While Bellarine Distillery’s much anticipated whisky was maturing, the team were working on releasing their award-winning gin range.


Bellarine Distillery’s cellar door, The Whiskery, opened in 2018 and has proved immensely popular in showcasing the gin range, including the popular Teddy & The Fox. 

“Since opening early 2018, the cellar door has proven to be a popular venue for visitors both local and far and wide, with our gin products now being sent all over Australia,” says Russell Watson. 


“From the beginning, however, the dream was to produce our own single malt whisky, made, matured and bottled on the Bellarine.” 


Bad Boy Billy - a single-cask release - will produce a very limited number of bottles but the team has been constantly laying down barrels to secure greater volume releases in the future.



Thursday, 15 April 2021

Reyne falls for new Coopers beer release

Family-owned Adelaide brewers Coopers are releasing a new IPA they say is distinctly Australian in flavour. 

The full-flavoured beer uses a blend of Australian exotic hops with citrus notes of mandarin and orange as well as piney and passionfruit characteristics.

And one of the most iconic voices of Australian rock is getting behind it.

Legendary Australian singer songwriter James Reyne is helping launch the beer by featuring in an upcoming creative campaign shot at the iconic Silverton Hotel in Broken Hill (where Mad Max was originally filmed) and performing at a series of trade events being held across the country in April.

Managing director and chief brewer Dr Tim Cooper said the brewing team had spent many months honing the unique hops blend to develop a distinctly Australian take on the traditional IPA. 

“IPAs continue to grow in popularity among craft beer drinkers,” he said. “Australians are also turning to local brands they know and trust. So while there is a large number of overseas styles in the market, we saw demand for a great tasting IPA with a distinct local touch. 

“We’re very mindful about when to bring out a new beer and an enormous amount of time goes into getting it right. We’ve come up with a great tasting Australian IPA that will suit any occasion.” 

Former Australian Crawl frontman Reyne was one of the first artists to take part in the current Coopers Live, Loud and Local series, started last year to support pubs and musicians recover from the Covid-19 shutdowns. 

The ideal waterfront escape for Sydney residents

Recently opened: What sounds like a perfect country retreat for jaded Sydneysiders.

Marramarra Lodge, set on the Hawkesbury River and fringed by national park, offers a barefoot luxury experience for couples, surrounded by nature.

The newly-built lodge is set in bushland with boat access from Mooney Mooney and Brooklyn – just north of Sydney, approximately an hour’s drive from the city centre.

Marramarra Lodge has been designed to deliver an authentic, yet luxurious Australian nature experience. 

The lodge is located at Fisherman’s Point across from Bar Island. The property is framed by the Marramarra National Park. 

The property caters to a maximum of 28 guests with an all-inclusive experience including transfers to Marramarra via boat, daily meals incorporating a six-course degustation dinner with paired wines at the on-site restaurant Budyari (meaning “good’ and “well” in the Dharug language), daily sunset canapes and cocktail tour and a locally sourced mini-bar menu. Overnight rates start from $1,250 including gourmets breakfasts and light lunches.gourmet breakfast, light lunch daily,gourmet breakfast, light lunch daily,.
There are two styles of accommodation, including the Peninsula Tent, a river-safari experience overlooking the water, and the Hawkesbury Bungalow, minimalist cabin lodgings with bush and river backdrops. 

Both accommodation options offer large river-stone bathrooms, locally-sourced timber floors and luxurious furnishings. 

The rear glass veranda doors of each accommodation unit open to a private balcony made for lounging and enjoying moments of river life.

The property’s Day Spa, Iyora, offers a range of treatments for in-house guests, and each of the accommodation lodgings are named after Dharug words for flora and fauna native to the area.

There is an outdoor swimming pool and lounging area, riverside boat shed (above) with private jetty and games room.

For guests that want to fly or arrive in their own boat, Marramarra Lodge has its own helipad and private jetty, so is accessible by private helicopter charter, private boat or via Sydney Seaplanes.

Marramarra’s main lodge and buildings enjoy a long and rich history. 
Carter House, still on the property, was first built in the 1920s. 

There are a number of bush walks that run from the grounds and visitors may spot sea eagles, lyrebirds, wallabies, goannas, bandicoots, black and white cockatoos and kookaburras. 

There are a variety of add-on experiences guests can choose from, including a local pearl farm tour, helicopter ride to the Hunter Valley for lunch and private wine tasting, a gin distillery day trip, or bush foraging in the Marramarra National Park with a local Dharug Elder. 

Transfers can also be arranged to local water-access-only restaurants such as Berowra Waters Inn and Peats Bite.

Complimentary kayaks, canoes, paddle boards and fishing rods are available for guest use. My invitation is no doubt in the mail. 

For further information on packages see

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

The perfect party venue for multi-millionaires and their friends

So you are ridiculously rich and want to hold an extravagant party for a couple of hundred of your nearest and dearest friends?

How about exclusive use of a five-star resort in the Maldives?

The five-star Kuredhivaru Maldives Resort is available on an exclusive basis - for guests with deep pockets or maybe a superstar with an album to launch.

The lucky rich dude and his or her mates will gain exclusive use of facilities that include 105 private villas, suites and residences located both over-water and on the beach as well as four restaurants, lounge bars and cafes, the Bodumas over-water seafood restaurant, and Latitude 5.5 poolside grill..

The Movenpick-managed resort also features a five-star PADI dive and watersports centre, Sun Spa by Healing Earth, and recreational facilities such as tennis and volleyball courts, Travel Mole reports.

It is priced from US$930,000 per three-night stay between May 10 - September 30, 2021; US$999,000 between November 1 - December 23, 2021, and from US$1,014,000 per three nights between October 1-31, 2021.

The resort comes with an all-Inclusive meal plan, unlimited non-motorized water sports and free snorkelling gear rental, and a choice of accommodation. 

The island getaway has been the subject of recent legal action over its lease.  

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Forget the plane; catch the train

France has moved to scrap domestic airline flights on any route that can be travelled by direct train in under 2 1/2 hours.

French MPs made the decision as part of a series of environmental measures, The Guardian reported.

After a heated debate in the Assemblée Nationale at the weekend, the ban, a watered-down version of a key recommendation from President Emmanuel Macron’s citizens’ climate convention, was adopted.

It will mean the end of short internal flights from Orly airport, south of Paris, to Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux among others, though connecting flights through Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport, north of the French capital, will continue.

The climate commission set up by Macron had originally recommended the scrapping of all flights between French destinations where an alternative direct train journey of less than four hours existed.

This was reduced to 2 1/2 hours after strong objections from certain regions and from Air France-KLM, which, like other airlines, has been badly hit by local and international Covid-19 restrictions on travel.

A year ago, the French government agreed a €7bn loan for AF-KLM on the condition that certain internal flights were dropped, but the decree will also stop low-cost airlines from operating the banned domestic routes.

The chief executive of Air France-KLM, Benjamin Smith, has said the airline is committed to reducing the number of its French domestic routes by 40% by the end of this year.

The transport minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, told MPs: “We have chosen 2 1/2 hours because four hours risks isolating landlocked territories including the greater Massif Central, which would be iniquitous.”

Given the speed and efficiency of the French railways system, I have always preferred trains to planes for domestic journeys.

Details of the exact routes that will be halted will be published in the official decree. Flights from Paris to Nice, which takes about six hours by train, and Toulouse, four hours by train, will continue.

France’s new law will be watched closely by other countries. Austria’s coalition conservative-Green government introduced a €30 tax on airline tickets for flights of less than 217 miles (350km) last June and a ban on domestic flights that could be travelled in less than three hours by train.

Monday, 12 April 2021

Swiss roll out. A second Mövenpick hotel in Australia

The first Mövenpick hotel in Australia proved a huge success when it opened in Hobart in January. 

Now Accor, together with Singapore’s Fragrance Group Limited, is to open Australia’s second Mövenpick hotel with the unveiling  of Mövenpick Hotel Melbourne on Spencer next month. 

Situated at the meeting point of Melbourne’s Spencer and Bourke Streets in the CBD, the 172-room premium hotel will highlight  a dedicated cafe serving the brand’s signature ice cream, modern South East Asian cuisine at Miss Mi restaurant and bar (below) and a daily Chocolate Hour along with a 25-metre swimming pool, sauna, gymnasium, and a boardroom.

Mövenpick Hotel Melbourne on Spencer will form the six-level podium of the striking 78-storey Elenberg Fraser architect-designed Premier Tower development.


Simon McGrath, CEO Accor Pacific, says: “We’re delighted to be bringing the Mövenpick hotel brand to Melbourne. This investment will benefit the local community by providing a choice of even greater accommodation options for visitors to the city and for Accor loyalty guests. 

"The city of Melbourne is the perfect location for a Mövenpick hotel, enriching Melbourne’s incredible culinary scene with an outstanding restaurant and bar, and masterfully blending the brand’s Swiss heritage with a top-quality hospitality experience.”

Mövenpick Hotel Melbourne on Spencer is just a short stroll from Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium, Queen Victoria Markets and Marvel Stadium. 

With a Swiss heritage dating back to the 1940s, Mövenpick Hotel Melbourne on Spencer joins some of the world’s finest hotels including Mövenpick Resort & Spa Jimbaran Bali, Mövenpick Resort Kuredhivaru Maldives, Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea, Mövenpick Hotel Sukhumvit 15 Bangkok, Grand Plaza Mövenpick Dubai Media City UAE, Mövenpick Hotel Amsterdam City Centre, Mövenpick Hotel The Hague and Mövenpick Hotel Hobart. 


Opening Special: From $240* per night in a Superior King or Twin Room including a Chocolate Hour experience for two on one afternoon. To book, visit


Sunday, 11 April 2021

Explore the Australian coast on the the world's largest sailing ship

The largest sailing ship ever built will make its Australian debut next southern summer.

The spectacular SV Golden Horizon is a steel-hulled five-masted barque rigged tall ship, whose design is based on France, a famous French five-mast cargo windjammer built in 1911.

Australians are being offered a Rail and Sail package combining a cruise on the Golden Horizon and a journey on the iconic Indian Pacific tr

Golden Horizon - operated by Tradewind Voyages - will arrive in Australia for the first time in December. The Croatian built, Malta-registered ship can carry 272 passengers and a crew of up to 139.

Cruise Traveller’s 16-night ‘Rail and Sail Remote Southwestern Australia’ package begins in Sydney on January 19, 2022, with an overnight journey aboard the legendary Indian Pacific train to Adelaide with onboard meals and drinks included along with an excursion in Broken Hill. 

Two nights in an Adelaide hotel follow before guests board the majestic, 272-guest tall ship, Golden Horizon, for a 13-night voyage to Perth.

The voyage from Adelaide to Perth aboard the 162-metre ship will feature eight destinations along Australia’s southern coast, including small and remote places not visited by larger ships, including wildlife-rich Kangaroo Island, oyster capital Coffin Bay, and Head of Bight - a spectacular bay in the Great Australian Bight lined by the longest stretch of uninterrupted sea cliffs in the world, the Bunda Cliffs. 

The voyage also features Esperance – home to some of Australia’s whitest beaches - the rugged beauty of Israelite Bay, the fishing village of Bremer Bay, the pretty coastal town of Albany and Busselton – gateway to the famous Margaret River wine region.

The holiday ends in Perth with a flight back to Sydney. The special 16-night rail and sail package is available from $10,575 per person, twin-share, ex Sydney, including transfers and beer and wine with lunch and dinner aboard the ship.

The vessel has a fine dining room, three pools, gym, library, spa sanctuary, four bars, a marina platform and a collection of kayaks and wakeboards for guests to use. 

All 140 cabins will offer ocean views.

During her inaugural visit to Australia this summer, Golden Horizon will circumnavigate the continent between December and next February, with Cruise Traveller offering a range of sectors from 14 to 73 nights. 

Call Cruise Traveller on 1800 507 777 or visit

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Chef pops up in Tasmanian gourmet hotspot

The Old Bank is a delightful bed and breakfast in the charming southern Tasmanian town of Cygnet.

It serves breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas seven days a week to an appreciative audience.

At night, however, its kitchen largely sits unused.

Enter Huon Valley local chef Tim Ditcham, who has just launched a series of pop-up degustation dinners at the Old Bank.

Ditcham has previously run popular spots like Bistro 31 at Ranelagh General Store and Jam and Bread.

Say When Bistro will open for three consecutive nights each month, with the second stint to run from May 13-15.

Dinner comprises a seven-course menu with a choice of desserts.

The opening menu featured standouts including oysters mignonette with pomegranate seeds; duck liver pate with tracklements, pickles and delicious brioche-style bread; gemfish "Diana" with peas, capers and hollandaise and rosemary panna cotta with lemon, bay and cape gooseberry.

Perhaps my favourite, however, was a delicate but flavoursome pasta dish with pecorino, egg, speck, parsley and lemon (below). Just divine.

Ditcham is a talented chef and the menu is well worth $85 per head. Drinks can be purchased from the Old Bank list or diners can BYO wine for a ridiculously reasonable $3 per person. Service was very helpful and our server even knew which boat had landed the gemfish.

We attended the second night and there were a couple of minor issues; slightly under-seasoned cauliflower soup; beef fillet served with a Yorkshire pudding that madly needed some Viagra, and no water bottle on the table.

All easily fixed, however. A dinner well worth a trip and an overnight stay in Cygnet, where you can also sample Matthew Evans' Fat Pig Farm, the ever-popular Red Velvet Lounge; Port Cygnet Cannery, Cygnet Japanese Diner and Ashcraig Thai, as well as popular cafes in Jacky's, The Porthole and the Lovett, as well as two pubs.

Here' are images of the rest of the dishes. 

For bookings and inquiries email: 
#The writer paid his own way.

Friday, 9 April 2021

Calling all pinotphiles - it's time to party

Pinot Palooza was the biggest pinot noir party in Australia and New Zealand until along came miserable old Covid-19.

A nightmare period for events organisers like Dan Sims and has team at Revel Global meant no events in 2020 - a soul-destroying scenario.

But in 2021, Government jab jibbering or not, live wine events are back baby.

"After 12-month hiatus we are so looking forward to returning to Pinot normal," says ringmaster Sims.

Revel Global has unveiled a list of venues and dates for wine lovers keen for a pinot party.

They include: Queen's Wharf in Auckland on August 6-7, Sydney on October 1-2, Melbourne on October 8-9 and Brisbane on October 15-16.

All cities will feature tastings on Friday evenings and Saturdays with limited capacity sessions for each. Friday sessions will run from 4.30pm till 8.30pm and Saturdays 11am-3pm and 4pm-8pm.

The Melbourne festival will mark the 10th anniversary of the event.

In Auckland, featured wineries will include Ata Rangi, Burn Cottage, Dog Point, Grasshopper Rock, Mount Edward, Rippon, Quartz Reef and Valli, while Australian participants have yet to be revealed, but will include the cream of pinot producers.

For details and bookings visit Auckland tickets are on sale now, Australian tickets from May 4. 

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Former AFL star kicking goals with indigenous flavours

Former AFL football star and indigenous food and beverage promoter Daniel Motlop is the man behind Seven Seasons spirits and their new Bush Apple Gin.

Motlop is working with independent craft drinks collective Mighty Craft to take Seven Seasons products to the world. 

Bush Apple Gin is powered by native Australian botanicals and is promoted as being "perfect for a pink-hued G&T or for mixing in a negroni". 

Larrakia man Daniel Motlop started with Green Ant Gin while a third release, Native Yam Vodka, is planned for May. 

“It was a dream of mine to create a company that celebrated the learning, culture and ingredients from the Top End,” says Motlop, who who played a total of 130 senior games for North Melbourne and Port Adelaide in the AFL.

“After the success of Green Ant Gin, a product I’d always wanted to make, it’s a natural progression to develop these new flavours and showcase what else my people have to offer.” 

The Larrakia people believe there are seven seasons, each one marked by monsoonal rain, the arrival of dragonflies, the fruiting of native cherries or other natural cycles. 

Bush Apple Gin is a product of monsoon season, when the heavy rain starts, crocodiles lay their eggs and barramundi are flourishing. It’s also the time the fruit of the bush apple is ready to be picked from the trees. 

Each year, more than three tonnes of fresh native ingredients – the green ants, bush apples and native yams – are bought direct from communities throughout the Northern Territory to be used in the spirits. 

“Our Larrakia family started harvesting the green ants three or four years ago and created the gin,” says Motlop, whose brother Shannon runs the harvesting operations throughout the Top End. 

“By employing local harvesters, we have been able to create sustainable jobs for hundreds of Aboriginal people and their payments flow back into supporting their communities, which is really what is important. 

“For instance, people never had a place to sell their bush apples, so we created a market for them with some restaurants, but the volumes have been very small. Now, with the creation of our new Bush Apple Gin, we’ve been able to include them in a commercial product and commit to buying a substantial amount from them every year.” 

Mighty Craft CEO Mark Haysman is excited about the potential of Seven Seasons, saying: “Seven Seasons is one of our fastest-growing brands, and the release of Bush Apple Gin and Native Yam Vodka will further accelerate its growth and brand awareness. 

"With extensive distribution throughout Australia already in place, we have our sights firmly set on taking Daniel’s spirits around the world to shine a light on the incredible Australian native ingredients we’re able to source. 

“With more ingredients becoming abundant at different points during the Larrakia seven seasons, the potential is there to formulate a full range of distilled spirits.” 

Seven Seasons Bush Apple Gin is now available. It can be purchased online and from all major national and independent retailers for $100 (700ml). 


Major expansion for Tasmanian cellar door

Tasmanian vineyard Devil’s Corner will begin a significant expansion on its award-winning east coast cellar door from late April 2021. 

A popular stop along the Great Eastern Drive, the expansion will offer locals and travellers a year-round destination with greater space and shelter to enjoy enhanced wine and food experiences overlooking the site’s spectacular views.

Tasmanian architects Cumulus Studio have been re-engaged to ensure the originality and aesthetic of the current site remains while Anstie Constructions will manage the build.

Cumulus Studio director Peter Walker says the team are extremely proud of the new project and are looking forward to continuing the environmentally conscious strategies put in place from the beginning.

“Cumulus are very excited to see the next stage of Devil’s Corner start construction," Walker said. 

"It is highly satisfying as designers to see a place that we helped to create become so used and loved by visitors and locals alike. With increasing awareness of the role buildings play in our environment, we felt it was important to continue many of the environmentally sustainable practices that we initiated at the beginning of the project - from material selection to prefabrication techniques.” 

Devil’s Corner marketing manager Will Adkins says the expansion will aim to cater for all seasons. 

“Calm autumns, wild winters or warm summers, we have no control over the weather," Adkins said. "But with the new site expansion, we will be able to ensure visitors can experience the very best of Devil’s Corner no matter the season. 

"New and improved shelter areas as well as more casual spaces will help accommodate the increasing number of consumers visiting the cellar door each year.”

A new cellar door tasting area will be dedicated to immersive wine experiences while an underground cellar will be the home of wine and food masterclasses, private functions and events. 

Long-term food partners The Fishers and Tombolo will continue to feed locals and travellers with fresh seafood and wood fired pizzas, expanding the food offering from their new and improved on-site kitchens.

During construction ‘The Little Devil Cellar Door’ will act as a temporary pop-up for wine sales, open seven days a week from April to September 2021. See

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Calabria swoops to buy McWilliam's Wines

Riverina and Barossa Valley winemaker Calabria Family Wines has acquired a piece of Australian wine history with the purchase of McWilliam’s Wines. 

The sale, set to be complete by April 30, was announced today by KPMG and selling agent Colliers International. It will see the Griffith-based Calabria family take ownership of the McWilliam’s brands, intellectual property, and stock holdings as well as the Hanwood vineyard, winery and cellar door. 

Mount Pleasant in the Hunter Valley was sold to developers Medich Family. That could prove contentious. 


“It is a great honour for our family to become the proud custodians of Australian winemaking history with the purchase of McWilliam’s Wines," said third-generation general manager Michael Calabria. "Despite recent challenges, we know the McWilliam’s name carries a long and prestigious reputation as one of Australia’s oldest wine producers.” 

Calabria Family patriarch Bill Calabria

McWilliam’s was established in 1877 and has become one of Australia's leading family-owned wineries. With six consecutive generations of winemakers and over 140 years of experience, McWilliam’s has established a range of premium vineyard holdings across the Riverina and New South Wales. It had been in administration.


“Local members of the McWilliam family are pleased that the Hanwood winery and the McWilliam’s Wines business will continue under the control of the Calabria family and that their passion for the local region, brands and history of the company will continue under their family ownership," said fifth-generation Greg McWilliams. 

 We have had a close and enduring relationship over many years and look forward to working with the Calabria family in the future.” 

For further information about Calabria Family Wines visit 

Global recognition for Henschke family

Eden Valley/Adelaide Hills family wine producer Henschke has been named the No.4 Most Admired Wine Brand in the world. 

The honour was bestowed by Drinks International with Henschke the top-ranked Australian winery on the list.

The winners were revealed over the Easter long weekend and voted on by wine industry professionals including buyers, sommeliers, wholesalers, bar owners, Masters of Wine, writers and educators from 48 different countries. 

Drinks International editor Martin Green said: “The Most Admired Wine Brands 2021 highlights the most iconic, exciting and innovative producers in the world.

“To win a place on this prestigious list is a tremendous achievement. There are thousands of wine brands vying for attention around the world, but just 50 elite icons have made the cut.


“Congratulations to all of the brands featured this year. They have earned the respect of hundreds of wine professionals and experts spread across the globe, and they have now gained the ultimate stamp of quality.”


This is the 11th year in which Drinks International has compiled its definitive guide to the World’s Most Admired Wine Brands.


Stephen Henschke, owner and chief winemaker, said: “We are thrilled that our 150-year-old, sixth-generation family-owned winery has been voted in at No.4 of the Top 50 World’s Most Admired Wine Brands for 2021, up 14 places from last year, and our second inclusion in this prestigious list.


“We are grateful to receive this accolade from the Drinks International voting academy. This is an achievement that can be shared by our hard-working team and representatives across the world.


“Our philosophy has always been to be ‘better’ rather than ‘bigger’. My father Cyril, fourth-generation Henschke winemaker, was a pioneer of single-varietal and single-vineyard table wines in Australia, with his greatest legacy being the creation of Mount Edelstone and Hill of Grace in the 1950s; shiraz wines from the Eden Valley that have become an integral part of our country's fine wine story.”

Familia Torres from Spain topped the list ahead of  Catena from Argentina and Vega Sicilia from Spain. Penfolds was sixth with Felton Road from New Zealand 14th, Villa Maria 15th and Yalumba 16th.

Henschke finished ahead of brands including Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Antinori and Guigal. 

Fifth-generation Stephen Henschke and his viticulturist wife Prue are assisted by their winemaker son Johann, and daughter Justine in marketing, representing the sixth generation. 

The 2016 vintage of the Henschke family’s most prestigious single-vineyard shiraz wines from the Eden Valley; Hill of Grace, Hill of Roses and Mount Edelstone will be released on May 5. 

Henschke, one of Australia’s oldest family owned wineries, celebrated 150 years of winemaking in 2018. See

Which cities are the most vegetarian-friendly?

London is the most vegetarian-friendly city in the world according to a new rankings list. 

Nestpick's Vegetarian Cities Index puts London at the top of the tree for non-meat eaters, followed by German cities Berlin and Munich. Then came Vienna, Glasgow, Zurich and Palma de Mallorca.

London got a perfect 100 score (100 scores are always dubious in my opinion) thanks to its plethora of vegetarian restaurants, vegetarian festivals, and affordability of fruit, vegetables and plant-based protein. 

The US, with a lot of high-profile vegetarians and vegans, saw Los Angeles come in eighth in the list of 75 global cities, followed by San Francisco in 10th and New York in 12th place. 

Paris was well down in 61st place while the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo came in last.

In Asia, Chiang Mai in Thailand came in at 36th position - and was named cheapest city for veggie dishes - and Bangkok 73rd. Other Asian cities in the list were Singapore (62nd) and Ubud (67th).

On-demand housing platform Nestpick created the ranking as a way to help people discover cities that best cater to vegetarians. 

"While there are undoubtedly countless cities that are incredible for vegetarians around the world, which do not feature in this index due to a lack of available data, we believe that this shortlist offers an excellent springboard for vegetarians looking to move abroad,” said Omer Kucukdere, founder and chief executive at Nestpick.

I say to Mr Kucukdere that he needs to broaden his horizons to places like India. which India has more vegetarians than the rest of the world put together. Around 38% of all Indians are vegetarians. 

Monday, 5 April 2021

Chardonnay shines in Orange terroir

Chardonnay is one of the most popular white wine grapes in the world - and also one of the most versatile. 

The variety originated in the Burgundy region of eastern France but is now grown all over the globe. 

In Australia, it tends to shine in cooler regions like Tasmania, southern Victoria and Orange in the Central West of New South Wales, where it can resemble the mineral-influenced wines of Chablis. 

The Orange region’s Patina Wines has just released its duo of benchmark chardonnays that are well worth a look for lovers of the cool-climate style: the 2019 Patina Chardonnay ($40) and 2018 Patina Reserve Chardonnay ($60).

The Patina vineyard was planted 22 years ago on the eastern foothills of Mount Canobolas and their quality fruit confirms founder Gerald Naef 's belief in the site. 

“It’s not something you can change readily; choosing where to plant your vines is the foundation for your entire wine growing," Naef says. 

“Grapes tend to hold their acid and fruit character better when ripening occurs in cool weather. Fine tuning and narrowing the varieties down to the best for a particular site or even for a few rows is quite precise and can take a bit of trial and error.

“The high elevation (from 600 metres to 1100 metres) in Orange gives us an edge in grape growing as many varieties do well here. Certain varieties, however, such as chardonnay, do particularly well.”

Another benefit of high elevation vineyards is the high difference in day-night temperature. 

“I’ve said previously that I don’t believe there is another region in the world that necessarily produces better chardonnay than Orange - there are just stylistic differences,” Naef said.

The Patina cellar door and gardens (above) are now open five days a week post-Covid and picnic hampers are available for purchase. 

Both new release wines are outstanding with the 2019 slightly leaner and classically citrusy/minerally (92/100), while 2018 Reserve is a tad more complex and rich, but still unmistakably classic cool-climate chardonnay with lovely balance (94/100).  

For details see

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Meet the Japanese castle that many locals believe is divinely protected

There are few countries more fascinating to visit than Japan; with its history, vibrant culture, exciting cuisine and welcoming vibe. 

Japan is certainly high on my list of places to re-visit as soon as the world returns to normal - and I find its small towns, many off the beaten track, particularly fascinating. 

Take Himeji, a smallish city located in the Hyogo Prefecture that is twinned with Adelaide in South Australia. 

Himeji is probably best known for Himeji Castle, which is regarded as the finest surviving example of prototypical wooden Japanese castle architecture, comprising a network of 83 rooms with advanced defensive systems from the feudal period. 

The castle is frequently known as Hakuro-jō or Shirasagi-jō ("White Egret Castle" or "White Heron Castle") because of its brilliant white exterior and supposed resemblance to a bird taking flight.

Himeji Castle dates to 1333, when it was a fort. The fort was dismantled and rebuilt as Himeyama Castle in 1346, and then remodeled into Himeji Castle two centuries later. 

It is the largest and most visited castle in Japan, and it was registered in 1993 as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites in the country. 

Himeji was heavily bombed in 1945, at the end of World War II, and although most of the surrounding area was burned to the ground, the castle survived intact. 

In 1995, the city of Himeji was substantially damaged by the Great Hanshin Earthquake but Himeji Castle again survived virtually undamaged. It has also survived several typhoons.

Many Himeji residents believe that the castle is divinely protected. 

From 2010 it underwent restoration work for several years and reopened to the public in 2015. I visited in 2018. Tours in English are available.

The city of Himeji, with a population of just over half a million people, is in the Kansai region of Honshu - between Kyoto and Osaka - and easily reachable via JR Rail (a JR Rail Pass is one of the easiest ways to travel around Japan).

Kokoen garden (above) was opened in 1992 and consists of nine large and small gardens using divides of the ruins of Himeji Castle west mansion, It is often used for filming historical dramas because it looks like you have time traveled to the Edo period. The tea ceremony experience in the tea room is popular.

Also check out  Himeji City Museum of Art and the Harimanokunisosha temple.

Be sure to make time for lunch or dinner at Omotenashi Dining Fukutei, which specialises in regional seafood, including sashimi, charcoal-grilled fish and rice dishes cooked in an earthen pot. Conger eel (anago) is a speciality here. 

Nadagiku Kappa-tei is a local sake brewery runs that serves dishes that pair well with sake.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Celebrity chef's local flavours shine in Tasmania

Hotel dining can be a mixed blessing. At its best you get to sample local flavours in the same building in which you are sleeping. 

At its worst you get to taste food ordered in bulk by a hotel chain's head office. 

Fortunately, the menu at Grain of the Silos (top) - the signature eatery of Launceston's Peppers Silo Hotel, is curated with care and attention by celebrity chef Massimo Mele (above). 

Mele says he has fallen even more in love with Tasmania and its produce during the Covid-19 lockdown. 

On my recent visit I opted for a simple dinner of grilled king prawns (above) followed by a thick, juicy and crispy pork chop. Mele graciously sends over a few extra flavours about to make it onto the menu for me to try. 

I'd arrived too late for the garfish from Low Head - there were only a dozen portions available and they were quickly snapped up. 

I do, however, get to sample some super-fresh George's Bay clams; padron peppers from Mele's own garden, and stunning charcuterie from Boucherie Tasmania and Fork It Farm (below). 

There's also a little taste of sardines with super-sweet Tasmanian tomatoes.

With some Sinapius 2018 Gruner Veltliner and Holm Oak 2020 Protege Pinot Noir, my simple supper turned into a gourmet treat. 

"The quality of Tasmanian gourmet produce is improving all the time - and it is fabulous to be able to showcase it to both Tasmanians and visitors alike," says Mele. "I'm constantly making new discoveries." 

The open kitchen showcases Cape Grim beef, Bruny Island cheese and other Tasmanian standouts.

Grain occupies a sunny corner of the Silos; four towers originally built side by side on the banks of the Tamar River in the 1960s to house wheat. 

The Silos sat empty for years - despite their stunning setting - until local developer Errol Stewart turned them into a luxury waterfront destination in 2018. 

It is certainly worth combining dinner with an overnight stay. The staff have grasped the meaning of hospitality and you'll be well looked after from reception to the restaurant. 

Dog lovers missing their own pets might want to take Archie, the canine concierge, for a walk.

The 10-level hotel features 108 guest rooms with a boutique vibe, including 52 inside the barrels of the former silos, undercover car parking, conference facilities and an integrated lobby and reception space.The restaurant turns café for lighter snacks during the day. 

Amenities on-site include a gym, day spa, child-minding facilities, hairdressing salon, function centre and private dining rooms.

The hotel overlooks the nearby Seaport; Royal Park with its barbecue area, play space, skate park and outdoor exercise equipment, boardwalks and sealed paths; the Tamar River Basin and Cataract Gorge. It is also just a short stroll to the footbridge that links to the city centre. 

Peppers Silo is located at 89-91 Lindsay Street, Invermay, Launceston. 6700 0688.

# The writer was a guest of Peppers Silo Hotel 

# Images: Adam Gibson and Winsor Dobbin   



Friday, 2 April 2021

Head off road to get on the right track

Team building exercises are all the rage right now as workers return to offices post-Covid19. 

OzBuggy Tours, an off-road adventure tourism company, has launched a corporate retreat program in Queensland to allow groups of workers to enjoy a team building challenge that is also meant to be fun. 

"Businesses need to ensure that their employees take time to align themselves with their company's key business values and connect with their colleagues after so much time apart, " says the blurb, which is marketing speak 101.

"The boost will help them think critically, work in teams and energise everyone to return to their offices with refreshed goals and attitudes to execute."

The idea itself sounds fun, however. 

OzBuggy Tours corporate retreats see colleagues and employees twisting and turning through the heritage-listed Scenic Rim rainforest on  4x4 buggies, ending their day in a luxurious bush glamping set up.

"OzBuggy Tours corporate retreats can accommodate both small and large teams," says Pip Jewson, founder of OzBuggy Tours. 

"Adventure tours are the ideal escape for corporates to help foster and build new relationships within the team

"Giving employees the opportunity to attend retreats geared toward leadership and adventure also allows for natural leaders to emerge in the group. They get to re-ignite their creative juices after a long year of lockdowns and home office setups." 

Any fully licensed driver from the age of 17 can participate. 

Some of the locations are normally only accessible by experienced drivers with 4x4 setups, but these trips allow access to river crossings, rocky tracks and spectacular waterfalls in a guided tour that will test driving skills to the max. 

More information about corporate retreats here:

GUEST POST: The Hills are Alive: South Australia's local wine revival

Greenhill Wines Pinot Noir

Words and images: Roderick Eime 

As a youngster, I used to enjoy riding my pushbike through the Adelaide Hills, past the acres of orchards and market gardens. 

Apples, pears, plums, cherries and strawberries were everywhere through Summertown, Ashton and Lenswood, and we often stopped and scrumped a juicy Pink Lady or two.

That was 40 years ago and the landscape has now been transformed. Gone are the rows of fruit-laden trees, replaced by vineyards chockers with pinot noir , chardonnay and even the Europopular grüner veltliner.

About the time I was ready to leave Adelaide for my own adventure, the Adelaide Hills were embarking on their big wine revival. 

Led by such names as Brian Croser, Stephen George, Tim Knappstein, Stephen and Prue Henschke, Geoff Weaver, Michael Hill Smith and Martin Shaw, the cool-climate characteristics of the region were rediscovered and now produce a most impressive array of wine.

It’s going to take me another 40 years, I reckon, to visit all the cellar doors in my old stomping ground, but I have to start somewhere and the new winery cafe at Greenhill Wines is a great place to begin my reacquaintance if, for no other reason than I must have passed their driveway many hundreds of times on two wheels or four.

After a couple of tries, I did finally catch up with the most affable Dr Paul Henschke of the famous Eden Valley dynasty and who one might more accurately describe as a wine scientistic and academic. Along with his similarly credentialled wife Penny, the couple started Greenhill Wines at Summertown in 2009 and bottled their first vintage two years later.

Dr Paul overlooking his idyllic patch at Summertown (RE)

“I do still teach at the uni occasionally,” Paul says modestly, “but these days I like to focus on producing our own wines.”

“We are presently making three whites, a fresh style grüner veltliner, a barrel-fermented chardonnay, using grapes sourced locally together with a type of  yeast native to the Piccadilly Valley (cryophilic Saccharomyces uvarum for the boffins) and a white, non-sparkling, Pinot-Chardonnay (pinot grigio blended with chardonnay).”

While I may not be a wine judge in the league of Hooke or Halliday, each of these are flawless to my palate. The grüner veltliner is popular throughout Europe, but not so widely grown here, so it was a bit of a surprise. Paul describes it as a “highly textured mineral palate of apple, pear and citrus, and a long, fresh, crisp, dry finish”. For me at least, it’s the type of fragrant, crisp white that can be paired with a wide variety of foods, but perhaps ideally with spicy Asian dishes or cooked seafood. 

What did make my eyes pop was his magnificent Monomeith Vineyard Pinot Noir

“This reminds me of those fabulous pinots from Tasmania,” I remarked meekly. My confidence lifted when Paul agreed. Apparently, it’s the ‘whole bunch fermentation’ and post-fermentation maceration that are the secret ingredients. I feign wisdom and nod in agreement. 

Paul and Penny make such small batches that you’re unlikely to find any in the big bottle barns. You’ll need to come and taste them for yourself at the Henschke’s idyllic little establishment overlooking the glorious Piccadilly Valley or sign up for mailings.

Most bottles are under $30, even for these expertly crafted vintages. 

For the full story and details on ordering, visit

For more information on the Adeliade Hills, visit