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Thursday 30 December 2021

Korean airlines close to merger

South Korea's two major airlines: Korean Air and Asiana, are set to merge into one entity.

South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission this week signalled its conditional approval for the merger.

Korean Air has agreed to acquire 60% of Asiana Airlines with a plan to merge the two companies.

In a preliminary report, the FTC said the merged business would likely have to relinquish some slots to allow for consumer choice, Travel Mole reported.

The FTC said it has identified 10 routes on which a merger would give the airline a monopoly.

These include long haul routes to Los Angeles, New York, Barcelona, Seattle and Sydney.

"Redistribution of airport slots will allow other airlines to run flights," said Min Hye-young, an FTC spokesperson.

A final decision on the merger is expected in early 2022.

Korean Air, previously known as Korean Air Lines, is the largest airline and flag carrier of South Korea.

The present-day Korean Air was established on March 1, 1969, after the Hanjin Group purchased government-owned Korean Air Lines, which had operated since June 1962.

Asiana Airlines, also based in Seoul, was formerly known as Seoul Air and was founded 33 years ago.

It accounts for around 25% of South Korea's international aviation market and 20% of its domestic market.

Much-loved wine and food festival returns in 2022

One of the most fun wine events of the year is returning to the Hunter Valley. 

The Lovedale Long Lunch, a much-loved boutique wine and food festival, has been scheduled for May 14-15, 2022. 


After a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, the progressive lunch will run all afternoon on both the Saturday and Sunday, with leading local chefs teamed up with seven Lovedale wineries to offer guests food, wine and live music al fresco among the vineyards.

Tickets are already on sale at 

The seven host wineries for the Lovedale Long Lunch 2022 are Allandale Winery; Emma's Cottage Vineyard; Gartelmann Wines; Saltire Estate; Sandalyn Estate; Tatler Wines and Wandin Valley.

Tickets are available for either the Saturday or Sunday, or both, and you can visit up to three wineries per day. 

A shuttle bus will run between venues. 

Matt Dillow, owner and chef at Gartelmann Wines and The Deck Café, Lovedale, said: “Everyone, including our staff and the bands, is pumped for the return of Lovedale Long Lunch in 2022. 

"We are also very excited to welcome back visitors to the region to experience our wines, food, and stunning venues. 

"The feedback we have received already about the return of Lovedale Long Lunch in 2022 has been phenomenal. We are expecting the event  to be bigger than ever.”

Amy Cooper, CEO, Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association, said: “The Lovedale Long Lunch is a signature wine and food event for the Hunter Valley, and it attracts strong visitation and lasting memories. It is great to see the organising committee and operators planning ahead with confidence and we expect this event to once again be a great success." 

Deal of a lifetime? Wine every month for the rest of your life?

Would you pay US$6,000 up front to ensure you got the equivalent of four cases of wine delivered to your door each year for the rest of your life? 

I wouldn't, but a Californian wine company is offering members four bottles of wine per month for the entire duration of their lives, Drinks Business reports. 

It is an impressive way of getting an instant cash injection but would appear to be fraught with potential danger for wine lovers. 

What if the company goes belly up? What if it gets bought out? What if you die suddenly? 

And it is certainly a better deal for someone aged 21 than 65. Get your grandkids to sign up for you should you be seduced by the idea. 

California-based Obvious Wines has launched the ‘lifelong wine membership" deal for 2022. 

For US$6,000, members can order any four bottles of wine from the company’s website per month, every month, for the rest of their life.

Any wine currently listed on the Obvious Wines website is eligible for order and shipping and taxes within the US are covered. Limited-edition wines are also eligible.

Calling it “an excellent deal when considering rising inflation rates”, Jake Ralph from Obvious Wines says members will see a “return on their investment in just seven years”. If they live that long. 

“We’ve done the math and is is a really bad deal for us, but hey, you only live once,” says a statement on the company's website.

Obvious Wines describes itself as an eco-friendly, vegan wine collection that collaborates with family-owned, boutique wineries dedicated to sustainable practices ranging from solar-powered energy to organic farming.

Its wines include Bright & Crisp, a sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley; Rich & Oaky, a Californian chardonnay; and Dark & Bold, a red blend made of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, tannat and malbec.

I can see the appeal but would not be tempted even if I lived in the US. Which I wouldn't. Make your own decision. But I’m sure someone in Australia will come up with a similar scheme.

Wednesday 29 December 2021

Is Thai food also the world's tastiest medicine?

Many Thai dishes combine deliciousness with healthy ingredients - making them perfectly in tune with the current fashion for wellness awareness.

Thailand's Department of Cultural Promotion is promoting Thai foods as being both medicinal and beneficial for one's health through the website Thai Taste Therapy – an online Thai cooking space showcasing 50 recipes and their health benefits.

The website also contains information on raw ingredients and Thai herbs.

Thai gastronomy takes centuries-old local wisdom to a new level in health, well-being and medicinal care, the department says.

"Thailand is honoured to share its knowledge of local dishes from throughout the Kingdom that not only appeal to the taste buds but have healing properties for a number of ailments."

Chai Nakhonchai, director general of the Department of Cultural Promotion, said the attractions of Thai food go beyond taste.

"While Thai food is an intangible cultural heritage praised worldwide for its diverse flavours, the wonder of Thai cuisine doesn't end with great taste," he says.

"Nearly every dish is bursting with vegetables, herbs and spices containing nutraceutical properties [food containing health-giving additives and having medicinal benefits] which in turn can aid the body to fight off diseases and help maintain a level of health and vitality.

"It's not an overstatement to refer to Thai cuisine as 'The World's Tastiest Medicine'."

Sample dishes from the website include immune system-boosting chicken soup with turmeric and five-spice jungle curry.

For more details visit

Image: Suparerg Suksai,

Discover one of Tasmania's most delightful destinations

There can be no argument that the small waterfront town of Stanley is one of the most picturesque in Tasmania. 

There is also no debate about the fact that the beautifully restored Ship Inn guest house is a delightfully atmospheric place to stay for a few days.
Thank delightful quiet village, shipping fleet, country pub with good grub, a range of places to eat, drink and picnic, and lovely landscapes.

The folk behind the Ship Inn have unveiled their local secrets, which I thought I'd share with you over the silly season. 

  1. Fish ‘n chips

Fish n chips options abound in this small village, with local fresh-caught produce featuring strongly. Grab your fish n chips and head over to the port to dangle your legs over the jetty as you tempt the seagulls. Lobster 'n chips is also a possibility.


  1. Gorgeous beaches

Flanked by two stunning beaches you’ll be spoilt for choice for a quick dip or a gentle stroll. Pick up the pace on the Ship Inn bicycles, perfect for riding out on the hard-packed sand and exploring the quaint village.


  1. The Nut

Enjoy a steep climb up the volcanic plug called the Nut and explore the 2km track n top, where wildlife abounds and you have stunning views across the landscape and Bass Strait. Don’t worry, there’s a chair lift as well if you’re simply not needing the burn.


  1. Little penguins

Evening time sees little penguins come into shore to roost for the night. Get up close and personal on the penguin viewing platform and watch them waddle in.


  1. History

Soak up some history Tassie style, from deluxe accommodation at the Ship Inn, which started life as an 1800s sailors tavern, to the historic village and incredible stories and clash of cultures at nearby Highfield Historic Site, the outpost of the Van Diemen’s Land Co.

 For full details visit

Tuesday 28 December 2021

Caught out trying to scam a government

It takes a certain chutzpah to attempt to scam a government.

But only if you get away with it.

Two travel agencies in Japan tried and failed.

Japanese travel agency group HIS Co said two subsidiaries scammed the government through the Go To Travel subsidised tourism campaign.

It reported that Japan Holiday Travel Co and Miki Tourist Co fraudulently over-reported the number of hotel stays booked as part of the campaign.

Together they received $8.23 million worth of subsidies for hotel stays that didn’t exist.

HIS said the theft was discovered during an internal audit, Travel Mole reports.

Miki Tourist allegedly conspired with hotel operator JHAT Co but Japan Holiday Travel did not take an active role in processing bogus bookings.

HIS CEO Hideo Sawada said Miki Tourist’s president will be fired and HIS will repay the money to the government.

The Go To Travel subsidised tourism campaign covered 50% of travel costs from July 2020 to December 2020, when it was halted due to rising Covid-19 cases.

Image: William Vaccaro

Sydney's newest luxury hotel ups the hype

There is a lot of hype swirling around the opening of Australia's first Kimpton hotel in Sydney on February 1.

The space formerly occupied by the Primus Hotel has been given a complete makeover and the promo blurb insists the Kimpton Margot will be the "city’s most exciting hotel development of the decade".

Previous guests will remember how beautiful the building is with its 1930s vibe but the Kimpton, with celebrity chef Luke Mangan on board, promises a range of new experiences.

Social Hour, which will see guests come together for daily complimentary drinks between 5-6pm, will be when Margot comes alive.

The drinks on offer will vary daily - from boutique Australian wines to a Four Pillars G&T, or Kimpton’s signature Margot cocktail.

Social Hour could be hosted in the lobby, on the mezzanine surrounded by artworks, or at the rooftop bar, by the pool. It might all depend on the weather.

Mindfulness and wellness (two essential hotel buzzwords nowadays) will be provided by Kimpton’s partnership with Egg of the Universe, where guests are invited to workout, stretch, or do a few vinyasas from the comfort of their room, through a selection of yoga workouts available on tablet and TV.

Yoga mats and accessories will be available on request at no charge.

“Forgot it, we’ve got it” - a signature Kimpton Margot promise - means guests can call downstairs for an electrical charger, blow dryer, dry shampoo, a tie, shoe polish or whatever. The boast is that the team will bring it right up.

Kimpton Margot Sydney has a partnership with Lekker bikes and has mapped out the best of Sydney on wheels. Guests are free to just take some wheels and explore the city streets and nearby Hyde Park at their leisure.

Away from the bustle of Pitt Street are 172 spacious rooms and suites – most with bathtubs and all with Mr Smith (sorry, who is he?} amenities. The walls will feature whimsical wall art from global artists - close to 600 in all.

The rooftop swimming pool is surrounded by a terrace, conference and event spaces while Luke’s Kitchen will have a menu curated by chef Luke Mangan.

Cellar By Luke will highlight a unique wine experience, where guests can dine on daily culinary curations surrounded by walls of Australian and International wines. 

Also set amid the Art Deco decor will be the 1930’s-style The Wilmot Bar, with a range of cocktails.

Located in the heart of Sydney’s “south-side”, just down from the State Theatre and the QVB and close enough to be within walking distance to Surry Hills and Darlinghurst, Kimpton Margot Sydney is in a prime location.

Rates at Kimpton Margot Sydney will start from $350.

For further information, head to

Monday 27 December 2021

Goodbye Christmas; hello Easter: commercialism gone mad


It is probably not the season to be churlish. Many of us are still celebrating Christmas with family and friends. 

Yet odious marketers from the big supermarkets are already spruiking their wares for Easter. On December 27. 

A pox on them, I say. 

First off the blocks in blocks in the race to be the most crassly commercial were Coles, with a press release sent to media at 6.20am this morning about their Vegemite hot cross buns. 

Hot cross buns! 

When most of us still have Christmas and Christmas pudding left over.

But there is no hope of restraint from big business when there are big bucks to be made. 

Here is the Coles' bumpf from this morning. Make up your own minds about their greedy opportunism. 

"Coles’ award-winning hot cross buns are getting a mitey makeover this year with Coles launching a brand-new flavour combination in partnership with Bega Cheese Limited – the Vegemite Hot Cross Bun.

"Available in more than 700 Coles supermarkets nationwide from December 27 (that's today), the limited-edition combination of sweet and savoury is the latest in a series of flavour mash-ups from Coles, which has previously wowed customers with buns in Lamington, Raspberry and White Chocolate and Sticky Date and Butterscotch flavours.

"Best toasted and slathered with butter or grilled toasted sandwich style with lots of melty cheese, the soft buns are infused with Vegemite and parmesan and finished with an indulgent tasty cheese topping."

And on and on it drones with the memorably awful line: "Vegemite is one of those things that makes Australia wonderful." 

As flavour combinations go, I've heard of worse ideas. But it is December 27.

Could you not, at least, have waited until the new year? 




Sunday 26 December 2021

Cat and dog are off the menu

Vietnam is a beautiful country to visit but the site of dog carcasses for sale in local markets has come in for criticism from many tourists.

Now a popular Vietnamese tourist city has pledged to phase out selling cat and dog meat, local media has reported.

Hoi An's move would be a first in a country where some, most older people, consider the animals a delicacy.

An estimated five million canines are consumed every year in Vietnam - the second-highest tally in the world behind China - with some believing eating the meat can help dispel bad luck.

The authorities in Hoi An, an historic trading port and World Heritage site pictured above, have signed a deal with animal rights group Four Paws International promising to phase out sales and consumption of cat and dog meat.

"We want to help promote animal welfare through rabies eradication, phasing out the dog and cat meat trade, and making the city a premier destination for tourism," said city vice-mayor Nguyen The Hung.

Julie Sanders from Four Paws International said it was a watershed moment that might set an example for other destinations in Vietnam.

A national poll commissioned by the animal rights group this year found only an estimated 6.3% per cent of 600 Vietnamese surveyed consume cats and dogs with 88% supporting a ban.

In 2018, Hanoi city officials encouraged people to stop eating dog meat as it was damaging the capital's reputation and there were health concerns it could lead to deadly rabies infections.

# Before you get all racist remember a lot of people find it disgusting that in Australia we eat wallaby and kangaroo. 

Image: Adam Cosgrove,

Saturday 25 December 2021

A return flight for the cost of a couple of pizzas

In Australia we have to settle for Jetstar's mediocrity but in Europe there are still several budget airlines that deliver affordable getaways to obscure destinations.

OK. You might have to put up with minimal leg room, absurd baggage rules, check-in penalties and other annoyances, but who could resist a flight to Podgorica from London for about the same price as a large pizza.

There might be the risk your carrier goes bankrupt before you can get on board, or that your return flight is interminably delayed, but that's all part of the fun - and you do get what you pay for.

One of the rising stars of budget flying is Wizz Air UK, which this week unveiled new routes from its expanded Gatwick Airport base.

New destinations include Faro, Palma, Larnaca, Catania, Podgorica, Tel Aviv, Chania (never heard of it, to be honest), Mykonos and Funchal (a super destination for wine lovers, although landings can be a bit scary).

There will also be new routes from Milan, Rome, Vienna, Bari and Naples to Gatwick Airport, with those flights operated by Wizz Air Hungary.

Tickets are on sale via and on the airline’s mobile app, starting from £8.99 (yep, under $20). 

Had I been in a position to do so, I could have booked an April return trip to Montenegro for around £50 (that's just $92 for Australians - what a great deal).  

A mixture of year-round and seasonal routes, the new flights will launch from March onwards, Travel Mole reports.

Wizz Air is adding four new aircraft at Gatwick Airport after securing extra landing slots.

Discover the best of southern Tasmania over one weekend

Looking for the perfect weekend to spend some time exploring vineyards and cellar doors in southern Tasmania? 

Save the dates of March 4-6, 2022, for Tasmania’s Southern Open Vineyards Weekend. 

Over 30 vineyards across southern Tasmania will throw open their doors to guests for the three-day period, offering a unique opportunity for wine lovers to meet the people behind some of Tasmania’s most-loved wine labels, some of whom don’t usually operate a tasting room.

The vent will spotlight Tasmania’s key southern winemaking areas: the Derwent Valley, Coal River Valley and Huon Valley/D’Entrecasteux Channel. 

Some of the star labels involved will include Derwent Estate, Sailor Seeks Horse, Domain Simha, Glaetzer-Dixon and Mewstone Wines. 

Hobart-based winemaker and event manager Greer Carland of wine label Quiet Mutiny is organising the 2022 weekend after pulling together a successful 2021 event that took place despite border closures and Covid-19 limitations.

“Growing up on the family vineyard, Laurel Bank, I have seen first hand how this event has been a highlight in the annual wine event calendar for over two and a half  decades now," Carland says. "It represents a unique opportunity to connect with our local talent growing and making wine as well as celebrating and discovering amazing Tasmanian wines."

Along with wine tastings, many venues offer food, music and bespoke events.

Social distancing will be in place at all participating vineyards and all visitors will be required to scan in via a QR code on arrival.

Further details will be available at in the coming weeks.  

Images: Dearna Bond

Friday 24 December 2021

A uniquely Australian aperitif: meet a Sunny Arvo


Champagne, pastis; gin; ouzo; dry sherrries and cocktails like negronis or Aperol spritzes are all popular aperitifs; drinks served with hors d'oeuvres or an amuse-bouche and enjoyed before a main meal.

Now Australia has its own pre-dinner drink with Three Foxes Distillery in Melbourne having released Australia’s first certified organic aperitivo: Sunny Arvo. 

A drink that is quintessentially summery, Sunny Arvo is designed to be enjoyed on the rocks or in a spritz and weighs in with just 16% alcohol. 

“With Sunny Arvo we wanted to provide an Aussie alternative to international liqueurs and aperitifs," says Three Foxes head distiller and co-founder Sarkis Karakis, a fourth generation distiller. 

"For us, it was about curating an experience that brought Australians together socially, sharing a good laugh over palate-forward drinks and tasty sharing plates.”

To create Sunny Arvo the Three Foxes team used their own organic alcohol, infused with rosella, the herbaceous plant safflower and a variety of berries. 

Blended with orange brandy distillate, hibiscus, blood orange, and gentian spirit with cinnamon and zesty citrus bitters, this is a classic palate whetter. 

“We’ve always made our drinks from actual fruits and botanicals, sourced from farms, not factories," says Karakis. "All our flavours are made in-house by a combination of steeping, distilling, and blending, so it was an easy pivot for us. 

"Getting the certification just makes it official, so we don’t have to hide around words like natural etc.” 

Best enjoyed as a spritz in my view. It is too viscous on its own and needs ice or some bubbles to be seen at its best.

Three Foxes are also planning to release a non-alcoholic version to be called Sunny Arvo Organic Noperitivo in the new year.

Sunny Arvo Organic Aperitivo ($48, 500ml) is currently available to purchase online from the Three Foxes Distillery website:

Stand up for your rights: young Australians lead the way

Australians are notoriously bad at standing up for their consumer rights.

They'd rather accept shoddy service, or a product that doesn't work properly, than make a fuss.

Research from consumer organisation Choice found that just 38% of Australians have asked for a refund, replacement or repair in the last five years because a product did not work or was not what they asked for.

And with Australians expected to spend a record $21 billion in stores and online during the post-Christmas sales, Choice is encouraging consumers not to put up with dodgy products and to feel confident in asking for a refund, repair or replacement.

Young Australians aged 18-34 are the most likely (49%) of any age group to ask for a refund, while just 24% of older Australians aged 65-75 had asked for a remedy in the same situation.

"While we're happy to see 49% of young Australians leading the charge when asking for a refund, replacement or repair, we want all Australians to feel just as confident in exercising their consumer rights when they need to," says Choice director of campaigns and communications Erin Turner.

"By knowing your rights when a product you bought doesn't work, or wasn't what you asked for, you can avoid additional financial strain," says Choice managing editor Margaret Rafferty.

So if you've splashed some cash on gifts at Christmas or are thinking of picking up some bargains in the Boxing Day sales, Choice has some valuable tips.

Australian businesses are all bound by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) which sets out consumer rights.

You're entitled to ask for a repair, replacement or refund if 
# a product isn't fit for purpose
# a product doesn't match the description
# a product is significantly different from what you expected
# the business made extra promises it hasn't kept
# spare parts and repairs aren't available
# the business didn't have the right to sell you the goods.

Similar guarantees apply to services, which must:
# be performed with proper care and skill
# be fit for a particular purpose or achieve the result you expected
# be delivered within a reasonable time, or by the end date in a contract

These guarantees cover gifts, online products and services from all Australian businesses and sale items are covered, too.

Keeping receipts will help smooth the returns process if you need to take something back.

"Keeping a record of your purchase is always important, especially for high-value purchases," says Turner.

"In the worst case scenario, a company or manufacturer might not respect your consumer rights and you may need to go to a court or a tribunal. If this happens, good record keeping will increase your chances of a good result."

Signs that say things like "No refunds", "No refunds on sale items" or "Exchange or credit note only for return of sale items" aren't legal. So don't shop at places that display those signs.

But also don't take the mickey.

If the item you've bought isn't faulty but you've changed your mind, found it at a cheaper price elsewhere or it's an unwanted Christmas or birthday gift, Australian retailers are not under any legal obligation to give you a refund or exchange. Nor should they.

Image: Maksim Chernyshev,

Thursday 23 December 2021

Tasmania stays open for summer - fingers crossed

The Cygnet Folk Festival, and our backyard Christmas Eve drinks, are the latest events in Tasmania to be cancelled after Premier Peter Gutwein decided to throw state borders open to visitors from Covid cavalier New South Wales. 

Fingers and toes are crossed for other summer events on the Apple Isle. 

Among those still going ahead at this stage: 

Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race: December 26-January 1 

The Sydney to Hobart is one of the world's toughest yacht races and fierce conditions are expected. Sailors race a gruelling 628 nautical miles from Sydney Harbour, down the south-east coast of mainland Australia, across Bass Strait, then down the east coast of Tasmania to the finish on Hobart's waterfront. Celebrations continue with New Year's Eve festivities and the waterfront is the perfect place to take a stroll and check out the Hobart Race Village, the eateries and bars and the Taste of Summer festival. 

Taste of Summer: December 28-Janury 3 

Taste of Summer is the replacement event for the hugely popular Taste of Tasmania, which was canned by Hobart City Council (an organisation best known for its absurd parking rules and regulations). The food festival has long been a key event on Tasmania's social calendar but now people will have to pay to enter, which may completely alter the dynamic. Princes Wharf Shed No.1 on the Hobart waterfront is the venue for over 80 food and drink producers from regions right across the state, along with a range of live entertainment. The New Year's Eve party is a ticketed event with delicious food and drinks, fireworks and live music across both a waterfront and lawn stage.

Mona Foma: January 21-23 Launceston; January 28-30 Hobart 

Mona Foma will feature two weekends of music, art and live performances to opposite ends of the state. From a dance work exploring the journey of the pakana people, a cross-section of live music, to cement-mixer-monster-trucks, aerialists on a dripping iceberg and high-powered lasers illuminating the landscape. The festival includes over 300 artists across 40 venues with Midnight Oil performing two near sold-out shows in each city.

The Ashes: January 14-18 Hobart 

For the first time ever Tasmania is hosting an Ashes series cricket match with the fifth and final test to be held at Blundstone Arena (above) on Hobart's eastern shore. The Ashes series is contested by Australia and England and is cricket's oldest rivalry. Fingers crossed it doesn't rain. 

For full details about what is on in Tasmania see 

Wednesday 22 December 2021

A cheesy pizza complete nonsense

It's one of those rare ads that encourages you not to try a product. 

I don't think I've seen or heard so much nonsense about a food product as the hype surrounding the launch of Domino’s Cheese Toastie Crust Pizza in Australia. 

Check out the really annoying TV ad featuring an Australian version of Renee and Renato (you might well have forgotten them) warbling away insensibly about a fast food product. 

No, Domino's, I am not questioning why Australia’s greatest loves haven’t been brought together sooner.

And I seriously doubt a cheese toastie is a really an Australian "gourmet" favourite. 

I also question whether you use real Brie cheese (you do claim the foodstuff is un-brie-lievable). Far too expensive

In fact you admit "your favourite pizza is now finished with a generous sprinkle of Australian Cheddar Cheese right to the edge of the crust". 

Domino’s ANZ Chief Marketing Officer Adam Ballesty has said that: "Never before had everyone’s favourite childhood, indulgent snack been combined with pizza, but it’s a match made in (cheese) heaven. 

“I’m sure everyone can attest to fond memories of enjoying a cheese toastie, and in fact, it’s something many of us still love, and very much miss, to this day.

“With Domino’s Cheese Toastie Crust, we wanted to offer everyone the comfort of a cheese toastie but elevate the experience by transforming it into a pizza crust."

The awful dirge is apparently a song called Cheese Toastie Love.

It is sung by David Novak of Sydney band Polish Club and Natalie Conway. 

"A song dedicated to the joining of the world’s greatest loves; pizza and cheese toastie." 

You'd feel sorry for them if it wasn't so awful. 

But wait. It gets worse. "Domino’s is helping to share the love by giving one lucky couple the chance to win their wedding catered by Domino’s!"

Meet Melbourne's new high-rise address


Melbourne has a new high-rise accommodation address with the debut of the Oakwood Premier brand in Australasia region. 

Oakwood, which has over 60 properties worldwide, says the new landmark in Southbank is one of the tallest, single-purpose developments in Australia, soaring 140 metres and 40 storeys over the central business district with views of the CBD and the Yarra River, South Melbourne, Albert Park and Port Phillip Bay.

Oakwood Premier Melbourne now extends the Oakwood Premier brand presence to 10 major cities including Bangalore; Guangzhou; Incheon; Jakarta; Singapore; Seoul; Tokyo and Tonglu. Properties in the pipeline include Phnom Penh and Kuala Lumpur. 


“As we strive towards our goal of doubling Oakwood’s portfolio of managed properties by 2025, we are cognizant of evolving traveller preferences and expectations," said Dean Schreiber, chief executive officer of Oakwood .

"Within our ecosystem (sigh) of eight distinctive Oakwood experiences, we are committed to continuous innovation and evolution with a guest-first approach to cater to both business and leisure travellers at different cycles of their life. 

“Tailored luxury is the foundation of Oakwood Premier. We are excited to debut this distinctive style of hospitality at Oakwood Premier Melbourne." 

The new property has 132 hotel rooms and 260 serviced apartments with fully-equipped kitchens. 

On site, Fifth is an all-day dining destination offering modern Australian cuisine with a Pacific Rim influence (haven't they all). 

Other amenities include a Sky Bar, state-of-the-art fitness centre, three meeting rooms, two multi-purpose event venues, co-working space, games centre fitted with modern entertainment for those looking to play snooker or video games and two outdoor “green oases” just a stroll from Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, South Melbourne Market and Marvel Stadium.

The opening was originally scheduled for October, but was delayed.  

For more information, visit Oakwood Premier Melbourne

Sebel hotel brand lands in the Whitsundays

The Whitsundays in Queensland have a new luxury hotel brand with the opening this week of the The Sebel Whitsundays Airlie Beach.

The property features 54 newly refurbished apartment-style guestrooms, including a selection of one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, three-bedroom penthouses and a four-bedroom presidential suite that sound very, well, presidential.

The resort, formerly known as Blue Horizons, has a 15-metre swimming pool and heated outdoor spa, fitness centre, and outdoor dining area with barbeque facilities.

“We are excited to bring The Sebel brand to the Whitsundays - one of Australia’s most popular holiday hotspots," said Accor Pacific Chief Executive Officer Simon McGrath.

"The Sebel [brand] has a long-standing reputation for delivering exceptional accommodation and an outstanding service experience. It brings quality and credibility to the serviced apartments sector, which is rapidly growing in popularity.

"We’re seeing strong visitor numbers at our Whitsundays properties and we’re forecasting greater growth with Queensland border restrictions now easing.”

The hotel is owned by the ‘at Hotel Group’.

Airlie Beach is the mainland hub of the Whitsundays and a popular starting point for tourists visiting the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands.

The Sebel Whitsundays Airlie Beach joins a network of more than 30 Sebel properties across Australia and New Zealand. In the Whitsundays, Accor also operates Mantra Boathouse Apartments Airlie Beach and Mantra Club Croc Airlie Beach.

Opening rates start from $275 per night in a one-bedroom apartment. To book, visit

Tuesday 21 December 2021

Meet the drinks that are a work of art

Can a drink also be a work of art? The team behind Bombay Sapphire believe so - and are out to prove it. 

"Sippable cocktail art" may be coming to a bar near you thanks to a partnership between the premium gin distillers and visual artist Ellen Porteus. 

As part of the Stir Creativity campaign, Porteus will use cocktails as a canvas and create bespoke cocktail garnishes, inspired by Bombay Sapphire, Bombay Bramble and Bombay Sunset (a brand I have yet to try, hint). 

Bombay Sapphire will also be donating $1 per cocktail sold over the summer to two charities within the hospitality and arts industries: TipJar and the Arts Project Australia. 

“This has been such a fun project to work on!" says Porteous. 

"Out of all the canvases I’ve used in the past, I’ve got to say a cocktail is one of the most imaginative."

Bacardi-Martini Australia brand ambassador (great gig that) Georgie Mann said: “Creating cocktails is an art within itself, so collaborating with visual artist, Ellen Porteus on these bespoke cocktail garnishes connects to Bombay Sapphire’s core, as there is finesse and craftsmanship in everything we do.”

The three bespoke cocktail garnishes will be available at over 50 venues nationally with the Bombay Sour, Bramble Sour and Sunset Sour



Yarra tourism drawcard rises from the ashes

One of the Yarra Valley's major tourism drawcards has re-opened after devastating fires in the middle of 2020. 

Balgownie Estate Yarra Valley has unveiled the opening of its brand-new restaurant, cellar door and function rooms as part of a multi-million dollar rebuild.

More than 100 industry partners, VIPs and media (not me, unfortunately) were guests last week at a re-launch event. 

Balgownie Estate’s new restaurant, 1309@Balgownie takes its name from the winery’s address and will feature food curated by Grant Flack and Beth Candy along with the new cellar door, function area and outdoor deck bar overlooking the Dandenong Ranges.

The new restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner to the public seven days a week from mid-January, while the 4 1/2-star resort is also taking bookings for meetings, events and functions. 

“At Balgownie Estate Yarra Valley, we have a clear focus on supporting our local regional producers and being able to deliver a fantastic authentic experience based around fine wine and delicious food," said executive chef Flack. 

"Our team can’t wait to showcase what we have been working on to the public and provide them with the utmost luxurious and relaxing experience, as promised.”

The on-site spa suites and guest rooms are now welcoming vaccinated guests.

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Hotel group does its bit for nature

It is always pleasing to hear a good news story from the travel industry. 

This time it is Thai-based hospitality group Anantara that has some feed good tidings as we approach Christmas. 

Wildlife rangers in Cambodia have confirmed the return of wild elephants and endangered otters to a concession of forest that Anantara funds via The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF), Anantara’s charitable organisation.

The sightings of these rare species were confirmed by Khmer rangers supported by Wildlife Alliance and from funds raised by Anantara guests that are distributed through the GTAEF to a number of charitable projects around the world. 

"From the size of the dung and the number of footprints, it seems that this is a herd of nine elephants comprising four adult females, their calves and one juvenile,” said John Roberts, director of the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) and Group Director of Sustainability and Conservation for Anantara. 

The hotel group has been fully funding the ranger effort since the pandemic shut down tourism across the globe. 

The Cardamom Tented Camp, in southern Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountain range, is a non-profit eco lodge resting within 18,000 hectares of pristine land that opened in late 2017. 

Proceeds from the camp are used to fund rangers that patrol the concession, protecting against deforestation and illegal poaching. 

The camp uses the slogan, “Your Stay Keeps the Forest Standing” and otters (above) have recently been spotted nearby. 

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Monday 20 December 2021

One to watch: Is this Australia's next culinary superstar?

Paddy Prenter is the new executive chef at ultra luxe Tasmanian resort Saffire Freycinet. 

It is native Tasmanian Prenter's first gig in charge of a major kitchen and he succeeds big names in the likes of Hugh Whitehouse and Iain Todd. 

Prenter has spent the past few years sucking up knowledge from some of the best kitchen operatives in the country 

His first menus, which I sampled recently, were formidably impressive and while many a great potential chef has fallen by the wayside, I am tipping stardom for Prenter. Remember the name. 
Somewhere back in history I was reviewing an inner city Sydney restaurant called Ultimo's  for the Daily Telegraph (a much better newspaper then than it is now). 

The details are lost in the mists of time but I gave a glowing review to the man behind the pans at Ultimo's - a now long-closed spot where the food was an intriguing combination of French and Japanese flavours. 

The food was stunningly good. 
Tetsuya Wakuda

I later received a hand-written 'thank you' note from the chef - a fellow called Tetsuya Wakuda, who went on to fame and fortune. 

Back in the 80s I also used to very much enjoy the food at Blue Water Gill, an eatery at Bondi Beach owned by the parents of a tennis player where the food, while very different, had a similar energy and vibrancy. 

That chef, of whom no one had heard at the time, was a fellow called Neil Perry. You might have heard of him since. 

Over the past three decades I've eaten fish and chips at Harry Ramsden's, street foot in dimly lit sois in Bangkok, and even munched on guinea pig in the street in Peru. 

I have also been fortunate enough to eat in restaurants with chefs whose names included Gagnaire, Puck, Tower, Loiseau, Lorain, Bilson, Thompson, Best, Bocuse, Ryan and Meneau, among others. So I have form when I say Prenter is one to watch.   

The chef, whose partner Imogen Hayes works front of house at Saffire's Palate restaurant, has several positives on his side. 

He knows best of Tasmania's best producers personally, has the budget to access luxury ingredients like sea urchin, truffles and abalone should he want to, and he has a top-notch team around him in one of the most beautiful settings in Australia. 

Launceston born, Prenter started working as a junior in Hobart venue The Grape.

He visited south-east Asia, Japan and South America as a tourist, taking several culinary ideas with him along the way.

On his return to Australia, he worked for Andrew McConnell at venues like Cumulus Inc and Supernormal There is no better learning experience for a young chef.

After coming back to Tasmania he worked at Westend Pumphouse, Post Street Social, Frogmore Creek, Tom McHugo's and the late lamented Franklin under David Moyle before landing at Saffire three years ago, where he honed his skills under the talented Todd, who has been his mentor.

His dishes have a freshness and charm, using the best seasonal produce while always supporting local suppliers.

There is a creativity and passion to his cooking and, like Tetsuya, all those years ago, his presentation skills are outstanding. 

I felt the same frisson of excitement eating his dishes as I did discovering Tetsuya all those years ago. His food is deft and playful and, most importantly, reliably delicious. 

Now he has the pressure cooking at the most exclusive restaurant in Tasmania, where you either need to be a house guest to dine, or know someone who knows someone.

"I've had a lot of menu input over the past few years working under Iain since July 2018, but this is my first menu launch," Prenter says of menus that may feature dishes like Stanley Bay scallops with yuzu, orange and chimi churri (top dish), soy braised abalone with kunzea (above) and organically farmed loin of venison with kohlrabi and cherries.   

Dishes using local sea herbs, honey made on-site, Robbins Island wagyu beef, and local seafood from Freycinet Marine Farm all feature heavily. 

"I think I am coming into my own and know the scope of what I am capable of n the kitchen," Prenter says. "I feel confident in my ability and am ready for the opportunity to show what I can do.

"I know the venue well, I know the clientele well and I also know the best local producers who can provide the ingredients I am looking for. We will be trying to source everything as local as possible using the relationships I have built up."

There are degustation and a la carte menu options, with all dietary requirements catered for on an individual basis - as you'd expect with seasoned guests paying upwards of $2000 per couple per night for an all-inclusive experience. 

"There is obviously pressure, but it is not a pretentious environment," Prenter says. "We want people to feel relaxed and we are all looking forward to being consistently busy from now on - and I have a great team with me."

Asked to describe his cooking style, Prenter says: "Modern Australian with some Asian influence, particularly Japanese" but we are not going to say 'no' to guests. If they want a cheese and tomato toasty they will get the best cheese and tomato tasty I can possibly make.

"Fresh and seasonal dishes are certainly what we aiming for but guests can request whatever they want and we will try to please them."   

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