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Sunday 31 July 2022

Jamaica celebrates a milestone

Next week will be a big one for the Caribbean nation of Jamaica - and for Jamaican expats around the world.

Jamaica will celebrate its 60th anniversary of independence on August 6, with a range of events to mark the milestone.

The Jamaica 60 theme is “Reigniting a Nation For Greatness”.

I only visited Jamaica once - on a short cruise ship stopover - but loved the vibe.

Jamaica is the third-largest island of the Caribbean after Cuba and Hispaniola (shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

After a two-year hiatus, Jamaica's popular annual festivals are back this year showcasing some of the country's local talents. The festivals help attract an average of 4.3 million tourists a year.

Signature summer festivals including Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica Dream WKND and MoBay Jerk & Food Festival.

The Jamaica Tourist Board has worked with hotel and resort partners to offer a collection of deals across various destinations in Jamaica, which was ruled by the Spanish and then the British prior to independence in 1962.

Famous Jamaicans include Bob Marley, Usain Bolt and Naomi Campbell.    

Celebrations are also scheduled for Canada, where over 300,000 Jamaicans live - many of them in Toronto.

For details see Images: Sonya Kerr, Alejandro Jaramillo,

Saturday 30 July 2022

The lowest of the low fake the need to use airport wheelchairs

Anyone who flies regularly is probably frustrated by the long lines at airports.

But some flyers are taking extreme measures to beat the queues - including faking medical conditions to demand wheelchairs and be taken to head of the line for boarding.

Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kay has called out the fakers, telling LBC some passengers are claiming they have trouble walking and need wheelchair assistance.

He says requests for wheelchair support have risen, Travel Mole reports.

“Why is that happening? Some of this is because people are using the wheelchair support to try to get fast-tracked through the airport,” he said.

“If you go on TikTok you’ll see that that is one of the travel hacks that people are recommending. Please don’t do that.”

Last month a video was posted on TikTok of a user faking an injured ankle.

Holland-Kaye urged people who "really need the service" to inform Heathrow well in advance.

The airport capped its daily passenger numbers at 100,000 to relieve pressure on staffing.

Friday 29 July 2022

How to be among the first to taste the Halliday wine award winners

The Halliday Wine Companion Awards are one of the most important nights on the Australian wine calendar with the winners guaranteed sales and exposure. 

After a two-year hiatus, the chance for the public to state some of the ward winners is back with the return of Taste the Awards 2023: Halliday Sip Series, a one-night-only tasting. 

Held at Sophia, within the iconic Prahran Arcade in Melbourne on Thursday, August 4, Taste the Awards will feature several of the 2023 award winners for wine lovers to enjoy.

The event will feature the opportunity to chat with winning wineries and winemakers including Wine of the Year, Winemaker of the Year, Winery of the Year, Best New Winery, Dark Horse Winery, and various varietal award-winners.

Tickets will not only allow access to unlimited tastings, but guests will also indulge in gourmet canapes, bowls and desserts including smoked salmon rillettes, pan-fried saffron gnocchi, petit passionfruit tartlet and more. 

To finish off the night, guests will receive a special gift bag to take home - including the newly released 2023 Halliday Wine Companion, plus gifts from sponsors including CAPI, Different Drop and Riedel. 

All ticket holders will have the chance to sign-up and experience several exclusive masterclasses hosted by award-winning wineries on the evening. 

Tickets are available to purchase for $149 + booking fee via Eventbrite, with early access to the venue and tastings available for Halliday members.

Visit the event page at

To recline or not to recline when flying?

Some airline passengers lack even the most basic regard for their fellow passengers.

You know the type. The seatbelt sign is switched off and they slam their seats into full recline mode within seconds.

They have to be told multiple times to bring their seats back up straight during meal service. And then slam it back again, sometimes sending drinks flying.

Surprisingly, a recent survey has found that 54.2% of Australian travellers claim that they wouldn’t recline their own seat, while 41.1% have a problem with the seat in front of them being reclined.

A sizeable 29.2% of travellers say they have no problem reclining their seats - and the real number is probably a lot higher.

Compare the Market surveyed Australians to find out what they think the general rules and considerations are when flying.

Among the key findings: 

# 13.36% of Australian flyers would hold going to the bathroom when flying, while another 29.96% would try to squeeze past other passengers without asking them to stand and be let out.

# In Australia, 18-24-year-olds are the least likely to declare that middle passengers should have both armrests.

# 67.7% of flyers say passengers in the middle seat should get one armrest.

For the full survey results visit:

Thursday 28 July 2022

Meet the comedian who became a wine expert. Seriously!

Merrick Watts is the comedian who became a wine expert - and is now able to combine two of the loves of his life.

Once part of comedy team Merrick and Rosso, he has undergone tasting exercises with leading palates including Mike Bennie and Gary Walsh.

Watts will launch the NSW premiere of his show An Idiot’s Guide to Wine at Brokenwood Wines in the Hunter Valley on Friday, August 26.

Tickets will include a three course-dinner, six wine tastings and a DJ until late.

After a sold-out series of shows at the Adelaide Fringe and Melbourne Comedy Festival, Watts said he’s looking forward to bringing the laughs to Pokolbin.

“This is one of my all-time favourite shows, and Brokenwood is the perfect place for it,” he said.

“It’s a comedy show about wine. People taste wines as I tell jokes about the grapes and their history. As a warning, I should say, some people over the course of the wine tasting have learnt something. That’s accidental.”

Watts proudly holds a WSET 3 wine qualification as evidence of his vinous expertise.

"Brokenwood is one of my favourite wineries in the country and an awesome place to host a show," he said. "I’m excited to share a range of their incredible wines.”

Brokenwood Wines CEO Geoff Krieger says: “Merrick was a huge hit when he hosted our 2021 Graveyard Lunch, we are excited to welcome him back and to push our ‘Enjoy great wine and have fun’ philosophy to its limit!”

For further event information and bookings visit

Big changes at Wirra Wirra

It is all change at leading McLaren Vale winery Wirra Wirra.

Matthew Deller MW (right) is to succeed recently departed Andrew Kay as CEO, and Emma Wood has been named as senior winemaker of the brand. 

Deller joins the business from Villa Maria and prior to his role in New Zealand, he had extensive experience in US as COO for TOR Wines in the Napa Valley as well as holding senior roles at Wine Access and Constellation Brands. He became a Master of Wine in 2016.

“It’s a huge honour to take on custodianship of Wirra Wirra following 16 years of outstanding leadership by Andrew Kay.” he said.

“Wirra Wirra’s amazing people and culture, commitment to biodynamics, and the authenticity, provenance and character of its wines position it firmly amongst Australia’s finest wineries.

"Now, with Emma Wood at the winemaking helm, I’m excited to work with the team to take Wirra Wirra to the next level.”

Wood (below) joins Wirra Wirra after a career at Treasury Wine Estates. 

Her most recent role as senior winemaker for Penfolds saw her heading the brand’s winemaking venture in France.

She was previously senior winemaker at Seppelt Great Western.

"The reputation of McLaren Vale wines is world renowned, and the pedigree and consistency of Wirra Wirra wines is a standout amongst them, with wines such as Church Block, RSW, The Absconder and The Angelus," Wood said.

"I am honoured to build on that history and am excited to be joining the team and looking forward to familiarising myself with the vineyards and valued growers.”

Wood will start on August 22 and Deller on September 1.

Former chief winemaker Paul Smith has left Wirra Wirra after 14 years for a new role but team members Tom Ravech and Kelly Washington will work with Wood. 

Meet the airline brave enough to apologise for its failures

While Air Canada simply ignores customers after leaving them stranded without their baggage and Qantas chief Alan Joyce blames his customers for airport chaos saying they are not "match fit", at least one airline has had the decency to apologise for its post-Covid incompetence. 

KLM, the Dutch national carrier, has admitted to failures and sent an apologetic email to customers. Refreshing.

"If you have flown recently or are planning to do so in the coming weeks, you will have noticed that airlines and airports all over Europe were not sufficiently prepared to cope with rapidly increasing numbers of passengers," KLM president and CEO Marjan Rintel wrote.

"This has also impacted many KLM passengers, and I sincerely apologise to those of you who experienced a disruption or lost a suitcase when flying with KLM this summer. We simply must do better, and in addition to earlier actions, we have taken several steps to improve our performance:"

Rintel says KLM reduced its number of flights swiftly "to go back to the reliable service and quality you may expect from KLM".

He said the airline does not sell all available seats and therefore keeps some seats available for passengers who have missed a flight or had their original flight cancelled. Which is eminently sensible and decent.

KLM has also extended transfer times between flights, giving passengers more time to make connecting flights at Schiphol Airport. 

"Solving our operational challenges is KLM’s top priority," says Rintel. "Every day 28.000 KLM colleagues work around the clock in challenging circumstances to get you and your luggage to your destination in a comfortable and timely way - as you may and, of course, should expect from us.

"In most cases, we definitely do. However, in recent weeks the main issue related to late delivered and/or misplaced luggage. We have put additional measures and resources in place to get the luggage back to its owners and solve the necessary aftercare and claims.

"We have hired extra people in our Customer Care Centres to support this effort, but because of some backlog, they are not yet as available for our customers as we want them to be. We understand that this is very frustrating and can leave customers feeling abandoned. But rest assured that we are working on your case.

"In the spirit of honesty and transparency, I felt it essential to reach out and apologize to those of you who were directly affected. We will do our utmost to restore your confidence. Millions of passengers choose to fly KLM each summer, and it is in these difficult times that we must show what we’re made of to continue to earn and deserve your trust in our brand."


A return flight to Malaysia for under $500?

A return trip to Malaysia for under $500?

It sounds too good to be true, but, a global travel services provider, has partnered with Tourism Malaysia to offer Australian travellers deals on their next trip to Malaysia, including return flights from $488.

The Discover Malaysia campaign has been launched as Australian travellers look to travel within Asia as an option to trips to Europe.'s campaign with Tourism Malaysia will run to August 15, offering a selection of discounted promotions on flights and hotels. For a full rundown of what is on offer, visit here: Discover Malaysia |

I suspect it will be the quick and the dead.

The campaign is being showcased to the people of Sydney on the city's Light Rail Tram network.

Malaysian High Commissioner Dato' Roslan Tan Sri Abdul Rahman said: “We welcome the people of Australia to discover Malaysia on their next trip.

"Our nation has it all, from bustling multicultural cities, top hotels and attractions to beach resorts and rainforest getaways. Through Tourism Malaysia's collaboration with, we are offering Australians a wonderful opportunity to visit and discover Malaysia for themselves. Come over!”

Edison Chen, general manager of Destination Marketing and Strategic Alliances at Group, said: “We hope with restrictions now lifted, more Australian travellers will once again travel to Malaysia. Malaysia is a truly unique and amazing place to visit - an all-encompassing top Asian destination.”

The Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, also known as Tourism Malaysia, is an agency under the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia.


Wednesday 27 July 2022

Meet Tasmania's newest wilderness tourism attraction

Exploring the wilderness regions of Tasmania will take on a new dimension with the launch of a new luxury vessel.

On Board/Tasmanian Expedition Cruises will launch a new custom-designed boat, Odalisque III, at the end of this year.

Pieter van der Woude, On Board founder and skipper, said the new Odalisque will provide an intimate wilderness experience in remote Tasmanian waters.

“Hitting the water in January 2023, Odalisque III will take a maximum of 12 guests in luxury on the trip of a lifetime in Tasmania’s wilderness,” he said.

“The 24-metre expedition catamaran features six cabins with indoor and outdoor lounge and dining areas.

“Odalisque’s sole purpose is to provide small groups access to some of Tasmania’s most remote waters and wilderness areas, led by local experts.”

Van der Woude said the new vessel will cruise into the wilds of Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour in south-west Tasmania between January and May each year.

Odalisque will then cruise the beaches and islands of Tasmania’s east coast from June to December. The boat will will also be available for private charter.

Odalisque III will offer suites with walk-around queen beds, ocean views and en-suite bathrooms; chefs seconded from some of Hobart’s top restaurants, serving local Tasmanian produce and cool-climate wines, craft beers and spirits with an emphasis on the best of Tasmania.

Van der Woude said Port Davey is a remote and spectacular harbour on the edge of the world, inaccessible by road and visited by just a privileged few each year.

Port Davey highlights include: the sea caves of Breaksea Islands, hiking to wilderness peaks to take in views over the harbour and national park; and cruising the Davey River looking out for the critically-endangered orange-bellied parrot.

Odalisque III is the only expedition vessel that On Board will operate and will replace their current cruiser, Odalisque II.

On Board is taking bookings for Port Davey Escape expeditions between January-May, and East Coast Expeditions from June-November 2023. See

A fine year for a vintage ale

Australia’s largest independent family-owned brewery, Coopers, led the way when it came to releasing vintage brews.

Coopers has released its latest seasonal ale: the 2022 Vintage Ale, which is the 22nd vintage beer it has made.

Each year, the Coopers brewing team creates a limited-edition Vintage Ale, which is defined by its hop selection.

The 2022 Vintage features El Dorado, an American dual-purpose hop with tropical, pear and stone fruit notes and Huell Melon, a German variety delivering fruit and berry flavours. The brew also uses Coopers Pale Malt.

Coopers managing director and chief brewer Dr Tim Cooper said the 2022 Vintage Ale underlines the brewery’s consistency in developing of premium quality, limited-edition beers.

“Coopers is this year celebrating our 160th anniversary of brewing and the 2022 Vintage is an outstanding ale that befits the occasion,” Cooper said.

“The Coopers Vintage release is much anticipated across Australia every year. This year’s release is a rich, balanced and full-bodied ale with floral and spice characters.

“2022 Vintage Ale is perfect to drink now, or if stored under cellar conditions, it will become more complex over time as the flavours evolve and develop.

“Coopers Vintage Ale is best savoured at between 4 and 6 degrees and served in a tulip-shaped glass to show off its flavours and aromas."

The 2022 Vintage Ale underwent secondary fermentation and has an alcohol level of 7.5% ABV. It is available in six packs and cartons.

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Bangkok remains the ideal stopover en route to Europe

I flew with Thai Airways last week - my first flight with them for several years.

My paid-for economy trip from Bangkok to Melbourne was almost totally full - but the crew did a great job and the food was better than on several other carriers that I have used in the past month.

The financial difficulties that Thai Airways has encountered have been well documented, but I would be more than happy to fly with them again.

Their flights have a certain panache - and there is nowhere better than Bangkok to break up a trip to or from Europe with a tasty meal, good sleep and a massage.

Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn says the country aims to target 30 million tourists next year.

The organisation launched the Visit Thailand Year 2022-2023: Amazing New Chapters campaign with a goal of generating 80% of pre-pandemic tourism receipts and a full recovery in 2024.

“If the Chinese government allows its citizens to travel, the number of foreign arrivals will definitely reach 30 million next year,“ he said.

Yuthasak expects the weaker Thai baht will boost foreign tourists’ spending.

Thailand received about two million foreign visitors in the first six months of 2022.

A day or two in Bangkok is always a delight - the city has so much infectious energy, and there are amazing contrasts between old and new; rich and poor; desperate dildo salesmen to three-hat Michelin restaurants.

And, of course, there are attractions that run from the spiritual to the sleazy, luxury shopping to cannabis consumption.

If they city is too frantic you can always escape to the peace of the Chao Phraya River and the city’s network of canals where stilt houses and old-fashioned bridges survives.

If you are flying with Thai then it might be worth considering preferred seats in economy class, located at the cabin's front rows and in the emergency exit rows.

These seats offer extra legroom for additional comfort. Once tickets have been issued, passengers can opt for a preferred seat prior to departure for a fee, which is based on distance flown and flight duration.

Call the Thai Contact Centre on 02 356 1111 or contact your local Reservations Office at least 48 hours before flight departure. Additionally, preferred seats can be purchased at the airport check-in counter and on board.

Return flights from Perth to Bangkok with Thai Airways start from $794 with departures also available from Melbourne and Sydney.

Woops! Australian wine exports dip dramatically

It is not the news the Australian wine industry was hoping to hear.

Australian wine exports declined by 10% by volume to 625 million litres and 19% in value to $2.08 billion in the year ended June 30, 2022, Wine Australia’s latest Export Report reveals.

The decline in volume and value was not unexpected, as it was largely the result of the continued impact of the significant reduction in exports to mainland China, driven by high deposit tariffs imposed in November 2020.

This is expected to remain a significant influence on the moving annual total data of Australian wine exports until late 2022.

During the 2021–22 financial year, the operating environment for many Australian wine exporters had been extremely challenging with the significant decline in exports to mainland China, the ongoing impact of the pandemic - including severe shipping delays and increased freight costs - along with rising inflation, business costs and interest rates.

Wine Australia Manager, Market Insights, Peter Bailey said that while the total data showed declines, there were some encouraging signs in key and emerging markets.

“When mainland China is excluded from the data, exports increased by 5% in value to $2.06 billion, an increase of $105 million - the highest value since 2009–2010," he said. "This is despite volume declining by 3% to 619 million litres.

"The value growth for these markets was driven by a 9% increase in average value to $3.32 FOB per litre.

“The key contributors to the value growth included Singapore, the United States, Malaysia, Thailand, India and New Zealand.

In 2021–22, Australian wine exporters shipped wine to 113 destination markets. At a region-level, the most significant growth came from exports to south-east Asia, up 51% to $314 million, but also to North America, up 5% to $612 million, and the Middle East, up 48% to $20 million.

The top five markets by value were the US, UK, Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Scenic Rim retreat has a sustainability focus

Luxury country retreat Hazelwood Estate in Queensland’s Scenic Rim region is harnessing cutting-edge renewables technology as it aims to become Australia’s first carbon-positive hotel by next year.

The lodge, which opened in September last year, is installing a Vanadium redox flow battery to allow excess electricity produced by its solar panels to be stored and used even when the sun is not shining.

Daily solar generation exceeds Hazelwood’s current energy requirements but cannot be stored for evening usage.

The supply of a Vanadium battery through a partnership with Queensland-based mining company Vecco Group will allow the property to go completely off-grid.

Vecco Group managing director Tom Northcott says the use of Vanadium batteries supports the global movement towards decarbonisation, a key focus of the travel industry as smart travellers increasingly command sustainability efforts from their accommodation providers.

“Green energy projects, such as the Vanadium battery installation at Hazelwood, will allow renewables to become a large part of a lower-carbon future," he says.

"Previously, the application of Vanadium batteries was confined to electricity utilities and industrial companies."

Green building principles were embedded in the estate’s design and construction.

A large solar farm was constructed on the roof of the horse stables nearly 1km away from the estate’s main operations, allowing the production of clean energy without impacting on aesthetics.

The build also saw the planting of over 6,000 trees, including native plants, to rejuvenate soil biology and the restoration of the once derelict dairy farm using regenerative farming practices including carbon sequestering.

By switching to regenerative practices without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilisers and bringing back grazing animals on the land to mimic natural cattle migration, the property aims to work to restore soil health, enabling nature to rebalance carbon levels.

The resort has over 600,000 litres of water storage onsite, with all water used being harvested rainwater.

The Paddock restaurant is one of only 15 Queensland restaurants listed on The Good Fish Project - an initiative by the Australian Marine Conservation Society which guides diners on restaurants committed to removing unsustainable seafood from their menus.

Executive chef Simon Furley works closely with suppliers to ensure the supply chain is at the very least carbon neutral and all ingredients are sourced from South-East Queensland aside from oil, salt and flour.

“We are right next door to the world heritage-listed Lamington National Park and some of the most untouched rainforests on earth, why not make a difference if you have the opportunity?" Furley says.

"My ethos is simple, if it’s not from here it’s not on here - we have an unwavering focus on sustainable, ethical, seasonal cooking.”

Local experiences and activities are centred around environmental education including market garden tours and bushwalking trails. Beekeeping tours will be added to the resort’s offering in the coming months.

E-bikes and electric golf carts also provide a fun, sustainable transport option for visitors to explore the property.

Hazelwood Estate is at 422 Binna Burra Road, Beechmont, Queensland. 90 minutes from Brisbane and 40 minutes s from the Gold Coast. It can cater for up to 44 guests.


Monday 25 July 2022

Zagreb and Ljubljana wow visitors

Zagreb in Croatia and Ljubljana in Slovenia (above) lead a new ranking list of cities with a high degree of visitor satisfaction.

The two cities, both part of the former Yugoslavia, were the stars of a survey analyses air connectivity, average hotel prices, the levels of satisfaction and perceptions of visitors.

Having visited Ljubljana for a second time earlier this month, I can understand why it is such a hit. It is vibrant, green, easy to get around and has a lively bar and restaurant offering.

The large European capitals dropped in favour due to their high hotel prices and due to a low value placed by visitors on their tourist offerings.

Mabrian, a leading tourism intelligence company, shared a new study of the best European cities based on the value for money they offered during the month of June this year.

The conclusions were that the travel destination that offered the best value for money during the month of June was Zagreb.

Despite being among the lowest ranked in terms of air connectivity, it had a very high level of satisfaction in most of the areas analysed.

At the same time, it offers a very competitive accommodation price compared to other destinations surveyed.

In second position was Athens, which is better connected than Zagreb but with a slightly higher average price and lower satisfaction levels than Zagreb.

Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, was reported as having the most competitive hotel prices and high levels of satisfaction. It was in third position because its air connectivity is limited.

Dubrovnik, also in Croatia, was the destination with the highest satisfaction levels among the analysed destinations. The average hotel price here is high, however, and air connectivity is limited, which places it in ninth position.

London and Paris, despite being better connected, were penalized by a very high average hotel prices.

Visitors were particularly dissatisfied with the hotel service in London and with the offer of tourist products in Paris.

Other big tourist cities such as Berlin, Barcelona and Amsterdam were at the bottom of the list for their high hotel prices and for the level of satisfaction, which remained low.

In order, the best tourist cities for quality and price in June were: Zagreb (Croatia), Athens (Greece), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Rome (Italy), Vienna (Austria), Lisbon (Portugal), Madrid (Spain), Milan (Italy), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Berlin (Germany), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Paris (France), Barcelona (Spain) and London (United Kingdom).

Carlos Cendra, Mabrian’s director of sales and marketing, said: “There is a growing trend of demand for less crowded and more authentic destinations.

"For this reason, countries such as Croatia and Slovenia and their capitals are highly valued destinations due to their balance between a destination that offers security, a differentiated offer of activities and a very attractive average price.

"The most mature urban destinations are suffering a rebound effect in demand that generates an increase in average prices and a reduction of the customer experience due to the possible saturation at some times and places.”

Alcohol-free, carbon neutral, achingly hip

There is no stopping the bizarrely popular low-alcohol and no-alcohol drinks movement. 

With consumption of non-alcoholic and low-alcohol drinks projected to increase 31% by 2024, more and more projects are hitting the market. 

The trouble is that many of these products just don't taste right. My motto is moderation, rather than deprivation. 
I'd rather limit myself to one beer or glass of wine than spend an evening drinking something that tastes a little bit like wine or beer. 

Canberra-based independent craft brewery Capital Brewing Co. is the latest on the already overflowing bandwagon, introducing its first "full flavoured non-alcoholic beer".  

ALC-LESS is being billed as the only carbon neutral non-alcoholic beer in Australia.

ALC-LESS is a tropical Pacific Ale that does taste quite like a real beer - and paired well with some salty pork crackling. 

“As more and more of our customers’ lifestyles are changing to become more focused on health and wellbeing, they can’t afford to be hungover but still want to kick back at the end of the day with a good tastingbrew," says co-founder Tom Hertel. 

"We’re excited to be adding an alcohol-free option to our range at a time when we, as founders, are also becoming more health aware and find ourselves leaning ever more to the low/non alcoholic options."

Fellow founder Laurence Kain says: "We have been working on non-alcoholic beer for over two years. 

"As a team we are pretty proud of the end result." 

Ancient bottle of sherry sells for over $2,600

A 19th century bottle of sherry found in the cellar of London’s historic Apsley House, former home of the 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), sold at auction last week for £1,527.

The sherry, which dates from 1840, re-emerged from a private collection and proved highly popular in a sale of Fine and Rare Wine and Spirits at Dreweatts, finally selling to a UK buyer.

The rare sherry is believed to have been bottled at Apsley House between 1850-1870, when it was home to Arthur Wellesley, following his being named ‘Duke of Wellington’ in gratitude for his military victories in the Peninsula and Napoleonic wars.

Following his specific success at the 1815 Battle of Waterloo, parliament awarded him £700,000 to build a new ‘Waterloo Palace’.

Rather than constructing a new building, he instead put in an anonymous winning bid of £40,000 to buy Apsley House.

The purchase was to help his brother, the then owner of the lease to the house, as he was struggling financially.

Wellington went on to become a leading figure in politics after the battle of Waterloo, becoming Prime Minister in 1828.

The sherry was purchased in 1977 at a Christie's sale of wines from Apsley House and had been stored in a Hampshire cellar ever since.

A bottle from the same collection from 1865 was tasted in 2020 at Christie's and the tasting note was as follows, "At over 150 years of age, it looked almost like a young en rama Manzanilla. On tasting, the 1865 was well-balanced, chalky and lightly nutty with a characteristic smoky edge. Its colour and youthful gait made it hard to believe it was bottled when Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States."

Mark Robertson, Head of Dreweatts Wine Department, said: “This wonderful bottle with only two careful owners in the last 170 years unsurprisingly garnered competitive bidding. We hope the new owner enjoys this unique sherry and whilst drinking can ponder on all the great historical moments that have passed since it was first bottled for the Duke of Wellington at Apsley House.”

Sunday 24 July 2022

China meets Peru - in Brisbane

The world gets smaller every year - and our palates are increasingly exposed to different flavours and cuisines.

Casa Chow - a new bar and restaurant serving Chinese-Peruvian cuisine - is a case in point, opening its doors in Brisbane on Wednesday.

Casa Chow is the latest offering from Vincent Lombino and Jared Thibault, who operate neighbourhood Italian trattoria Sasso Italiano.

“Casa Chow brings a sense of escapism, and we can’t wait to open our doors to bring Peru’s most inspirational cuisine, chifa, to Australia," says Lombino. "We’ve poured our hearts into this place and space, to bring an energetic new dining experience to town.”

Casa Chow will bring the Chino Latino chifa dishes to Woolloongabba’s South City Square precinct.

Born from the migration of Chinese immigrants to Peru in the 19th century, chifa fuses classic Cantonese flavours with Peruvian staples.

Executive chef Gabriele Di Landri’s opening menu includes lomo saltado, a stir fry of marinated wagyu, onions, aji amarillo chilli served over fries; and anticucho-marinated skewers, alongside a mix of dim sum and ceviche.

Maybe also expect a pisco sour, or two.   

Casa Chow is set in a 100-seat, open-style bar with a DJ booth set to feature Latin rhythms. Dinner service will be available from 5-10.30pm Wednesday-Sunday.


New direction for Victorian wine producer

When Narelle King and the late Don Lewis started their Nagambie-based Tar & Roses wine brand the focus was firmly on Mediterranean grape varieties.

The pair wanted to bring back a slice of their times in Priorat, Spain, to Central Victoria - and crafted wines that combined the best of both hemsipheres.

From tempranillo to the nebbiolo, the focus was on several different varieties.

Now, however, King has teamed up with Anthony Fikkers of Fikkers Wines (ex Giant Steps, Medhurst and Mac Forbes) to produce her take on two classic varieties from a renowned region of Victoria.

The two newcomers from the 2021 vintage on the Mornington Peninsula are a chardonnay and a pinot noir.

"After 15 vintages of focusing on Mediterranean varietals, in 2021 we took the opportunity to expand the range two include two iconic varieties from arguably one of the best regions in Australia," says King.

"Having never made pinot noir, and only a handful of chardonnays, Anthony Fikkers agreed to join us on this adventure."

King describes the vintage as "a rewarding and fun learning experience" - and the wines certainly shine.

The lean and very clean chardonnay was handpicked, whole-bunch pressed to mainly older oak and fermented and aged in hogsheads for 12 months before release. A wine with lovely balance that is very food friendly.

The pinot noir was sourced from high-altitude Mornington vineyards, partially whole-bunch with the rest destemmed whole barrels. French oak proves a worthy foil for some delightfully varietal sweet fruit that paired brilliantly with a mushroom pizza.

The prices are a very fair $40 for the chardonnay and $44 for the pinot noir.  

Saturday 23 July 2022

Brits get more of the Brexit chaos that they voted for

The Brexit "triumph" that bumbling buffoon Boris Johnson delivered for British racists just keeps delivering more and more well-deserved chaos.

The Port of Dover has warned cross-Channel travellers to expect "monumental" waiting times after it declared a ‘critical incident’.

Holidaymakers on ferry sailings to France have said they have been waiting five hours to pass through border checks, Travel Mole reports.

Port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister blamed French border control authorities.

He told BBC Radio Kent travellers have been ‘badly let down’ by ‘insufficient resources’ for border checks.

It might be noted that a majority of Brits voted to leave Europe, promised all sorts of benefits by Johnson and his team of charlatans.

Since Brexit, all Britons leaving for the continent have to have their passports stamped. Something that Britain insisted on when it left the EU.

This takes far longer than the previous checks when people typically just waved their passport at the guards and they were waved through. This weekend is expected to be one of the busiest of the year for travel.

“The Dover route remains the most popular sea route to France and France remains one of the key holiday destinations for British families,” Dover port officials said.

“We know that resource is finite, but the popularity of Dover is not a surprise.

“Regrettably, the Police aux Frontieres resource has fallen far short of what is required to ensure a smooth first weekend of the peak summer getaway period.”

Dover said it had shared data on expected passenger numbers and UK officials had been in discussions with the French in recent days.

“We will continue to work with all Kent partners to look after those caught up in the current situation, which could and should have been avoided,” the Port added.


# I just saw a report that both French border control and the Port of Dover asked in 2020 for funding for an adequate numbers of booths to be installed at the port. The Conservative government refused.

A very comfortable stay at Melbourne Airport

Airport hotels are not generally my favourite accommodation.

Most guests are only staying for one night and are often stressed; either about having missed a flight, having had one cancelled or catching one early in the morning.

So a nice, calm place to stay near an airport is a bonus. 

The Mantra Tullamarine Airport delivers both quiet, comfortable rooms and 24-hour meals (a restaurant open until 9pm, then overnight snacks delivered to the room).

It is a modern, well-equipped hotel located just four minutes from Melbourne Airport with an "on demand" shuttle bus service to the airport and long-term parking next door.

Pity the shuttle bus driver who picked me up gave confusing instructions as to where to catch the bus and was a leading candidate for the title of rudest person in Australia.

The morning shuttle back to the airport was a contrast, with a smiling, helpful driver on duty.

Mantra Tullamarine Hotel is certainly a comfortable and convenient choice whether you're beginning your trip, getting in late after a long-flight, or stopping over when visiting Melbourne. The beds are huge, and sleep-inducing.

Most of the floor-to-ceiling granite bathrooms include a spa bath and rooms have minibars (thanks for the crisps and peanuts, guys).

Hotel facilities include the on-site Woodlands Restaurant and Bar, a fully equipped gym, sauna and heated lap pool. A bit resort like.

My bed was extremely comfortable and rooms all feature wifi, a work desk, air-conditioning and Foxtel channels. 

There is also a conference and events centre for fly-in, fly-out meetings, corporate and social functions and training workshops.

Mantra Tullamarine also has a $100 day use rate (check in after 8am and out before 6pm), which could be really useful for anyone with a connection departing in the evening.

# The writer was a guest of Mantra Tullamarine Airport.


Friday 22 July 2022

Walking in the footsteps of political giants

It is unlikely any guests at the Hotel Kurrajong in Canberra will stay as long as the hotel's highest-profile former resident.

Former Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley spent 11 years living at the Kurrajong, preferring it to The Lodge as his residence.

Australia's 16th Prime Minister is credited with giving Australia the Snowy Mountain Hydro Electric Scheme; establishing Qantas, the Australian National University, and the CSIRO; as well as establishing ASIO.

A stay at the Hotel Kurrajong offers a glimpse into Chifley's world – and history buffs now have a chance to retrace the footsteps of the man who was instrumental in shaping the development of Canberra and Australia.

Chifley's Walk, which launched today, is the brainchild of teams from Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) and the Hotel Kurrajong, and an accompaniment for those who've sampled a Benny's Double in Chifley's Bar & Grill or spent a night in the hotel's curated 'Chifley Room'.

The 45-minute tour starts with a 750-metre stroll retracing the footsteps of then Treasurer Chifley and his PM, John Curtin, as they walked from the hotel to Parliament House each day – a habit that was captured by photographer Don Stephens in 1945.

When Curtin died, Chifley continued the tradition.

MoAD's Andrea Garcia says Chifley's Walk allows visitors to deepen their understanding of Old Parliament House by exploring the places where important decisions were made - King's Hall, the House of Representatives and the Prime Minister's Office.

“The synergy between Hotel Kurrajong and Old Parliament House helped inspire the walk,” she said.

“Hotel Kurrajong first opened in 1926 and Old Parliament House in 1927 - both were designed by John Smith Murdoch providing a residence and a working place to Members of Parliament in the nation's capital.”

Did you know, for example, that Chifley was the only Australian PM to qualify as a train driver? Or that he died whilst he was Leader of the Opposition?

“History well and truly comes to life as we retrace the well-worn path that Ben Chifley walked during the 11 years he resided at Hotel Kurrajong, including the time he served as Prime Minister, and the route other parliamentarians have since followed during the 61 years Old Parliament House housed the Parliament,” Garcia said.

Available exclusively for guests of Hotel Kurrajong for a nominal $20 fee for adults and included as part of the hotel's Chifley Experience package, Chifley's Walk runs every Monday to Sunday at 10am. Book via the hotel's website.

Grand dame of the Bellarine reopens her doors

Portarlington on the Bellarine Peninsula is one of the most attractive seaside spots in Victoria - and the landmark Portarlington Grand Hotel will re-open next month following an extensive, multi-million-dollar renovation.

The new-look hotel will include 18 boutique rooms and has undergone refurbishment of several dining spaces including The Front Bar, Bistro, The Atrium and The Lawn.

Just 70 minutes with Port Phillip Ferries from Melbourne’s Docklands, the new Portarlington Grand Hotel aims to feature some of the state’s best food and wine.

With a history dating back to 1888, the property was acquired by The Little Group, who also operate Port Phillip Ferries, and has been under renovation for the past 18 months.

The hotels' façade and grand staircase have been restored with Melbourne-based architects Technē Architecture + Interior Design creating new interiors designed to strike a balance between modern luxury and heritage details.


Weatherworn timber has been utilised throughout to reference the old timber of the Portarlington pier, and heritage experts were consulted to retrace history and ensure the new designs were true to the original intent.

The 18 heritage-inspired rooms are located across two levels, with many featuring balconies and bay views.

The rooms retain original design features such as ornamental fireplaces and archways.

Guests will be able to enjoy regional produce across the four dining spaces, including famous Portarlington mussels harvested from local waters, craft beers and award-winning wines from local wineries such as Bennetts on Bellarine, Scotchmans Hill and Terindah Estate, as well as local gins from the Bellarine Distillery.

The Front Bar and the Bistro will offer dishes including pork knuckle and barbecued ribs, along with a seafood risotto.

New beer garden The Atrium, which opened in January, features traditional wood-fired pizzas cooked in an outdoor kitchen, along with local beer, wine and spirits.

The Lawn is aimed at families, groups and dog lovers with picnic tables and umbrellas and a full bistro menu.

Day trippers need not worry about missing the journey home, with a warning bell rung at the hotel 30 minutes before each ferry’s departure.

Overnight rates will be available from $250. Bookings can be made for after August 1. See

Images: Nikole Ramsay 

Thursday 21 July 2022

Moo Brew moving in on the Hobart waterfront

The oldest craft brewery in Tasmania is setting up shop in Hobart's iconic Salamanca quarter.

Moo Brew has signed a lease on a property in Salamanca and has plans to developing an unconventional venue to match its unconventional beers, Moo Brew is owned by David Walsh, the man behind madcap MONA, and there are plans for the new venue to be equally unconventional.

The venue will be "part taphouse, part bar" and will house a nano-brewery for concocting experimental brews in situ, as well as offering Moo Brew’s classic range of beers.

The team will also be serving wines from Moorilla and Domaine A - also part of the Walsh empire - alongside an array of food and beverage options to suit all appetites.

On signing the lease, Moo Brew general manager Lauren Sheppard said: ‘Moo Brew doesn’t always take the obvious route. Opening a venue is the next stage of our journey, and we could not be more excited to be doing it in Salamanca, and doing it our way.’

Located a stone’s throw from Brooke Street Pier - home of the Mona Roma ferry terminal - the venue is set to begin welcoming punters from the end of the year, approvals permitting.

Ten vital tips to help make international air travel less painful

Everyone wants to travel internationally right now.

My advice. Hold your horses and be patient. Maybe wait a month or two.

And if you really have to travel make sure you are super-prepared with every detail checked and re-checked.

And even if you've got everything right, still be prepared for ludicrous lines at ill-prepared airports, for for flights to be delayed or cancelled. 

And for it to take a couple of hours for your baggage to emerge at the other end if it makes it at all.

Certainly be prepared for your baggage to be delayed or lost (for a week if you are flying with Air Canada).

Also be aware it may be impossible to see a doctor overseas because on ongoing Covid demand. Like in Australia, appointments are as rare as hen's teeth. 

Expect trains to be full to the max with nowhere to put your luggage.

And for maskless morons to put your health at risk at every turn.

Apart from those issues, travel is back in a big way. It just depends on whether you want to risk sending your blood pressure sky high by dealing with the likes of the incompetents at Air Canada. and the fools running the airports at Heathrow, Toronto Pearson and Montreal Trudeau.

Oh. And paying double or triple for your over-booked flight than you would have paid pre-Covid.

Or being ripped off by avaricious airlines who have multiplied by dozens the number of frequent flyer points you need to get a "free" flight - that's the one you've maybe saved a decade to cash in.

If you do decide to brave the many obstacles and visit the rest of the world then here are some tips learned on my recent odyssey that included a dozen flights over five continents, half a dozen train journeys, four bus trips and six taxi journeys.

1. Make sure you allow more time than you think you could possibly need to check in. With flights over capacity it pays to make sure you have a boarding pass in your hand as soon as possible. Be first in line to avoid the risk of being bumped.

2. Do not trust connecting flights will actually operate. Be at the place from which you are flying internationally a day ahead. If your flight from Hobart, say, links with one to Asia and then Europe do not risk it being delayed or cancelled. There might not be another flight to your destination for two or three days and the airlines are less than helpful right now.

3. Confirm and re-confirm all your bookings on line. Hotels are over-booked as more and more people want to travel. Do not be the one turned away. But be prepared to spend hundreds of dollars a night on average accommodation. 

4. Pack all essentials in your hand luggage, and if at all possible travel with hand luggage only. Imagine being caught without your essential medication - pack prescriptions, too, just in case - and a spare pair of undies, for several days if your baggage goes missing.

5. Make sure you have fully comprehensive travel insurance. If things go wrong you want to be sure you will reimbursed for your ridiculously over-priced airport hotel and some clothes and toiletries to get you through the next few days.

6. Make sure you bring your own entertainment. Bring a book, games on your iPhone, anything to keep you occupied in the airports where you will be spending lots of hours; and in the air, where the airlines have jacked up the costs of in-flight wifi to ludicrous price levels.

7. Book every bus, train and accommodation choice online ahead of schedule. With everyone wanting to travel at the same time you might well find that bus between Venice and Ljubljana that you caught effortlessly a couple of years ago is now completely full for the next few days.

8. If you do have to check in luggage - probably essential if you are travelling for several weeks - then put a tracking device in your suitcase. It might help you locate your bag among the thousands piled up at Heathrow, or Montreal. Also take photos of every piece of baggage to help the airline track down your missing bag.  

9. Consider smaller airlines, which are likely to be more affordable than the big names, who are setting their own prices and getting them, such is the latent demand for travel.  

10. Be patient, be but be firm if your airline or hotel is jerking you around. A full-scale blow-up was the only reason Air Canada changed one of my delayed flights to an earlier one that was "full" - and actually had plenty of empty seats. Use social media pressure if necessary.

Or, perhaps, choose destinations closer to home that do not include transfers (which is where many bags go missing). Thai Airways from Australia to and from Bangkok is easy and relatively painless.

Whatever you do don't take wads of cash with you and expect to change it your destination. Banks are no longer keen, and airport exchange kiosks are an absolute trip-off.  
A survey this week showed Aussies are doing away with pre-planning and booking more spur-of-the-moment trips. Big mistake.

Research from Trafalgar, part of the wider The Travel Corporation group, revealed a 1,087% increase in bookings from April to June, compared to January to March this year.

With everyone keen to depart sooner rather than later, being fully prepared is the only way to guard against frustration and anger.

Or maybe just stay at home until the airlines get their acts together.

New Penfolds Grange hits $1000 a bottle mark

The soon-to-be released 2018 Penfolds Grange has hit the $1000 mark for a bottle for the first time - and fortunately the wine is a ripper.

I've dubbed it the Bruce Springsteen of wines; and scored it 99 points. Intense and stylish, it is rock 'n' roll in a glass.

Powerful but nuanced, it is more Thunder Road than Born in the USA, if you get my drift.    

"A well-dressed Grange...classy rock star! Or ‘a modern, classic Grange...sleek and finessed, with a punch!’ You choose," says Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago.

More notes and background when the wine- and its stablemates - get released. Of course, the price makes it a wine only for those with bulging wallets. 

The new Grange will hit the market on August 4 - and for once had to share the limelight at the annual Penfolds Collection tasting with the news that the annual Collection release will comprise three country of origin portfolios: Australian, Californian and the inaugural French release.

Gago says the wines all showcase the Penfolds ‘House Style’ in a global context.

Penfolds' ambition to make wine outside of Australia started decades ago and the portfolio now includes winemaking using fruit from across Australia (from South Australia to Tasmania), Champagne, the Napa Valley, Paso Robles in California and now Bordeaux in France.

Penfolds II is a partnership with French winemaking House Dourthe; a collaboration between Gago and Dourthe chief winemaker Frédéric Bonnaffous, that features a blend of grapes from Bordeaux (71%) and South Australia (29%).

The name “Penfolds II” represents two winemakers coming together.

Made from the 2019 vintage using cabernet, shiraz and merlot, the final wine was blended and bottled in South Australia by Penfolds winemakers. A weird concept that pushes the envelope.  

“This is the start of our French winemaking journey," says Gago. "Our main objective? To remain true to the winemaking ethos of both wineries, to deliver the best blend possible, to ideally make Bordeaux and South Australia proud.

"This wine is not about bigness or boldness or assertion. It is blended to convey an ethereal lightness, subtlety on the palate - sensitively binding two hemispheres, Old World and New.”

Also to be released in August is the 2019 Penfolds FWT 585, a French trial bin wine made of Bordeaux cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot.

The wine was made at Cambon la Pelouse Winery with Penfolds senior winemaker Emma Wood the guiding light.

Following the inaugural release of Penfolds Californian wines in 2021, the next generation will be part of the 2022 Collection. This year’s release features the 2019 Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon, Bin 704 Cabernet Sauvignon and Bin 600 Cabernet Shiraz.

Penfolds managing director Tom King said: “Penfolds is building a global ambition not just on paper but with our feet in vineyards across two hemispheres.

"We are focused on making Penfolds wines from the best winemaking regions globally. We started this journey with our partnership with Champagne (Thienot), then brought to life a 20-year endeavour with the California wine release, and now, we proudly introduce a partnership with leading a Bordeaux winery and reveal our own 2019 Trial Bin wine in France.”

This year’s Collection will be celebrated with a series of events globally, titled ‘Venture Beyond by Penfolds’.

The Penfolds Collection 2022 includes the following French wines: 2019 Penfolds II Cabernet Shiraz Merlot. $500; 2019 FWT 585 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot $120.00.

The Australian line-up is: 2018 Grange $1000.00, 2020 Yattarna Chardonnay $175.00, 2020 RWT Bin 798 Barossa Valley Shiraz $200.00, 2019 Bin 169 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon $300.00, 2020 Magill Estate Shiraz $150.00, 2019 St Henri Shiraz $135.00, 2021 Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay $125.00, 2020 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz $100.00, 2020 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon $120.00, 2020 Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz $100.00, 2020 Bin 28 Shiraz $50.00, 2020 Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz $60.00, 2020 Bin 138 Barossa Valley Shiraz Grenache Mataro $60.00, 2021 Bin 23 Pinot Noir $50.00, 2021 Bin 311 Chardonnay $50.00, 2022 Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling $40.00.

The Californian range is: 2019 Bin 149 Cabernet Sauvignon $225.00, 2019 Bin 704 Cabernet Sauvignon $120.00, 2019 Bin 600 Cabernet Shiraz $90.00.

A whole lot more o talk about on August 4. 

Wednesday 20 July 2022

Brokenwood stays local to name new head of kitchen brigade

Brokenwood Wines in the Hunter Valley has named a new head chef as it launches a new winter menu.

Executive Chef Sean Townsend (left), formerly of hatted Muse & Muse Kitchen, is the new man in charge.

"Sean’s passion for exceptional food, wine, and his long-standing relationships with local producers is the perfect combination to ensure we deliver a dining experience that matches and elevates our wine offering,” says senior winemaker Stuart Hordern (right).

Townsend's work history includes working under local icons Troy Rhoades-Brown and Frank Fawkner at 
Muse Restaurant before working at Muse Kitchen.

He has also worked at Potters Hotel and spent two years with Daniel Southern at Melbourne French bistro Comme. 

“I’m honoured to join Brokenwood and continue their legacy of excellence," he said. "I have ambitious plans to bring an exciting new culinary experience to the Hunter Valley, championing local and seasonal produce with simplicity, detail, and synergy flowing between plate and glass.

“I plan to extend the on-site vegetable garden and implement a ‘no single-use’ plastic policy to drive sustainability. We’ll give equal respect to all dishes, vegan, and meat, and I look forward to sharing the origin stories behind the local ingredients we select.”

The chef has developed a modern Australian menu for The Wood Restaurant, citing European influence in flavours and technique. 

This theme will extend to the Cru Bar + Pantry, a casual dining space located within Brokenwood’s state-of-the-art venue.

Brokenwood’s new winter menu is available now.

Tuesday 19 July 2022

New international hotel for Tasmania

Tasmania has a new international hotel - but not in Hobart or Launceston.
Accor, in partnership with Singapore-based Fragrance Group Limited, this week opened the new-build Novotel Devonport - in the state’s north-west. 

The 187-room hotel features a restaurant and bar Mr Good Guy, serving "south-east Asian street-food with a cheeky modern twist", 24-hour room service and fitness centre, and a meeting room for up to 20 delegates.

Overlooking the Mersey River - base for the Spirit of Tasmania ferry - Novotel Devonport has direct access to the paranaple convention centre.

The property represents one of the most significant tourism investments in the region in years.

Accor Pacific CEO, Sarah Derry, said: “We are thrilled to partner with Fragrance Group to open Novotel Devonport. The presence of this popular international brand will expose Devonport and the greater northern Tasmania region to a broader market and contribute to the region's ability to attract major conferences, events and groups. 

“Novotel recently celebrated its 30th anniversary in Australia and, during this time, has established a commanding position in the four-star hotel segment. Novotel Devonport’s offering will be tailored to suit smart, successful business and leisure travellers who value great guest service and leading design.”

Novotel has over 40 hotels in key metropolitan and leisure destinations in Australia and New Zealand. 

Devonport has historically been undersupplied with quality accommodation offerings despite being a major gateway for tourism and trade.

Fragrance Group CEO James Koh said: “We are excited to further develop our partnership with Accor and deliver Novotel Devonport, which will be an elevated addition to north Tasmania’s tourism offering. 

“The city of Devonport is on the precipice of a significant tourism boom, with additional major infrastructure works underway to further enhance the destination. Novotel Devonport is a celebration of innovative interior design, thoughtful detail and, importantly for this location, will provide a great culinary experience for guests and the local community.”

Novotel Devonport is the fifth hotel that Koh has partnered with Accor on in Australia, following the success of Mövenpick Hotel Hobart, Mövenpick Hotel Melbourne on Spencer, Novotel Perth Murray Street, and ibis Styles Hobart. 

The hotel is collaborating with local photographer Nuala Byrne to create a mural of north-west Tasmanian scenery that will be featured behind the bedhead in each guestroom.

There is a terrific sounding opening special from $269 per night in a standard king room, including a two-course dinner for two at Mr. Good Guy (food only) and buffet breakfast. To book, visit