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Sunday 31 March 2024

Byron Bay turns on the style for a 10-day gourmet festival

Byron Bay is calling out to food and wine lovers with the Caper Byron Bay Food & Culture Festival returning in May. 

Local favourite the North Byron Hotel will be the major venue with a line-up curated by chef Louis Tikaram.

The 10-day event runs from May 17-26, encompassing two weekends, and features local produce, restaurants, and arts and wellness communities of the Northern Rivers.

Key chefs and restaurants involved include David Moyle from Salty Mangrove (the inaugural festival organiser), Darren Robertson from Three Blue Ducks, Jason Saxby from Raes on Wategos, Ben Devlin from Pipet, Matt Stone from You Beauty, Mindy Woods from Karkalla, Karl and Katrina Kanetani from Beach Byron Bay, Pepsi Nakbunchuay from Bang Bang, Robbie Oijvall from Lightyears, and Marcello Polifrone from Harvest.

The highlight of the festival will be the We Like to Tiki official closing party at North Byron Hotel, where Tikaram, Jake Kellie (Arke, Adelaide), Ross Magnaye (Serai, Melbourne), and Jedd Rifai (North Byron Hotel) will serve Pacific-style snacks cooked over an open fire, paired with refreshing drinks.

Attendees are encouraged to dress loud and dance the night away to live music and DJs with the closing after-party kicking on late.

"We have a lot of fun activities lined up and look forward to welcoming festival goers as they join our community gatherings.” says Rifai, licensee of the North Byron Hotel.

Tikaram is equally enthused, saying: "Being part of the first-ever Caper Festival as a guest chef back in 2022 was a blast, and now I'm stoked to come back home to Byron Shire and curate. 

"With heaps of mates in the chef and supplier scene and top-notch produce at our fingertips, we've got some cracking events lined up. I can't wait to get stuck in and show off what we've got cooking."

Key events include the Taste the Cape official opening party held at Three Blue Ducks.

Elements of Byron, a beachside resort, is the official hotel partner and is offering 15% off the best available rate across the festival dates with discount code CAPER.

For full details see 

Cobb & Co Festival turns the clock back 100 years

This August will mark 100 years since the last horse-drawn Cobb & Co mail coach kicked up dust on the dirt tracks of outback Queensland.

To celebrate the centenary milestone a special 10-day Cobb & Co Festival is planned.

The Cobb & Co Festival will run from Friday, August 16, through to Sunday, August 25, in the Maranoa region, 500km west of Brisbane. 

The all-ages family friendly festival will culminate on August 24-25 with a re-creation of the last Cobb & Co mail run in Australia on the 76-kilometre Cobb & Co Way, an historic route that runs between the towns of Surat (population 402) and Yuleba (population 271), both of which are now mere dots on the map.

The festival aims to pay homage to the legacy of Australia's last horse-drawn mail service.

Mail will be collected from the Surat Post Office by a replica coach from the Surat Cobb & Co Changing Station Museum that will be pulled by three different teams of five specially trained horses that will be rotated every 10km throughout the two day trip. 

The replica coach will follow a cavalcade of more than 300 people on horseback, in buggies and on wagon and bullocks to the Yuleba Post Office.

“Back in the day the Cobb & Co coach drivers had to battle bushrangers and extreme conditions in isolated regions to provide the all-important mail delivery service throughout the outback," said festival organiser Paul Masson.

"Our re-creation is going to be much easier and more celebratory - but will be a definite nod to the essential and often dangerous service Cobb & Co drivers provided 100+ years ago.

"Our participants will make the trip across two days - camping in the bush on the journey, just as the travellers did all those decades ago. 

"It’s going to be a once in a lifetime ride-along experience for keen horse riders, and for festival goers to witness the spectacle.” 

The festival will kick off with the Cobb & Co Long Table Dinner under the stars with events including bullock wagons, a horse art exhibition, markets, coach rides, bush poetry, clay shooting, the Cobb & Co Festival Ball, period dress-up and live entertainment and an open-air concert taking place over the following 10 days.

The festival is a mix of free experiences and ticketed activities. The full program will be released in April when tickets will also go on-sale.

A special song written and performed by Golden Guitar-winning country music singer Josh Arnold for the Cobb & Co Centenary Celebrations titled Cobb & Co Country (see music clip here Cobb & Co Country) has already been released and has hit #1 on the Australian Country Radio charts.

For more info see

Saturday 30 March 2024

Just how many drunk pilots are there?

Earlier this month a Delta Air Lines pilot was jailed in the UK after being way over the limit when tested for alcohol in his system.

But the Jagermeister-loving American is not alone in thinking it is fine to fly a plane load of passengers when off his face.

Air India this week dismissed a pilot who failed a breathalyser test shortly after flying an international flight, Travel Mole reported.

The pilot tested positive for alcohol after completing a flight from Phuket to Delhi.

“We have zero tolerance and have taken very strong action,” an airline source told Indian media.

The airline reportedly plans to file a criminal case with police and has informed regulator the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

The pilot was the senior in the cockpit, working the flight with a newly-appointed captain.

He must have known that pilots are subject to post-flight testing on international flights, which makes his behaviour all the more inexplicable.

Last year, the DGCA said it suspended nine pilots and 32 cabin crew for failing pre-flight breathalyser tests.

Failing a test automatically leads to a pilot’s license suspension for three months. A second offence leads to a ban of three years.

Many would think they should never be allowed to fly again.

Meet the famous English city that wants to gouge tourists

Most cities see tourism as a positive factor; helping local businesses by providing extra income.

But some cities in the UK, which have long promoted themselves as being tourist friendly, now see visitors as a cash cow.

One example is the university city of Cambridge, which is considering imposing a tourist tax at hotels.

Cambridge City Council is looking at a £2 per night hotel tax per room per night for properties with at least 10 rooms.

It would then increase £3 nightly in the third year.

A feasibility study commissioned by the council, the tax could raise up £2.6 million per year. And lose goodness knows how much more in goodwill. Many tourists hate being nickled and dimed.

The city would apparently set up a special organisation that would would manage the collection of the hotel tax. At a cost goodness knows how much cost.

The proposed tax would not affect short-term rentals or colleges which rent out rooms outside of term times, Travel Mole and the BBC report.

“In order for the [organisation] to be established, there needs to be a ballot of the hotels within that catchment area. It’s not something the council can decide,” said Jemma Little, economic development manager at Cambridge City Council.

Manchester recently announced a £1 plus VAT per room, per night hotel tax.

If proposals are approved, the new Cambridge system could start as soon as next year.

Labour councillor Cameron Holloway said: "I think it's a great initiative and one that would be really positive for the city."

So there it is. Cambridge is ready to gouge tourists. It is hard to see two quid a night discouraging anyone from visiting, but it is probably enough to annoy visitors.  

Fortunately, there are lots of alternative places to stay. 

Where tourists are made welcome. 


Friday 29 March 2024

Don't forget us, say Côtes du Rhône wine producers

With the increasing globalisation of the wine industry, one of France's leading wine regions has lauched a campaign to boost both recognition and sales.

The Côtes du Rhône, shiraz and grenache heartland and the inspiration for many Australian industry wine pioneers, has launched activation in the UK for wine trade and consumers to "rediscover the region" in 2024.

The plan will see a large number of opportunities for both professionals in the wine trade and consumers to get to know more about the reds, rosés and whites of the Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages AOCs.

The UK has traditionally been a major market for Côtes du Rhône producers, with affection for the easy drinking styles.

The challenge for the region in 2024 and beyond will be to change preconceived ideas about the colour and freshness of Côtes du Rhône wines, local media reports.

The Côtes du Rhône vineyards stretch across 171 communes with a variety of terroirs.

A separate category within Côtes du Rhône, the Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation showcases 22 specific villages. 

The Rock set to unleash his brand power in Australia

The Rock is aiming for global domination with his tequila brand Teremana.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson’s agave spirit will launch in five international markets this year after debuting in the US.

The brand was founded in 2020 and has a major investor in German spirits company Mast-Jägermeister.

Plans have been revealed to roll the tequila out into the UK, Germany, Australia, Colombia, and the United Arab Emirates, where expats and tourists are allowed to drink alcohol.

“I’m incredibly humbled by the demand for Teremana at the global level and thrilled to deliver Teremana to consumers around the world,” the actor and former wrestler said.

“We are incredibly proud of what Teremana has achieved in North America in four years,” added Teremana CEO Richard Black.

The company announced last year that it was selling one million cases annually, making it the fastest premium spirits brand in the US to reach that figure.

That's largely down to the star power that The Rock commands. At present he has some 397 million followers on Instagram, a platform he regularly uses to promote Teremana, the Drinks Business reports.

Michael Volke, CEO and chairman of the executive board at Mast-Jägermeister, said of the expansion plans: “We are incredibly excited to bring the Mana ethos to more people. We will serve the global expansion of Teremana Tequila through our exceptional global distribution capacity and brand-building experience.”

Johnson worked with a Mexican family-owned distillery in the Jalisco highlands to build a home on the grounds for Destilería Teremana de Agave. 

Teremana recently became a sponsor of Major League Baseball team the Texas Rangers. 

Thursday 28 March 2024

Australian wine industry delighted as China lifts crippling tariffs

Wine producers across Australia have welcomed China’s decision to remove crippling import duties from Australian bottled wine. 

Grape growers and winemakers were cheered by today’s final decision from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce to remove import duties on Australian wine products with effect from March 29,  Australian Grape & Wine chief executive Lee McLean said.

“This is a very important decision for the Australian wine industry," McLean said. 

"It reflects the positive outcome of diplomatic efforts by the Albanese government to stabilise relations with China and underscores the importance of collaboration between government and industry.

“We acknowledge and thank Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Trade Minister Don Farrell and Agriculture Minister Murray Watt and their respective departments for their steadfast support of Australian grape growers and winemakers throughout the process. 

"With their renowned reputation for quality and innovation, Australian wines offer Chinese consumers an unparalleled opportunity to explore new flavours and experiences. 

"The presence of Australian wines in China will complement the local wine industry, providing consumers with a broader selection of premium wine options.

“The Australian wine sector has made a long-term commitment to building the market for Australian wine in China, with many wine companies having developed close relationships with importers, buyers and consumers of Australian wine over many years. 

“We are working closely with the Australian Government and Wine Australia to ensure a co-ordinated approach is taken to re-entry and that the sector is well positioned to re-establish trade relationships.

“We look forward to seeing Australian wines back on Chinese dining tables and rejuvenating our relationship with customers and business partners in that market. 

“We will also, however, be maintaining our focus on diversifying our export footprint and growing demand here in Australia as well.”

Producers were excited at the Chinese market re-opening.

“This decision is important and highlights the ongoing strengthening of Australia’s trading relationship with China, for the mutual benefit of both countries,” said Kirsty Balnaves of Balnaves Wines in Coonawarra and president of the South Australian Wine Industry Association.

“Significant trade exists between China and Australia, and the removal of import duties on wine will
result in South Australian wine businesses re-considering the China wine market and allocating wine
to the market.

“This will be based on several important factors, principally, a market risk assessment,
acknowledging the importance of market diversification.”

New South Wales Wine president Mark Bourne commented “China has historically been a valuable export market for NSW wine producers, with strong relationships formed over the years, and the opportunity to do business again comes at a time when the industry is facing several economic headwinds.”

Tariffs of between 107 and 212% were implemented in 2020. This followed multiple diplomatic disputes between Canberra and Beijing over human rights, national security and Covid-19.

The ministry accused Australian winemakers of dumping wine in the Chinese market at cheaper prices, forcing out competition from local vineyards. The move was devastating for many Australian producers.

"When we export our wine it’s good for our winemakers, and it’s good for the people buying it, because Australian wine is the best in the world," said flag-waving and over-excited Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

"It’s a huge industry that supports jobs and contributes to our national wealth, too."

Luxury resort operator enters the cruise business

Aman is a brand that is associated with exclusive high-end luxury resorts.

But the resort operator is getting ready to join the competitive cruising yacht market, Travel Mole reports.

Aman has started construction of its first luxury motor yacht for the Aman at Sea brand with a traditional steel cutting ceremony at the T.Mariotti shipyard in Genoa, Italy.

As part of a joint venture with Cruise Saudi, Aman at Sea is set to launch in 2027.

The vessel will have 50 spacious suites with balconies and aims to replicate Aman’s hotels’ ethos of luxury hospitality at sea.

“We are partnering with T.Mariotti to bring to life our vision for Aman at Sea, providing a whole new category in on the water exploration,” said Vlad Doronin, CEO of Aman Group.

The new vessel will measure 183 metres and be the first dual-fuel powered new build, using marine diesel oil and methanol.

The cruise yacht will offer various dining options, a club and lounge, an Aman Spa with a Japanese garden, and two helipads.

The keel laying is expected to take place this northern summer and the vessel’s official name will be announced later.

Aman was founded by tourism innovator Adrian Zecha in 1988, but is now a Swiss-headquartered multinational that operates 34 properties in 20 countries. 

Mariotti is known for building ultra-luxury cruise ships and megayachts.   

Brewer underlines its environmental credentials

Being eco-friendly is a key driver of sales and Melbourne-based independent Bodriggy Brewing Co. has become the first Victorian brewery - and only the second in Australia - to gain carbon neutral accreditation for both its beers and brewery under the Federal Government’s Climate Active program.

It is a major milestone for the Abbotsford brewer when so many craft breweries are struggling in the current economic climate.

Co-founded in 2016 by the same team behind Collingwood bar Dr Morse, and specialty coffee shop Plug Nickel; Peter Walsh, Jon Costello, Anthony Daniels, and Jessica Morris started Bodriggy as their third joint business venture.

Bodriggy is now stocked nationally by Dan Murphy's, BWS and 500 Coles Liquor stores helping the business average a 20% increase in wholesale sales year-on-year since 2019.

 “We’re really proud to be recognised as the first Victorian, and second national, carbon neutral brewery across everything we do including; our production processes, administrational aspects and of course, our froths," says Walsh.

"Having started Bodriggy eight years ago, not only have we grown up, but our customers have, too.

"We’ve evolved as people with different personal values - ones which place importance on protecting the environment more - and we want to reflect that in all that Bodriggy does.”

Bodriggy built its brewery and brewpub with climate-conscious elements in mind, including; sourcing reclaimed materials for the build, installing solar panels, using serving tanks to minimise keg usage as well as using waste minimising methods in its kitchen.


# For those playing at home, Capital Brewing in Canberra was the first carbon neutral producer in Australia. 

Wednesday 27 March 2024

Chocolates all round for Qantas passengers over Easter

It is one of those times of the year when experienced flyers opt to stay at home.

Flights are chock-a-block and airports are at capacity.

Qantas and Jetstar are gearing up for almost four million customers to travel across domestic and international networks on almost 36,000 flights throughout Easter and the four-week school holiday period.

More than 670,000 customers are expected to be travelling over the Easter long weekend alone on the two Qantas Group carriers, an increase of almost 10% on the 2023 Easter holidays.

Easter Thursday (that's tomorrow folks) is the single busiest day, with more than 150,000 customers travelling across the group.

Popular destinations for holidaymakers include Auckland, Singapore, Bali and Tokyo as well as Gold Coast, Hobart and Cairns.

A number of additional measures across the Qantas Group will be in place over the holidays including up to 15 Qantas and Jetstar aircraft on standby as "operational spares" providing an extra buffer in the event of disruptions.

The Group is also working with industry partners to have extra staff available including additional ground handlers on standby and airport security screeners, while Qantas Engineering has set up a dedicated maintenance teams to increase maintenance activity on its aircraft.

From Easter Friday until Easter Monday, customers travelling across the Qantas network can expect a number of Easter surprises including chocolates for customers at Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane domestic airports.

On Jetstar, customers will be treated to bunny ear headbands and Easter colouring packs and pencils for travelling kids

Fingers crossed for all concerned.

How to enjoy an authentic Bali experience on a budget

Finding a locally owned and operated place to stay can be one of the keys to an authentic - and affordable - stay in Bali.

If you want to avoid noisy bars and night clubs stay away from international chain hotels and destinations like Nusa Dua, Kuta and Canggu, and opt instead for a quieter resort area. Like Sanur.

Fellow travel writer Christine Retschlag recommended Bumi Ayu Bungalows to me for a recent two-night stay - and it proved a delightful choice, tucked away down a quiet laneway but just a short stroll to the main street, and a slightly longer walk to the beach.

There are several local eateries and massage options within five minutes of your accommodation, but there are hardly any annoying touts and the vibe is totally chilled.

Sit by the pool and order some satay sticks (above) and fresh juice and enjoy Bali as it used to be.

Bumi Ayu Bungalows has been operating for over 20 years and offers a variety of accommodation - from poolside villas to hotel rooms.

There's an excellent pool, with a jacuzzi, wifi, a library and on on-site eatery that serves excellent breakfasts (both tradtitional and western).

My bungalow was older style, but very comfortable with a large bed, air con, fridge, bathroom with amenities and a lovely deck with garden views. I paid around $50 a night - which is ridiculously good value.

The property is very well maintained, and the staff are charming. The front desk can arrange tours and transfers around the island. 

Within a five-minute stroll of the Bumi Ayu Bungalows are several warungs offering cheap eats - Lilla Waring was excellent - as well as a Japanese restaurant and steakhouse.

You can walk along the beach via a laneway from the Griya Santrian hotel.

So what, exactly, is Sanur like? 

As the coastal area closest to the capital, Denpasar, Sanur predates Kuta, Nusa Dua and Uluwatu as the oldest destination for beach tourism in Bali.

The waters of Sanur are protected by a string of offshore reefs, creating large, warm shallow, safe lagoons that are clear and excellent for swimming and water sports. 

Accommodation prices drop dramatically if you are willing to stay a few blocks away from the water.

Sanur has a quiet and relaxed feel to it and tends to appeal most to middle-aged and older groups. If you want to party you've definitely come to the wrong place.

Jalan Danau Tamblingan, the main street in Sanur, has a number of outlets for car, motorbike and bicycle rental - and also hosts a night market.

Sanur is a 20-minute taxi ride from the Ngurah Rai International Airport - unless it is raining - and around 30 minutes driving time from Kuta or Legian. Your taxi driver might not be familiar with it, so take a map with you. 

Bumi Ayu Bungalows designed in Balinese style and surrounded by lush tropical gardens tucked well back from the road. 

Search the internet for deals (the prices on the website are inflated) and see for property details.

Qantas flies Sydney-Denpasar with daily direct flights operated on an Airbus A330 aircraft, fares start from $414 one way. Melbourne-Denpasar direct flights operate five times per week using a Boeing 737 aircraft. Fares start from $415 one way. See

Wine menu prices reflect greed, says leading restaurateur

It is not just in Australia that restaurants are under fire for the massive mark-ups of their wine prices. 

“[Some] restaurants charge crazy prices for wines” says one leading French restaurateur, responding to similar criticism.

Parisian restaurant operator Franck Astruc has weighed in on behalf of consumers, the Vitisphere website reported.

Astruc operates the Café des Ternes brasserie, the Café des Beaux-Arts in central Paris, and the Bistrot Faubourg in La Défense.

"When you buy wines for your restaurant and you see the prices displayed by others, you quickly see that it no longer makes any sense," Astruc says. 

"The vast majority of restaurants charge crazy prices for wines, which consumers cannot afford. 

"It is understandable to put a coefficient of 3 on the price of a bottle purchased below €40, but it is not possible above €50. Doubling the price with VAT included is acceptable, it allows a good margin. 

"But let's not go too far. And the accountants can say whatever they want so that I put in more, with this margin we are already making money. But we don't kill customers. Without going below the price of wine merchants."

Many restaurants see wine as a way of making up for losses they make on food. 

"By buying at €100 and selling at €200 we make money even though we have done nothing," says Astruc. 

"We opened and put a bottle on the table with glasses. We didn't get in the tractor to move the earth, we didn't face hail, we didn't have the problems with the vines.. 

"Of course Burgundy wines have increased their prices a lot. 

"Yes it’s expensive, but the winegrowers do 100% of the work. If they put in a 10% increase, we pass it on, so let's not complain too much and think about reducing our margins. 

"The winegrowers sell us at €100 a bottle, but some restaurants put it at €400. They are the ones who are killing the business. We have to look at the long term. 

"My customers buy more wine and send other customers as we are reasonable on prices. I prefer to have a margin that gains sales, rather than a coefficient that leads to a reduction of consumption.

"Restaurants are not obliged to sell wines at stratospheric prices. With an affordable price, the consumer will not buy one bottle, but two."

Image: Daniel Rivera,  

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Guest takes the reins at Sydney landmark Shell House

Leading Sydney CBD restaurant Shell House has appointed highly credentialed Brad Guest (left) as their new head chef of the Dining Room and Terrace.

Guest has worked with some of the biggest names in the restaurant business and was on the opening team for Oncore, was most recently head chef at Cafe Paci and has spent time working with industry icons including Neil Perry, Martin Benn and Daniel Puskas.

"Guest brings a wealth of expertise and a proven track record of culinary excellence to his new role," says culinary director Joel Bickford (right).

“I am so excited to be joining such a dynamic team here at Shell House," Guest says. "Since its opening, I have been incredibly impressed by the dining room’s reputation and unique identity.

"When the opportunity to step into the head chef role [established by Aaron Ward] was offered, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn't resist.

"I am thrilled to dedicate my skills and passion to make my mark on the restaurant's identity and continue its great reputation for excellence.”

Guest's journey in the Sydney restaurant business began at renowned venues such as Bilson's and Sepia, both of which held three-hat status during his tenure.

He subsequently worked at Gastro Park, Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, and Rockpool, as well as at Sixpenny.

The Shell House menu is divided into nine sections, comprising caviar and oysters, snacks, starters, vegetables, pasta, fish and shellfish, meat, sides and dessert.

Dishes from Guest's inaugural menu include: scampi with pumpkin, brioche and pepita salt; sourdough orecchiette with mushroom and almond; risotto with ebi prawn and roasted butter; linguine with urchin, caviar, lemon; and whole roasted flounder, almondine and curry leaf (above).

"We are thrilled to welcome Brad Guest to the Shell House family as our new head chef," said Brett Robinson, owner and restaurateur of Shell House Dining Room and Terrace.

"Brad's outstanding culinary achievements, his creativity and his leadership abilities make him the perfect fit to lead our culinary team in the dining room. We are confident that his vision and expertise will take the dining experience at Shell House to another level”.

Guest joins a team that includes culinary director Bickford, and F&B director Alex Kirkwood.

Images: Johnny Valient   

Keep your hound happy with a hotel stay

More and more people want to take their pets on holiday with them and furry friends are welcome at the Dorsett Melbourne, a hotel that has launched Holidays for Hounds packages.

The press release says that Dorsett Melbourne believes that pets are family too.

The upscale hotel's has a range of pet-friendly rooms that come complete with an Australian-made Snooza Snuggler Orthopaedic foam bed, ensuring a restful night's sleep for canine companions.

Taking the holiday experience up a notch, you can also order your pooch a gourmet meal for the 'Pet Menu'.

Created by the Dorsett Melbourne team in collaboration with Jacinta Malone from Chadwick Nutrition (one of Melbourne's top canine and feline nutritionists).

Options include chicken meatballs, beef tartare and pup cakes. Additionally, all pet stays at Dorsett Melbourne will merit 10% off orders from Supaw Bakery and 10% off consultations with Chadwick Nutrition.

The Dorsett Melbourne 'Paw-cierge' team will also point guests in the direction of dog-friendly spots and parks that are located nearby.

Located within the new West Side Place precinct at the southern end of the CBD, Dorsett Melbourne is a short stroll from Southern Cross Station, from where hounds can ride the metro trains for free.

Holidays for Hounds packages are available now. The hotel allows a maximum of one dog per room for overnight stays. Dogs must be 20kg or less (except for guide dogs).


Dorsett Melbourne opened in April 2023 at 615 Little Lonsdale St. The hotel has 316 guest rooms and suites over eight levels.

After Marta meet Martina

It is always a good sign when a restaurant is so successful that it opens a sibling.

Rose Bay newcomer Martina is the offspring of Marta, restaurateur Flavio Carnevale’s chefs’ hatted osteria in Rushcutters Bay.

Martina offers a celebration of Roman cuisine with a picturesque backdrop of Sydney Harbour.

The site is a a bustling Italian bakery in the morning that transforms into a pizzeria and Italian restaurant from noon and into the evening.

The signature dish is the maritozzi - a Roman brioche bun filled with whipped cream.

Carnevale draws on his own Italian heritage for much of the food inspiration, while Martina's drink menu offers classic Italian cocktails and spritzes, as well as non-alcoholic beverages. 

The chef curated the win list himself with Italian wines alongside a selection of French labels.

“My vision for Martina is a place where you can pop in at any given time of the day or night and always find food, coffee and wine. Is that to go place without thinking too much about it, every day all day along,” Carnevale says.

"At Martina, guests are invited to indulge in their senses, share the love, and discover the heartful flavours of Italian life."

Martina is at 51-55 O'Sullivan Rd, Rose Bay, and is open seven days a week, from morning until night.

Monday 25 March 2024

PR woes for British Airways

It has been a week of bad publicity for British Airways.

First, two BA flight attendants were fired after a video of them appearing to mock Asian passengers circulated on social media.

A viral TikTok item showed crew members making a racist gesture and mocking the Chinese accent.

The airline confirmed it had sacked the duo, Travel Mole confirmed.

Meanwhile, the airline was subject to ridicule after it was reported that passengers were informed midway through a flight that the food and drink on their menu cards would cost more than the stated prices.

The announcement was made by a steward over the PA system to those on board a flight from Athens to Heathrow. 

Card payment readers had already been adjusted to charge higher rates.

One of the passengers on board the flight told The Sun newspaper: ‘We were all shocked. Why did they suddenly put the prices up without warning anyone?

Earlier in the month a BA Boeing 777-200ER flying from New York-JFK to London-Gatwick (LGW) was forced to divert to St John’s in Newfoundland, Canada, after one of the pilots became incapacitated.

And over the weekend, a BA flight from London Gatwick declared an emergency on descent into Cape Town, but landed without incident.

Major milestone for Australia's original wine and gourmet celebration

It was Australia's first food and wine festival: and many would say it remains the benchmark. 

The Clare Valley SCA Gourmet Week - held in one of Australia's most beautiful wine regions - is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and has announced its 2024 program, which features more than 85 events,

The 10-day festival can be enjoyed in three parts; Festival Weekend (May 17-19), Breathe It In (May 20-24) and Land of the Long Lunch (May 25-26) and kicks off with new events, including Fire and Wines at Skillogalee Estate with Africola ace Duncan Welgemoed cooking over fire. 

Another debutant is Sip, Savour, Celebrate: A Homage to 40 Years of Clare Valley Gourmet at Pikes Wines’ Slate Restaurant - a culinary journey over five courses and a walk down memory lane with a re-creation of dishes over the four decades of Gourmet. 

The official 50th birthday party for Knappstein Wines will be the VinoVibe Fest, which will include a fusion of flavours, melodies and festive good times. 

Guests can round out each day with The Sailing Club – the Unofficial Afterparty at the Clare Showgrounds. 

The team from Mitchell Wines (above) will be marking their 50th birthday during the event. 

Crowd favourites returning including the Cellars without Doors Degustation Dinner on the Friday night, where wines from winemakers who do not have cellar doors are matched with a six-course degustation dinner by state Chef of the Year Nicola Palmer at the stunning Watervale Hotel. 

Many of the region’s favourite cellar doors will open in collaboration with pop-up restaurants, food vans and live music with shuttle buses operating on constant loops, linking the valley over the weekends.

At the Sevenhill Cellars' new event space, winemaker Will Shields will showcase 2024 vintage samples while guests sitting around a campfire. 

Shiraz will star at Explore Kilikanoon Shiraz, where guests can compare different bottles of shiraz across the Kilikanoon range. 

Returning to the program is Wines by KT Clare Valley Gourmet Sips From the Cellar, which will feature tastings of museum wine flights as well as current release wines.

The event wraps up with The Land of the Long Lunch, featuring events in both unique locations and well-loved venues. 

Some of Clare’s most celebrated Clare Valley “wine industry” women, Ali Paulett, Kerri Thompson and Marnie Roberts, will host a tasting matched with light plates to highlight the diversity of people, wine and the Clare Valley environment at Navigating Diversity. 

Gourmet ambassador Nick Ryan - one of Australia’s leading wine writers - said the festival is the original and the best.

“I spend my life travelling to the greatest wine regions across the globe, and there is only one that I choose to call home," he said. 

"The Clare Valley is quintessentially Australian and a special part of the world. The wineries here consistently deliver phenomenal wine and Gourmet Week is a great opportunity to experience everything this region has to offer, and I can guarantee you will have a great time doing it.” 

# To mark the 40th anniversary, a special Clare Valley Wine Hall of Fame Gala Dinner and Awards Presentation will be held at O’Leary Walker Wines on the evening of Friday, May 24. 

Clare Valley SCA Gourmet Week is presented by the Clare Valley Wine & Grape Association and sponsored by Southern Cross Austereo. 

For details see

Images: Matt Turner images 

Asian airlines place major aircraft order

Two leading Asian air carriers have confirmed big aircraft orders over the past week, signalling growing confidence in the sector.

Japan Airlines has signed deals with both Airbus and Boeing to refresh its long-haul fleet,
Travel Mole reports.

JAL is ordering 21 Airbus A350-900 jets and 10 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

It also ordered 11 Airbus A321neos - a very uncomfortable plane for anything other than short-haul flights. It is a new aircraft model for the airline.

The airline will deploy most of the new A350s on international routes.

Deliveries for the A350s and the Dreamliners are expected to begin in 2027, while JAL will start receiving the Airbus A321neos in 2028.

National flag carrier Korean Air, meanwhile, has ordered 33 Airbus A350s, comprising 27 of the largest version of the aircraft - the A350-1000 and six A350-900s.

These will refresh its long-haul fleet as it gradually retires older jets including Boeing 777s.


Sunday 24 March 2024

Take a wine trip back in time

If you are a wine lover who likes to occasionally take the vinous road less travelled then Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smith has something to tickle your interest.
Scudamore-Smith has released two aged wines under the Terroirs of the Granite Belt label - a pair of small-batch releases from the Settlers Rise vineyard that show how Queensland wines can develop. 

So meet the 2010 Aged Chardonnay and the 2008 Aged Shiraz - a pair of wines that might be confronting for wine drinkers used to bright and fruity current releases. 

"It has been said that ‘great wine needs time’ and we would agree," says Scudamore-Smith.

"Many age worthy wines are released too young and well before they have reached optimum maturity. Our approach at Settlers Rise is to give our wines the time they need to age in the bottle before release.

"For this reason, the current release of the ‘Terroirs of the Granite Belt’ by Settlers Rise includes a 2010 Aged Chardonnay and a 2008 Aged Shiraz. Both wines have been deliberately aged and cellared since their production, in order to release them at the start of their optimum drinking window."

The chardonnay was sourced from 20-year-old high-altitude vines at Cottonvale and Ballandean and was whole-bunch pressed, wild yeast fermented in 40% new French oak and aged in bottle at 15 degrees Centigrade. 

This is spicy and earthy with secondary characters in command. Certainly not a wine for everyone, but fascinating. 

The 2008 Aged Shiraz is heading into porty, raisiny territory and is one for those who like their reds in this zone. 

It is 100% shiraz from 40-year-old dry-grown vines on granite soils at Ballandean. It spent 18 months in 100% new French oak. Intense and assertive with preserved fruit and dark cherry elements on the palate. 

A fascinating exercise that will doubtless meet with mixed reactions. Both wines retail for $59 and will certainly find a spot on restaurant wine lists. Both wines are, thankfully, bottled under screw caps. 

Spirited idea: Whisky club offers access to artisan gems

Some whisky aficionados stick to one drop, others are keen to sample anything that is new and exciting.

If you are part of the second group then you may be interested in Barrel Lane, a new Australian-owned online subscription-based whisky club that aims to "bring only the finest small-batch, Australian craft whiskies to enthusiasts nationwide".

Co-founder Josh Robinson and the team sent me some Backwoods Single Malt Whisky from the Victorian country town of Yackandandah to try - along with a booklet packed with useful information and background about Backwoods Distilling Co. .

The whisky is absolutely delicious - complex but smooth. One of the best I've tasted in a while. 

The team's idea is to give whisky lovers the chance to try small-batch releases from boutique distillers around the country, as well as some bigger names. 

"From the smallest of places to heavy hitters, Barrel Lane scours the country for incredible and award-winning whisky that puts Aussie spirits on the map," their media release says. 

"Championing Australian distillers and their craft, supporting local talent and celebrating their dedication to quality."

The club is the newest venture from the creators of the Garden Street Gin Club.

"Whisky has long held a special place in our hearts, and we're thrilled to share our passion with fellow Australians through Barrel Lane," says co-founder Josh Robinson. 

"Our aim is to spotlight the incredible craftsmanship of Australian distilleries while offering our members the opportunity to explore a diverse range of unique whiskies."

Members can look out for a selection of one-time whisky releases. 

"Our journey with the Garden Street Gin Club has been immensely rewarding, and we're excited to embark on this new chapter with Barrel Lane," says co-founder Lauren Smith. 

"By keeping our membership base small, we're able to provide our members with access to limited-edition releases and hidden gems that truly embody the spirit of Australian whisky."

Members of Barrel Lane can choose between monthly or bi-monthly deliveries, with the flexibility to opt in or out of whisky releases according to their preferences.

You can skip, pause or cancel at any time.

Each shipment comes with tasting notes and background on the distilleries and distillers, and access to online tasting sessions. 

There is currently an introductory offer with some nifty bonuses.  

For more information, visit:

Saturday 23 March 2024

How to spice up your Easter treats

Chilli chocolate sauce? Sounds like a great way to spice up Easter. 

Sydney inner west-based The Chilli Factory, one of Australia’s leading boutique producers of chilli sauces, salsas, and other hot and spicy condiments, will officially launch four new products at The Royal Sydney Easter Show.

Chilli lovers visiting The Chilli Factory’s stand in the Woolworth’s Dome will have the opportunity to try the new gourmet range of chilli oils, chilli honey, and chilli chocolate sauce.

Red Belly Venom is a new hot chilli oil, ideal for infusing into stir fries or noodles. A milder chilli oil, Daintree Drizzle, works perfectly as a drizzled salad dressing.

Ballistic Bee Sting, meanwhile, is a hot chilli honey made from 100% Australian honey infused with locally grown chillies.

And for those seeking to make desserts a spicy affair, Cranky Croc Choc is a hot chilli chocolate sauce, perfect for pouring over ice cream.

“Our new gourmet range products are all chilli infused, giving them an authentic taste,” said Daniel Morgan, general manager of the Sydney-based The Chilli Factory (above).

“We’re excited to be giving Australian chilli lovers more versatile chilli products which can be enjoyed individually or complement their favourite foods at home.”

The Chilli Factory is an Australian-owned company and all products in the new gourmet range are made in Australian using Australian chillies.

Sauces ranging from the mild Numbat Nibble (1,700 Scoville Heat Units) to the extreme Scorpion’s Strike (1.27 Million Scoville Heat Units).

“Naturally, the Chilli Factory attracts long-term chilli fanatics at the Easter Show,” said Morgan. “But each year we notice an increase in new visitors learning more about the subtle and not so subtle nuances of chilli.

“We ensure visitors are aware of the heat of our chillies before trying them and always suggest a less is more approach is the sensible tasting option for seasoned and newbie chilli tasters alike.”

Beginning over 30 years ago, The Chilli Factory has gone from making a few bottles of chilli sauce as a hobby, to the best gourmet chilli sauces and chutneys available in Australia, winning over 160 awards along the way.

As a service to readers, I have volunteered to try the new releases and will update with tasting notes when I have done so.   

For more information, visit

# This is an edited version of a story that appeared in Ciao Magazine. 

A new beer for gin lovers

Juniper is a key ingredient of gins, and is not usually associated with beers. 

But the new Coopers Botanic Ale - a limited release brew - takes its pedigree from Coopers Sparkling Ale with the addition of juniper to tempt gin-loving craft beer drinkers.

The juniper adds a floral twist from Australia’s largest independent family-owned brewery.

This naturally conditioned ale has a retro ‘60s design, taking inspiration from the juniper tree with the use of purple and green in the artwork.

Coopers Botanic Ale contains no additives or preservatives and has an ABV of 5.8%. 

The niche market for higher ABV beer in Australia has doubled in size in the past five years, with Coopers Sparkling Ale the most popular beer nationally that sits above 5.5% ABV.

Gin has also been a key driver of recent growth in the spirits market, while a strong crossover exists among gin and craft beer drinkers with 30% of shoppers buying across these two categories.

“Our brewers went for something different with this limited release,” Coopers Brewery general manager Michael Shearer said.

“Coopers Botanic Ale draws on our 19th-century Sparkling Ale recipe while combining novel elements such as juniper sourced from the UK, and Nectaron hops which are a trending variety from New Zealand.

“The result is a tasty and unique addition to Australia’s craft beer category that we know will appeal to existing and new drinkers of Coopers..”

Coopers Botanic Ale will be available in 375ml cans and 50-litre kegs from this month. 

UPDATE: I can confirm after a serious tasting session that this is a very appealing ale with a fresh, zingy vibrancy boosted by the addition of the juniper flavours. A fun partner for a packet of chilli and lime cashews. 

Friday 22 March 2024

Cross to REDSEA for a new arts experience

When you think Margaret River you probably think superb beaches and world-class wines.

What is less well known about Margaret River is that it is home to dozens or artists across a variety of disciplines and crafts.

Now a new "international" art gallery has opened in the townhip, featuring a collection of paintings, sculptures, glassworks, ceramics, and even cutting edge X-ray art.

REDSEA Gallery is a contemporary gallery housed in a revitalised century-old heritage space.

Owners Chris and Charlie Churcher established REDSEA Gallery in Singapore, exhibiting global artists - including some from Australia - more than 20 years ago and have now opened a sister gallery in Margaret River, which they now call home.

“For many years we’ve holidayed in Margaret River with our daughters and have loved the relaxed lifestyle and natural beauty,” Chris said.

“When the opportunity came up to acquire the historic building situated at the entrance to Margaret River town on Bussell Highway, we were compelled to retain the artistic presence the building has upheld for 50 years."

Margaret River’s first art and craft group, which had 80 members, rented the space in 1974 for 13 years. It was then sold to a group of 15 local artists who refurbished the buildings.

It has remained an art gallery ever since, with the Churchers acquiring the building from the JahRoc team in 2022, exactly 100 years after it was built.

One of the original artists, Shaun Atkinson, continues to be represented there today.

“We’ve extremely proud to be creating the next chapter of the building’s creative story,” he said.

The gallery showcases a diverse range of art and artforms from local and global artists and operating the two galleries allows exhibitions and artworks to travel between Singapore and Margaret River.

“The Margaret River Region is a drawcard for artists and art lovers," says Chris. "We now represent a number of incredible local creators and are excited to showcase them to our Singapore clients too,” says Chris.

REDSEA Gallery is at 83 Bussell Highway Margaret River. See Open six days. Closed on Tuesday.

Thursday 21 March 2024

Vietjet links Sydney and Hanoi

There is new direct air link between Sydney and Hanoi with Vietjet today announcing its seventh route connecting Australia with Vietnam. 

The announcement follows the recent announcement of Vietjet's route between Melbourne and Hanoi. 

The new route from Sydney to Hanoi will commence operations from June 8. 

These flights will run twice a week, with each leg taking approximately 10 hours. Flights from Sydney to Hanoi will depart every Thursday and Sunday at 8:30am, arriving in Hanoi at 4pm on the same day. 

Departures from Hanoi to Sydney will occur every Wednesday and Saturday at at 5.10pm local time, arriving in Sydney at 6am the following day. 

To celebrate the launch of the new route between Sydney and Hanoi, Vietjet is offering a promotion on its Eco seats with one-way tickets priced from as low as $165 - available for purchase until Monday and applicable to all routes between Australia and Vietnam. 

Due to the limited number of discounted seats, availability may vary depending on the route and travel dates from now until October 31. 

The promotion is available on the Vietjet Air mobile app and the website for all flight routes connecting Australia and Vietnam. 

Chimes rings in new spa offerings

Want to combine wine tasting with some luxury spa treatments?

After a two-year renovations program, Chimes Spa Retreat has reopened its doors in the south-west of Western Australia.

Originally built in 1995, and perched on Mount Shadfort, outside the town of Denmark, the adults-only luxury wellness escape promises to offer "a new level of rejuvenation and relaxation" for the Great Southern region, Tourism Western Australia reports.

Featuring 10 guest rooms, the resort showcases deep, freestanding circular baths.

The Day Spa at Chimes can accommodate up to five guests simultaneously, including two double treatment rooms.

Among the offerings are a traditional Finnish sauna, steam deck, Vichy shower, and a refreshing cold plunge pool.

Chimes Spa Retreat also offers a range of high tea and platter options for guests after they have indulged in the vinous delights of the Denmark wine region, where local wineries include Harewood Estate, Rockliffe, Forest Hill and Singlefile.

A two-night Stay and Day Spa Package starts from $695.

South Africa gets even more serious about chenin blanc

Chenin Blanc is the white grape variety most associated with South Africa - and it's about to get a boost.

A new initiative has been launched in South Africa to assess the premiumisation and value growth of chenin blanc, umbrella organisation South Africa Wine reports.

Chenin blanc (or steen as it is sometimes known) is the most planted wine grape variety in South Africa at 18.6% of wine grapes. The variety - originally from the Loire Valley - has a long history in the Cape as it was one of the first wine grapesintroduced to the region by Jan van Riebeek in the 1650s.

The new project is a collaboration between South Africa Wine, the South African Grape and Wine Research Institute (SAGWRI), Stellenbosch University, and the Chenin Blanc Association of South Africa (CBA).

It is led by Professor Melané Vivier and a group of academics. Five work streams are being introduced,  including market intelligence, the distinctiveness of chenin blancs in the country, production for profit, juice into wine, and the support systems needed.

As part of the project, a model chenin blanc vineyard planted with 19 different trellising systems has been created, generating scenarios ranging from very high to very low yields. Experimentation and analysis, production strategies and various approaches to winemaking will all be considered.

The relationship between Stellenbosch University and the wine industry has a long history dating back over 100 years. The first professor in viticulture at the institution, Professor Abraham Izak Perold, created pinotage in 1925.

Gerard Martin, research, development and innovation executive at South Africa Wine, said of the project: “South Africa Wine remains dedicated to driving progress and excellence within the South African wine landscape through proactive research and innovation.

“That is why we partnered with various stakeholders in this project to grow the value of chenin blanc.”

Chenin Blanc Association chairman and co-founder Ken Forrester (above) said: “This project underscores our longstanding belief in chenin’s adaptability, excellence, and potential to compete internationally.

“We are delighted to be a partner in advancing the research of South African chenin blanc and emphasise its significance in our industry.”

South Africa Wine came into existence last year and is a non-profit organisation mandated by the South African wine and brandy industry to "build resilience, foster transformation, and promote agility, and competitiveness".

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Sydney's new inner city market


The booming inner city Sydney suburbs of Alexandria, Zetland and Green Square are set to welcome a new weekly produce market that will launch on Easter Saturday, March 30, at Green Square Plaza, Zetland.

The market, curated by Cambridge Markets, will feature 50 food-focused stalls that organisers promise will bring the best of fresh food, produce, baked goods, prepared meals, hot food and beverages to the precinct.

Some of Sydney’s best micro-retailers across homewares, fashion and gifting will also be represented.

The market will be held every Saturday from 8am-2pm.

“It is thrilling to be bringing this brand-new market to this emerging precinct,” said Cambridge Markets director Rebecca Starr. “This is a rapidly growing area and we hope to help bring a wonderful selection of food in all its guises to this space.

“There will be fresh fruit and veg, coffee, cake, bread, meat and seafood, cheese and dairy, olives, artisanal products, wine and spirits and plenty more.

"On top of that we will have our always-excellent selection of global gourmet eats. People can come down for breakfast, brunch or lunch and do their weekly grocery shop while they are here.

“Shoppers might also find some interesting stalls where the can take home something for themselves or their homes as well. It will be a beautiful market with plenty of interest for everyone.”

Some of the stalls at this market will be: Ton Ton Bakery artisan breads and pastries, Natas Portuguese tarts, Peterson Wines and Savannah Estate from the Hunter Valley and Yum Cha Eat Street duck pancakes.

The Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore AO, said the market would be a great boost to an increasingly thriving area.

“Activating spaces like Green Square Plaza is part of City of Sydney’s vision for a vibrant, liveable city,” she said.

The market kicks off on Saturday, March 30, which is Easter Saturday, with some festive activities including an appearance by the Easter Bunny and chocolate eggs for children.

Cambridge Markets hosts markets across Sydney, from Pittwater to Cronulla. Find them at

Sofitel gets serious about sleep

Do you find it hard to sleep when you are in a strange bed, in unfamiliar surroundings and with unfamiliar air conditioning? 

Global hotel group Accor recently commissioned a scientific study analysing "The Art of Sleep". 

In 2003, the brand unveiled the Sofitel MyBed experience, a bed it describes as "the epitome of comfort". 

Now Sofitel has been aiming to better understand how travellers sleep, in order to help them sleep better and longer when they are in a hotel. 

The study was designed to minimise the notorious “first night effect,” which occurs when people sleep away from home.

In 2023, 45% of Sofitel's guests spent only one night in the brand's hotels making them especially prone to the first night effect. 

Results of the study were published in the Journal of Sleep Disorders & Therapy. 

On average, the subjects' sleep quality in the Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe room was 13.7% higher than at home. 

The subjects of the study slept an average of 65 minutes longer. 

“This study was invaluable for Sofitel because it gave us key data on our guests' sleep," said Nicolas Gronier, VP Global Marketing for Sofitel. 

"In late 2023, we started brainstorming on how we could apply the findings to our hotels across the world. We sought to give all our hotels clear guidelines and the opportunity to revamp their rooms and suites, to elevate the experience of all our travellers in the most personalised way possible.” 

Starting in July 2024, Sofitel will be phasing in new rituals in each of its hotels. 

The group already offers pillow menus and a pre-sleep herbal tea, but new offerings will include light meals formulated to help guests fall asleep quicker, bespoke treatment protocols, relaxing playlists curated specially for the brand's hotels, and precise lighting and temperature adjustments.

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Well we can all dream, can't we?

Pondering where to stay on your next European trip if money was no object? 

That's what I was doing when a press release landed that certainly grabbed my attention. 

Casa Angelina, which sits high on the cliffs of Praiano on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, reopens for an extended European summer season from March 28 to November 4. 

It looks the goods, and has the right pedigree. 

A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, Casa Angelina has announced a "Spring Revival Offer" to celebrate re-opening and new guest accommodation and experiences. 

I haven't stayed here, but they have good PR operatives and it certainly looks enticing. 

Casa Angelina’s Spring Revival Offer is available for a minimum two-night stay from March 28 until May 15 and represents a 10% discount across Romantic, Relaxing and Terrace categories and 15% discount across Deluxe Corner, Grand De Luxe and Suite categories.

Inclusions are full buffet breakfast for two people, a bottle of Casa Angelina Champagne and in-season fruit platter in room on arrival, plus a free upgrade to next room category on availability as well as early check-in/late check out on availability. 

This luxury doesn't come cheap. The lead-in rate is 750,00 plus + 10% VAT per night for two people. 

The summer accommodation options include new suite Vermarine, with sea views over Positano and Capri. 

This suite is part of an ongoing project to craft more spacious accommodation for Casa Angelina’s guests, reducing the total room inventory to 36 rooms and suites.

Coming soon is the property's second yacht, Lady Angelina. 

Designed in collaboration with local boat company Apreamare, it is billed as "a floating sanctuary tailored for those seeking a romantic escape along the breathtaking Amalfi Coast" 

In other news, executive chef Leopoldo Elefante from Un Piano Nel Cielo at Casa Angelina reopens having gained as Michelin star in the MICHELIN Guide Italy 2024. 

Chef-led classes, squid fishing and reservations at the finest restaurants both on and off property are available through the concierge. 

For more information visit I'll be checking my Lotto numbers very carefully.