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Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Australia.
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in Australia.
Modern Australian cuisine is known for its diversity: born as a result of the continent’s multicultural immigrant population. “But the real focus is on celebrating produce,” says celebrity chef and restaurateur Sarah Todd, who runs Antares in Goa.
“You’ll see this in Attica in Melbourne, a three-hatted restaurant (between one to three Chef Hats are awarded to outstanding restaurants in Australia), where one of the courses is half a piece of cabbage, slow-cooked and served with a duck confit jus. It’s to die for. At Saint Crispin, also a hatted restaurant in Melbourne, order the Western Plains pork jowl and fillet, white pudding, zucchini flower and mustard.
In Sydney at Chiswick, former MasterChef judge Matt Moran serves lamb, which his family raises on their farm, with vegetables grown in his on-site kitchen garden.” The best part: it’s all beautifully plated, without being fussy, with earthy, unexpected flavours to tease your palate.
69 COLEBROOKE ROW, LONDON – With its unmarked side-street door, white-jacketed bartenders, jazz pianist and party vibe, this legendary spot is like tripping back to Fifties London. Even in the afternoon, the small, black-and-white, retro-designed room is buzzing with cocktail lovers. The candlelit tables are so crowded with exquisite drinks there’s barely room for the olives and mini saucisson.
Every one is innovative, including the Manhattan Steel Corp, made with maraschino liqueur and dry essence (a distillate concentrate of macerated grape seeds).
Almost too beautiful to drink, each is the creation of owner and mixologist Tony Conigliaro and his team at the Drink Factory. New comers are often surprised by their simplicity, but every cocktail is cutting edge and the changing menu has gained a cult following.
LITTLE RED DOOR, PARIS – Come here for a nightcap or five – it’s open until 3am on Saturdays – after bar-hopping around the Marais. It’s a laid-back spot with love-seat sofas, dimly lit corners and round-back chairs upholstered in a mish-mash of colourful fabrics. But to be in the thick of things, take a velvet-covered pew at the bar, where barmen with impressively high pours are dressed in denim shirts, dickie bows and aprons printed with flowers and butterflies. Bottom line: they’re having fun and the atmosphere here is super-friendly as a result. The Bartender’s Board Special changes fortnightly; original concoctions include The Hedgewitch, made with Amontillado sherry, Kamm and Sons botanical spirit, whiskey, blackberry liqueur and honey, garnished with a dehydrated blackberry. It’s a tribute to the mixologist’s mother’s favourite tipple.
LOS GALGOS, BUENOS AIRES – One of the city’s wonderful traditional bars, untouched for decades, the original Los Galgos closed its doors in 2015. But thanks to a rescue mission instigated by the savvy team behind the famous 878 bar in hip Palermo, an important slice of Buenos Aires’ Thirties history has been saved. Features such as French oak boiserie and beaten-up encaustic floor tiles keep the essence of the old Asturian tapas bar alive. And, given their taste both for nostalgia and a stiff drink, portenos have ensured that the relaunch has been an enormous success. It’s open all day, so start with a mid-morning cortado and come back for a vermouth and soda. But the cocktail that stands the test of time is the Negroni. One too many? Rib-eye seared medium-rare on the wood-burning grill will do the trick.
SALON DE NING, NEW YORK – Ah, the myth of Fifth. Not the most poetically named of avenues. Nor, these days, the prettiest. And yet – enchanted. Especially when seen from up high. Take the express lift, therefore, from the lobby of The Peninsula, at Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, to Salon de Ning, the hotel’s elegantly east-meets-west-styled rooftop bar. Stand as close to the edge of the terrace your sense of vertigo allows. Cast your gaze up and down the street, which suddenly seems endless, seething with life and energy, and submit to sheer skyscraper hoodoo. Then take a seat or a day bed, recline into its plump silky cushions and raise a glass of something chilled and exotic – the house riffs on classic cocktails are unfailingly catchy – to what may still be the greatest city on earth.
DRY MARTINI, BARCELONA – Just as Ferran Adria was the wunderkind of the Spanish restaurant scene in the 1990s, the debonair Javier de las Muelas was its cocktail-bar impresario. He first shimmied his way into the spotlight in 1978 with the opening of emblematic Dry Martini. Almost 40 years later, he’s still going strong. How grown-up it feels to be in his gloriously old-fashioned world of polished-teak-panelled walls, racing-green leather armchairs and marble bar tops trimmed with gold. So cultish is its appeal there are now outposts from London to Singapore. But you really can’t beat the original joint, which hawks 100 variations of the classic Martini, as well as some of De las Muelas’ more outre inventions, such as The Pipe – a lethal concoction of Glenmorangie and Lagavulin whiskies, absinthe, spice droplets and smoke. Salut!
SEPIA – SYDNEY – It’s the little things that count here. Take the salmon ball presented as an amuse-bouche: bite into it and a filling of smoked salmon roe provokes tantalising shock-waves of intense flavour. This is what chef Martin Benn does best: create seemingly simple dishes that astonish with their complexity, combining French techniques with Japanese ingredients such as dashi jelly, wakami oil and sobacha. Spanner-crab meat is teamed with sake-vinegar jelly, pea and horseradish and folded as carefully as origami; a simple curl of squid, decorated with miso-cured egg yolk and a wasabi flower, calls to mind the curves of a Miro painting.
And Benn’s nine-course menus end as strongly as they begin, with puddings such as The Pearl, a pristine sphere of white chocolate and finger lime.
KEENS STEAKHOUSE, NEW YORK – Keens serves fantastic steak but became famous for its even more fantastic mutton. It opened in 1885 and in 1935 served its millionth mutton chop. Somebody played a fanfare on a bugle that had supposedly been used in the War of the Roses. The manager gave a speech and waived the bill. The great shepherd in the sky alone knows how many mutton chops Keens has sold since then. A flock of a lot. Even without the fanfare and the speech, and even if you have to pay the bill, a Keens mutton chop remains one of the glories of Midtown Manhattan. Look out for the 50,000 long-stemmed clay pipes that hang, with a peculiar elegance, from the ceiling – not that you’re likely to miss them. Lillie Langtry, JP Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth ate here. You should too.
THE WHITE ROOM, AMSTERDAM – Arctic-white walls exuberantly encrusted with gold give this venerable 19th-century building its name. There the history stops. A recent revamp has introduced funky spherical chandeliers, a classy-yet-cool tone and an invigoratingly fresh take on the food. Chef Jacob Jan Boerma is guided by three culinary fundaments – ‘citrus, spice and vegetables’ – and his dishes are delicate, full of secrets and liable to mini explosions of surprising flavours. A slice of lime gives prawn tartare a zing as it slips onto your tongue; an intense zap of lemon lurks beneath a perfectly cooked piece of trout, with green-mustard sabayon. Wasabi, curry, Indonesian spices all play cameo roles. Each plate is feat of beauty, with bold colours, odd shapes and energetic composition.
INDIAN ACCENT, NEW DELHI – India’s restaurant critics are notoriously picky, which makes the non-stop gushing that has flowed since chef Manish Mehrotra’s opened here in2009 so significant. His genius lies in splicing global ingredients into regional recipes from India’s 29 states. So the stuffing he uses in the traditional kulcha – one of the country’s 400-plus breads – is chilli hoisin duck, or applewood-smoked bacon, or wild mushrooms and truffle oil. Kofta, the delicately spiced Indian dumpling, is made herewith tofu instead of paneer and served with a wok-tossed quinoa pulao. The result is not so much fusion as synergy: inventive twists that serve to accentuate the complex flavours of Indian food, and reason enough to plan a trip to the Indian capital.
EL MERCADO, LIMA – Lima’s culinary boom may have produced fancier restaurants but none, surely, is better loved than El Mercado, the casual lunch-only affair opened in 2010 by superstar local chef Rafael Osterling. Tucked away down a Miraflores side street, the permanently packed, semi-open-air space has the informal clatter and hum of an actual market with bartenders serving superb Pisco Sours to the endlessly replenished queue. As well as a full range of top-grade ceviches, the menu also includes excellent tiraditos such as the Nikkei (yellowfin tuna sliced thin, marinated in lime and served with sesame oil and avocado aioli). Other highlights include a superlative shrimp burger and the causa original, Osterling’s upmarket take on the Peruvian staple of mashed potato terrine layered with seafood.
The Kimberley, in the far north-west of Australia, is one of the emptiest places on Earth. It is possible to drive for days without seeing any sign of human habitation. Yet here, on a sensational stretch of dramatic coastline, stands this unique wilderness lodge. It is so sequestered that the only way to get here is by helicopter or air taxi (or perhaps private yacht). People come for the isolation – in few places can the nights appear darker or starrier – but also for the deep, tranquil comfort of the 20 smart villas which seem to float like a lovely little armada on the coastal dunes. All the bathrooms are outdoors for long showers beneath a yellow tropical sun in the clear Australian sky. Some of the cabins look out on the snaking Berkeley River, others have views of the TimorSea.
And this sea is for looking at, not for swimming in, because the glittering water teems with bull sharks and saltwater crocodiles. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Go fishing off the two is lands called, mysteriously, Aunt and Uncle. Or take a guided boat tour down the river – the best way to see the wild Kimberley and all that lives here: ghost gums and bottle shaped boab trees, brahminy kites, jabiru birds with beaks like screwdrivers. The hotel chef can make up a fabulous lunch box filled with salads and focacciato take along and enjoy with a cold beer beneath the Casuarina Falls. And if you are desperate for a dip, there is a beautiful swimming hole (without crocs) at the far end of the first creek on the right.
The red hot dust blew around us. I’d been driving for two hours in the company of Sammy Wilson, an Aboriginal man whose clan name was Uluru. This made him one of the traditional owners of the rock of the same name, Australia’s best-known landmark, which is where we were heading.
Along the way we had stopped to admire the desert blooms that had burst through following the unseasonable rains – cartoonish poached-egg flowers, vividly pink pigface and orange-coloured desert grevillea, from which Sammy showed me how to suck sweet nectar. Another time, he had picked up a bizarre thorny devil lizard that he had spied crossing the road, presenting it to me in his hands, and we had spent some time at a waterhole where budgerigars, zebra finch and pink-faced cockatoos came to quench their thirst.
Sitting in the shade while eating some tucker, Sammy showed me a book about his ancestors, which contained, among other things, a map of old walking routes. I decided it was a perfect time to ask him the question I’d been holding back. “So, do you still use the songlines?” He paused, chewed on his sandwich, and then spoke. “We still do. But I prefer to use my truck. It’s better to go by road.”
My masterplan was faltering. I’d come to the Northern Territory with the mission of learning about the enigmatic trails l had read of in Bruce Chatwin’s celebrated book, Songlines, published 30 years ago. These invisible routes were said to have been created during Dreamtime – the age in Aboriginal myth when ‘ancestor spirits’ walked and named the Earth – and are recalled in native Australian chants. Chatwin posed the idea that human language might have begun with nomadic people, including the Australian Aborigines, singing the world into life.
“I have a vision of the songlines stretching across the continents and ages,” wrote Chatwin. “Wherever men have trodden they have left a song, and [these] trails must reach back [to] where the First Man shouted the opening stanza of the World Song, ‘I am!’”
But here was Sammy – whose second name was no less than the native word for the most famous Aboriginal landmark in Australia – telling me that a songline was a drive in his air-conditioned pick-up. It wouldn’t be my last surprise, as I set about following in Chatwin’s footsteps three decades on.
Australians call Queensland ‘The Sunshine State’ for good reason – with 300 sun-filled days a year, it’s the spiritual home of the Aussie beach holiday, with thousands of swimmable areas dotting its breathtaking coastline. Stretching nearly 7,000 kilometres, Queensland’s coast is only just shy of the distance between New York and Los Angeles! From its southern cosmopolitan shoreline where you’ll find the international playground of the Gold Coast, to the tropical northern extremities of the shimmering Cairns beaches, and the chic and stylish beachside attractions of Noosa and the Sunshine Coast, there are countless activities to experience and fabulous towns to explore, all set against a backdrop of brilliant days, balmy nights and a deeply entrenched beach culture.
Diving into the Great Barrier Reef
While many may extol the virtues of her pretty shores, others will argue that the real star of Queensland is actually just off her coast. A visit to this northeastern state simply wouldn’t be complete without a dip into one of the great natural wonders of the world – the Great Barrier Reef, home not just to some of the world’s best diving and snorkelling, but also more than 900 islands some of the best luxury resorts in the country. No matter how many images you’ve seen or stories you’ve heard, nothing compares to a personal encounter with this spectacular miracle of nature. Stretching some 2,300 glittering kilometres up the Queensland coastline, from the town of Bundaberg to virtually the tip of Cape York, the Great Barrier Reef is world-renowned as the only single living structure visible from space. Come November, the entire Great Barrier Reef erupts into life with spawning coral. This usually happens on the weekend after the full moon, and it’s an amazing sight to behold, wherever on the reef you happen to be.
As one of die world’s largest coral reef systems, the Great Barrier Reef is home to thousands of marine species, including dugongs, turtles, dolphins, whales, more than 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of molluscs. Not just restricted to underwater critters, there are also about 200 species of bird dial thrive (and depend) on the reef for survival. Its sheer size means there are virtually dozens of different ways to experience this incredible wonder, with tour operators operating in towns up and down the Queensland coast (including Bundaberg, Airlie Beach, Townsville and Cairns). You can fly overhead and sail directly on top of it, or even sleep on it – yes, sleep on it – if you like.
But snorkelling or diving those clear turquoise depths offers a magic all of its own, giving you an intimate look at the kaleidoscopic colours, unbelievable array of marine life and crystal clear waters which stretch seemingly into infinity. In some parts of the reef you can dive with green turtles or manta rays, while others offer the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with rare dwarf minke whales. Be sure to tick off your scavenger list of the reefs Great 8: giant clams, turtles, down fish, manta ray, potato cod, Maori wrasse, sharks and whales. Fat, friendly potato cod appear every day at the famous Cod Hole, expecting treats from visiting divers. The coral here is arguably some of the reef’s best, too.
Want a truly unique experience? How about a dive into a shipwreck? The historical SS Yongala shipwreck has become the adopted home of hugely colourful marine life, and is definitely something to add on to your bucket list. Get here by boat from Townsville, or through various other day trips available for charter.
WHAT IS THE OUTSTANDING GREEN FACTOR? Sal Salis is a remote, beachside safari camp nestled in the dunes of Western Australia’s Cape Range National Park on the shores of Ningaloo Reef. This is one of Australia’s best-kept secrets with only 16 eco-luxe wilderness tents available on site. The size of the camp allows minimal damage to the environment as the rooms and main lodge facility are constructed above ground level to protect the indigenous fauna and flora. Boardwalks also help prevent unnecessary soil erosion and guests can only use designated footpaths while walking round. Different coloured tents help the camp blend into the natural surroundings. Almost 100% of the camp’s power is generated by the sun through an array of solar panels to ensure a predominately clean source of energy and preservation of the quiet environment.
STYLE BONUS? Sal Salis is a fine example of the recent ‘glamping’ trend, which is defined as glamorous camping. This is also part of experiential travel, where travellers are able to head off the beaten path and immerse in an authentic local environment. Here, visitors will wake up to the song of birds and catch glimpses of kangaroos grazing among the dunes. There may also be a spectacle of breaching whales as one tucks into breakfast. Alternatively, visitors can enjoy a morning swim in Ningaloo’s crystal clear waters and discover marine wildlife up close. The spacious, airy tents are an oasis of comfort that allows travellers to take in the sights and sounds of the natural surroundings with the comforts of modern amenities.
If Swiss Family Robinson had made landfall in Australia, chances are their home would have resembled Haggerstone Island: a crumb of land on the Queensland Coast, and one of the most northerly pieces of Australian territory.
Now an eco-resort, it’s the private kingdom of latter-day castaway Roy ‘Gouger Turner, who whittled and sawed its treehouses and bungalows into shape after first arriving in 1985 (he acquired his nickname after rescuing someone from a crocodile attack by jumping on the croc and gouging its eyes). Less eventful days in his company might see guests reeling in fish from the seas or prizing fresh oysters from the rocks before banqueting as the sun sets beyond the island’s little timber pier.
A unique stage for local and international artists to showcase their wit and spirit. Art & About Sydney has been a shared celebration of creativity and identity for over 13 years, flourishing year on year with avid support from the government to foster a nurturing environment for the arts through grants, public art programs, and the encouragement of expressive installations.
An amalgamation of theatre, dance, film, art, photography and so much more, the Art & About Sydney programme has been transformed into an ongoing yearlong calendar of creativity, and for the upcoming months of September and October, visitors to the city can look forward to three standout events: Australian Life, Little Sydney Lives, and Hidden Sydney -The Glittering Mile. Australian Life is an outdoor gallery showcasing the unique sights that make up, well, Australian life.
Held at Hyde Park North, the exhibition will feature the work of 22 finalists, each chosen by a panel of photographers, artists and curators from work submitted by emerging and professional photographers across the country, all contending for the final prize of $10,000. From close-up moments of reflection to a wide-angle on the collective hopes and dreams of all Australians, these stunning shots are as diverse, interesting and surprising as the country that inspired them, and look beyond iconic images to reveal new insights into the Australian identity.
Get a dose of cabaret with a night at Hidden Sydney -The Glittering Mile. An immersive, exhilarating and witty experience set over four floors of The Nevada, the former Sydney brothel which once boasted the world’s biggest bed, Hidden Sydney-The Glittering Mile is a narrative filled with drag queens, madams of the night, quick-witted bouncers, and crims, crooks and other eccentrics alike as you relive the notorious world of Kings Cross through its heydays during the 50s, 60s and 70s. “Enter, if you dare!”
HUBERT, SYDNEY – Brilliant design. Brilliant food. Brilliant ambiance. Brilliant wine list. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
From the guys behind Shady Pines, The Baxter Inn et al, it sees 10 William’s Dan Pepperell serving up a slice of French cooking that he says was inspired by pre-WW1 cookbooks.
OSTERIA OGGI, ADELAIDE – An Italian from non-Italians – but it’s hard to care when the fare elevates the country’s culinary traditions.
Our go-to when in the SA capital, Oggi’s part of the culinary happenings that have made it worth taking a new look at the City of Churches.
AUTOMATA, SYDNEY – Nearly a year after the fanfare attached to its opening, and Automata remains our inner-west haunt of choice. Why? Well, the ever-changing five-course set menu is inventive, refreshing and easily the best value in Sydney.