Among all the different wine-growing areas that I have been able to visit in Australia by now, two regions left lasting impressions: Margaret River in WA, and the Hunter Valley in NSW (and this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills in SA, and the Yarra Valley in VIC).

The Hunter Valley’s scenery is just picturesque, green rolling hills dotted with vineyards, olive tree orchards and wineries with welcoming cellar doors.

We have sampled many different wines, and the following three were my personal favourites:

McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant winery also incorporates a really nice restaurant, and I highly recommend a stopover for lunch.

Audrey Wilkinson’s Gewuerztraminer was one of the best white wines I have tasted in Australia so far (and I am making this statement based on my very individual judgement); this wine was a total surprise to me, I basically tasted it just to see how this grape variety from South Tyrol would turn out in the Australian climate. I was expecting something sweet and a bit overpowering, but this wine was refreshingly dry and crisp, with beautiful aromas of lychees and passion fruit.

Dining out in Brisbane is a bit of a challenge. Not because there aren’t enough places to choose from. You just need to know where to find a good restaurant, and sometimes a good restaurant or eatery is tucked away in the ever sprawling suburbia, in a suburb you would usually never go to unless you happen to live or work there. In other words, the diversity and plentifulness of international cuisine is not right in your face as in Melbourne, in Brisbane it is a journey of discovery. A selection of these (I find) recommendable places are:

Modern Thai in Mt Gravatt:

The Persian in Coorparoo:

The Spaghettihouse (yep, one word) in West End:

The Vine in New Farm:

To be amended…

V.KNOW – Queenstown/NZ

Mai 27th, 2013

OK, if I had to pick one of the best restaurants I had eaten at since I’ve been down under, it would be V.KNOW (also: Vknow – note the small little play on words and Italian pronunciation…), and interestingly I didn’t find this place in Australia but in New Zealand (recommended to me by lovely Shona). This place is almost unassuming, a walk up the hill on Fernhill Road on the outskirts of Queenstown, with an air of a neighbourhood restaurant about it. Our lovely hosts Danny and Lizzie helped us with the selection of dishes and accompanying wines, and the different courses created by Lizzie were simply divine (I highly recommend the venison mains).

A real discovery to me was the Italian restaurant ‘Carmen’s’, located in Muswellbrook in the beautiful Upper Hunter Valley. The Hunter Valley itself is always worth a visit for its stunning scenery but primarily of course for its abundance of vineyards and wineries. On our way to the Hunter Valley we drove through the small town of Muswellbrook and decided to stop for dinner at Carmen’s. The restaurant is run by an Italian family and I was positively surprised at the quality of the food. This certainly is a hidden gem!

Hotel Urban St Kilda

Mai 27th, 2013

It’s about time to write another hotel review. Lately I have been staying at the Urban in Melbourne’s bustling suburb of St Kilda, located on Fitzroy Strreet, a short stroll away from Port Phillip Bay and St Kilda Pier. I love St Kilda for its eclectic mix of restaurants, cafés, design shops and wonderful examples of art deco architecture. I was lucky enough to get a room with a King-size bed and free Wi-Fi at a rate of $109/night. I would highly recommend this hotel if you don’t need or want to stay in Melbourne’s CBD.