The February issue

Our clean eating issue is out now, packed with super lunch bowls, gluten-free desserts and more - including our cruising special, covering all luxury on the seas.

Subscribe to Gourmet

Subscribe to Australian Gourmet Traveller and receive a free Gourmet Menus book - offer ends 26 February 2017.

Gourmet digital

Subscribe to Gourmet Traveller for your iPad or Android tablet.

Recipes by Christine Manfield

As the '90s dawned, darling chefs were pushing the boundaries of cooking in this country. A young Christine Manfield, just starting out at this heady time, soon became part of the generation that redefined modern Australian cuisine. She shares some of her timeless signatures from the era.

Cirrus, Sydney review

Cirrus moves the Bentley team down to the water and into more lighthearted territory without sacrificing polish, writes Pat Nourse.

How to grow rocket

A vegetable patch without rocket lacks a great staple, according to Mat Pember. The perennial performer is a leaf for all seasons.

50BestTalks brings World’s best chefs to Sydney and Melbourne

Massimo Bottura and more are coming to the Sydney Opera House.

Toby Wilson, Sean McManus and Jon Kennedy to open Bad Hombres

Expect Mexican-Asian flavours and an all-natural wine list from two of Sydney’s edgier operators.

Local Knowledge: Moscow

Director of Shakespeare theatre company Cheek by Jowl Declan Donnellan walks us through the essential sights and his favourite cafes and restaurants of his hometown.

On the Pass: Danielle Rensonnet

Bellota chef Danielle Rensonnet talks us through the current menu at the restaurant and her favourite summer ingredients.

Melbourne's Tomato Festival is back in 2017

Returning for another year, Melbourne’s Tomato Festival is ripe with cooking demonstrations, talks, and produce stalls dedicated to plump produce.

Most popular recipes summer 2017

Counting down from 20, here are this summer's most-loved recipes.

Bali's new wave of restaurants, hotels and bars

The restaurant and hotel scene on Australia's favourite holiday island has never been more exciting and Australian chefs, owners and restaurateurs are leading the charge, writes Samantha Coomber.

Persian love cake

Baguette recipes

These baguette recipes are picture-perfect and picnic ready, bursting with fillings like slow-cooked beef tongue, poached egg and grilled asparagus and classic leg ham and cheese.

New South Yarra restaurants

The Melbourne suburb lost some of its lustre in recent years, but is now bouncing back.

Fast summer dinners

From an effortless tomato and ricotta herbed tart to Sri Lankan fish curries and chewy pork-and-pineapple skewers, these no-fuss recipes lend to relaxing on a humid summer's night.

Long Chim, Melbourne review

David Thompson brings the heat to Melbourne with his newest incarnation of Long Chim. Michael Harden drops by for dinner.

Curtis Stone's strawberry and almond cheesecake

"I've made all kinds of fancy cheesecakes in my time, but nothing really beats the classic combination of strawberries and almonds with a boost from vanilla bean," says Stone. "I could just pile macerated strawberries on top, but why not give your tastebuds a proper party by folding grilled strawberries into the cheesecake batter too? Cheesecakes are elegant and my go-to for celebrations because they taste best when whipped up a day in advance."

The all-new Lizard Island resort

First there was Ita, then there was Nathan. Two cyclones and nearly $50 million later, the all-new resort on Lizard Island has opened. Helen Anderson surveys the scene above and below water.

Check out more pictures from the Lizard Island renovation here

Ita was in no hurry to leave when she visited Lizard Island. Before checking in about 6.30pm on 11 April last year, she'd been forecast as a ferocious category-five tropical cyclone, and with winds up to 158 kilometres per hour she hung around for 12 hours. The worst possible guest.

The island had been evacuated a couple of days earlier, and staff returned in Ita's wake to find the luxury resort destroyed, trees uprooted and the lush greenery stripped. An 18-metre catamaran blew into the camping ground. The two remaining walls of Watson's Cottage, standing since the 1880s, collapsed.

At the height of the clean-up and feverish rebuilding project that followed, 250 construction workers lived in tents on the island. Just shy of a year later, and a week before the resort was due to reopen, Nathan arrived. Residents of far north Queensland braced; resort staff on Lizard Island were evacuated again. But the cyclone passed the island, approached the mainland with less fuss than expected and headed back to sea.

Staff had returned to Lizard Island and were cleaning up when Nathan changed direction and, on 20 March, returned as a category four cyclone, circling the island with winds up to 180 kilometres per hour, destroying whatever vegetation remained or had regrown after Ita. Built to withstand category five cyclones, the new resort buildings withstood the gale (the older and most exposed hilltop pavilion blew down), but paintwork and floors were sandblasted and debris was everywhere. And so the clean-up and restoration began again.

Two cyclones, 15 months and nearly $50 million later, the all-new Lizard Island has opened. The resort's 40 weatherboard villas arranged in pairs are as dazzlingly white as the sand they sit above, some facing the gentle curve of Anchor Bay, others perched above boulder-strewn Sunset Beach. The ocean views are particularly lovely in the late afternoon as a sunburn-red sun lingers above the horizon, then drops like a stone. This is the time of day to retire to daybeds or beanbags on villa verandas - or the plunge pools in six of the Sunset Point Villas and the two-bedroom Villa - or wander to the dress-circle central pavilion for sundowners.

Bought from Voyages in 2009, Lizard Island has been the Australian jewel in the crown of US-based hospitality giant Delaware North. Its properties include El Questro Wilderness Park, Kings Canyon Resort, Wilson and Heron islands - though it placed Lizard, Heron and Wilson islands on the market in September, just as the resort on Lizard was fully reopened. "Every cloud has a silver lining," says Delaware North's Australian Parks and Resorts executive director, Greg Magi, of the twin natural disasters. "Though it's been hard work for everyone, the bones of the property were good and this was an opportunity to build something contemporary, eclectic and relevant for our market."

Much of the global appeal of Lizard and its reputation as an occasional hideaway for royals and Hollywood A-listers remains its pricey exclusivity, tropical remoteness - 240 kilometres north of Cairns, a 60-minute charter flight - and its priceless location on the Great Barrier Reef's most accessible coral gardens and dive holes. It's a luxury to be able to wade from beach to reef. Although coral around the island also suffered cyclone damage, the snorkelling off any of the island's 24 sandy beaches is special; around the eastern tip of Anchor Bay, within easy walking distance of the resort, is a remarkable giant-clam garden. Diving spots within an hour's radius by boat are spectacular; the Cod Hole - home to diver-sized potato cod - is considered among the world's best dives, and there are plenty of other evocatively named options: Snake Pit, No Name Reef, Big Vicky's.

On land, everything has been rebuilt within the resort's existing footprint, and the results generally show restraint and good judgement. Melbourne studio Hecker Guthrie has designed the interiors with a breezy, relaxed, beach-house feel, evoked by a serene palette of white, sand and seagull grey (mercifully, not a tropical bright in sight), with tongue-and-groove walls and spotted-gum floors, softened by the textures of cotton-rope baskets, brushed-linen sofas and twine-strung armchairs. Low tables appear as glazed ceramic cubes and sawn-off tree trunks, and there's an interesting collection of lights throughout - lacy shades, blown glass, pottery pendants. TVs are concealed within wall-mounted cases. Tropical ginger plants and bromeliads look nursery-fresh in white washable paper bags.

The theme and details are echoed in the spa and in the dining-lounging pavilion, open to the bay. The prevailing sense of understatement means nothing inside competes with the sea, sand and sunshine outside. That includes modern telecommunication. Given the high-tech, high-end clientele, this policy is puzzling; there's no mobile-phone coverage and WiFi can be accessed only beside the pool and near reception.

For those seeking further retreat, Lizard's Essentia day spa has been expanded with more space, an exclusive Australian appearance of spa and in-room products by the Parisian apothecary La Biosthetique - we like the diagnostic skin test before a particularly effective facial - and a range of innovative wellness consultations, including iridology, instant blood typing and naturopathy. There's a tennis court, pool and gym, though the best exercise is on the water - stand-up paddleboarding or paddling clear kayaks over coral gardens - or one of several scenic hikes. This is when you're likely to spy a yellow-spotted monitor, the lizard that inspired an anxious Captain Cook when he named the island in 1770. Surrounded by a maze of reefs, he climbed to the island's peak, now named Cook's Look, to chart his escape.

Snorkelling over the giant clam garden

The natural environment hasn't fared as well as the built. Though the resort has been revegetated with 135,000 shrubs and 480 trees, the cyclone damage is apparent from arrival. The short drive from the airstrip to the resort passes a stripped landscape and a tented construction camp, and staff quarters that were once hidden by thick vegetation are in full view from parts of the resort. Things grow quickly in the tropics, but it will be some time before tropical lushness and full privacy are restored. An eyesore that's harder to screen is the fortnightly arrival of a barge and the half-day unloading of provisions on the beach almost directly in front of the dining pavilion - necessary but intrusive.

Most of the time the only vessels moored in Anchor Bay are the resort's 17-metre dive boat, a 15-metre Riviera flybridge cruiser for game-fishing charters - this is serious black marlin territory - and a flotilla of runabouts used to ferry guests around the island. Marine staff are a sunny, confident bunch of Australian and New Zealand sailors, swimmers and surfers, unflappable and energetic. It's a big island - a national park just over 1,000 hectares - and, apart from scientists at a research station on the other side of the island, yachties moored in Watson's Bay and campers at a public campground, there's no one else here. This means the runabouts are used most often for picnic commutes to deserted beaches, dropping off guests and Eskies filled with bento boxes of sushi, prawns and tropical fruit.

As you'd hope, seafood is the highlight at Salt Water, the restaurant overseen by executive chef Mark Jensen. Born in Cairns, Jensen is on his third stint at Lizard via London, where he worked with Ed Baines, Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing, Maxim's in Paris and Circa in Brisbane. His mainly reef seafood is flown in daily from Cairns; the likes of red emperor, saddletail snapper and, my favourite, coral trout. There's a South East Asian thread running through daily changing menus, and liberal use of local tropical fruit and sorbets. Dinner dégustations can be booked at one of two lantern-lit pavilions in the sand. The best dishes are the simplest: a slab of seared black kingfish, caught close to the island, with seafood congee and dashi; coral trout in a pine nut crust, beside saffron-spiced truss tomatoes.

Melbourne-based wine critic and author Jeremy Oliver is overseeing the cellar and staff training, with a brief to write a list that will be both familiar to guests and, he says, "the fun bit - with plenty of surprises as well". Wines on the all-inclusive list feature familiar premium labels and plenty of seafood-friendly matches; the new Cellar Master list, not included in the tariff, is studded with Australian heavyweights in classic vintages - Penfolds Grange, Mount Mary, Giaconda, Wendouree and Bass Phillip - and a growing collection of serious Château Margaux, Château Y'quem, individual vineyard Hermitage from Chapoutier and vintage Champagne.

For me, the sybaritic deserted-island vibe is made more meaningful by the presence of the research station, operating since 1973 and part of the Australian Museum. Co-director Dr Lyle Vail takes highly recommended 90-minute tours and his description of the work by teams of international researchers pursuing more than 100 projects each year is fascinating and far from esoteric. With field research just offshore and in a series of aquariums fed 10,000 litres of seawater an hour, researchers are studying the effects of climate change on marine life and outbreaks of the native crown-of-thorns starfish. Vail pulls one from an aquarium with a pair of tongs - venomous thorns on top, rows of evil-looking suckers underneath. Chopped-up starfish appears in plastic containers, part of the research into their miraculous ability to regenerate. Fatal injections of ox bile are used to control the coral-hungry starfish around touristed reefs, but their fecundity - females can produce up to 60 million eggs a year - means the task is enormous.

One morning Captain Dave and crew zip across to Horseshoe Reef and we snorkel above gardens filled with staghorns and humbugs, pulsating anenomes and corals that remind me of Melbourne Cup hats. We pass Casuarina Beach, a turtle corridor where yesterday I swam in the wake of a green turtle. An hour later we scoot around to Watson's Bay and float over giant clams, their lips a shocking ecclesiastical purple. I'm happy as a clam.

When we pull into Anchor Bay, close enough to see lunch on the table, a shadow sidles up beside us. Huge. "Hey, Simon!" says Dave to the friendly 300-kilo Queensland grouper who hangs out in the bay. Simon circles and lingers. Like us, he's ready for lunch.


Charter flights from Cairns to Lizard Island cost $630 return per person. Suites cost from $1,700 a night twin share, including all food, drinks (not including the Cellar Master wine list) and most activities (not including inner- and outer-reef trips). 1300 731 551


Australia's best lodges and resorts

One&Only Hayman Island

Byron Bay travel guide


Charter flights from Cairns to Lizard Island cost $630 return per person. Suites cost from $1,700 a night twin share, including all food, drinks (not including the Cellar Master wine list) and most activities (not including inner- and outer-reef trips). 1300 731 551


Australia's best lodges and resorts

One&Only Hayman Island

Byron Bay travel guide

Signature Collection

Find out more about the Gourmet Traveller Signature Collection by Robert Gordon Australia, including where to buy it in store and online.

Read More
Recipe collections

Looking for ways to make the most out of seasonal produce? Want to find a recipe perfect for a party? Or just after fresh ideas for dessert? Either way, our recipe collections have you covered.

See more
2017 Restaurant Guide

Our 2017 Restaurant Guide is online, covering over 400 restaurants Australia wide. Never wonder where to dine again.

See more

You might also like...

Go for Gold

Queensland’s most famous beach playground is as glamorous as...

Reef encounters

Scattered among the 900 islands of Queensland’s Great Barrie...

48 hours on the Gold Coast

If you like to pack more than board wax, a tank top and a pa...

Howard Smith Wharves, Brisbane's newest precinct

A huge, multi-faceted project is taking shape in the middle ...

Cycle through Queensland's Scenic Rim

A new four-day, 110-kilometre mountain-bike tour of Queensla...

Hayman One & Only

After a six-month closure and an $80 million makeover, the W...

Bathing beauty

The Sheraton Noosa’s recent makeover is more than skin deep....

Sheraton Mirage Port Douglas resort's transformation

A complete overhaul of the Port Douglas resort is unveiled t...

Sunshine on a plate

Noosa endures as an evergreen slice of coastal bliss, and th...

Northern lights

From a heli-fishing lodge in a remote Kimberley estuary to a...

Reef encounters

Scattered among the 900 islands of Queensland’s Great Barrie...

Sunshine on a plate

Noosa endures as an evergreen slice of coastal bliss, and th...

Northern lights

From a heli-fishing lodge in a remote Kimberley estuary to a...

get the latest news

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.