Travel News

The Hot 100: 21-40

Food that levitates? Check. Arabian luxury digs in the Abu Dhabi desert? Check. Planking and cold-smoking? Check. It must be the Gourmet Traveller Hot 100. Restaurants of the moment, exciting new talent, emerging trends, savvy travel tips… consider this your new global hit list.
antonia pesenti

**21 Best reason to embrace sharing

**The slow-roasted lamb shoulder for two at Cumulus Inc. is likely an inspiration for David Moyle’s take, but Moyle’s version on the menu in Peppermint Bay‘s informal terrace dining space is equally appealing, and has an added advantage. A shoulder is undeniably a lot of meat, but sitting outside in Tasmania’s bracing, appetite-stimulating air can easily do it justice. The skin is golden, crisp and glistening and encases meat so tender that it almost shreds itself as it falls from the bone. With lemon cheeks for seasoning and a generous salad on the side, it’s a perfect shared meal.

**22 Mexico’s newest hot spot

** A flurry of openings in the bohemian colonial city of San Miguel de Allende, north-west of Mexico City, is set to breathe new life into this picture-perfect town. The urbane Hotel Matilda is leading the revival, along with a gracious new Rosewood property. Set on a cobblestone street in the historical centre, a short stroll from the town’s famous pink gothic parish church, Matilda abounds with clever touches such as a salvaged millstone in the foyer and a terrific contemporary art collection, including one wall devoted to a mass nude-in by photographer Spencer Tunick. There’s also a spa with hammam and therapists who concoct bespoke organic potions for guest treatments.

**23 Most intrepid touring

**It takes years of diplomatic persistence to gain access to one of the most reclusive political territories in the world. Beijing-based Briton Nicholas Bonner earned the trust of the Communist stronghold of North Korea through his BBC documentaries The Game of Their Lives and A State of Mind, which tells the story of a North Korean gymnast training for the Mass Games. Bonner now leads tourists through the DPRK with Koryo Tours. Itineraries might include a trip to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum and the Arch of Triumph as well as a local bowling alley and a visit to a cooperative farm.

**24 Handiest scallops

**Paul Polacco harvests South Australian scallops and sea urchins by hand from 12 sea beds off Kangaroo Island and the Gulf St Vincent. Fresh local scallops have been a rarity since fishing net dredging was phased out through the ’80s and ’90s, because hand-harvesting of scallops was seen as too costly and labour-intensive by larger fishing contractors. As a solo diver, Polacco judiciously selects only mature species, and the former restaurant maître d’ has enjoyed outstanding success in his first 18 months of commercial operation, selling 15 tonnes of scallops and three tonnes of sea urchins at South Australian farmers’ markets. Now he’s shifting focus, selling to leading restaurants (SA customers include Appellation, Celsius, Vincenzo’s Cucina Vera and the Flying Fish), and developing export markets in Japan, Hong Kong and mainland China.

**25 Grüner finds its groove

**Last year we predicted big things in warmer Australian vineyards for southern Italian white grapes such as greco; this year it’s the turn of cool Austrian white grüner veltliner, a variety that travels the taste spectrum between the minerality of riesling and the richness of chardonnay. Only a few patches of grüner vines have been planted here so far but early-release wines – focused and steely from Hahndorf Hill in the Adelaide Hills; super-complex and textural from Lark Hill in Canberra – show that the grape has seriously exciting potential in cooler climates.

**26 The fish for now

** It’s easy to feel enviro-guilt when eating fish, so hearing that Australian sardines are in plentiful supply, and fishing them is actually sustainable, is cause to fall to your knees and praise Neptune. Not just plump and vibrant (check out Maurice Esposito’s Calabrian crumbed number at Saint Peter’s for proof), sardines are also cheap and full of omega-3. Tick, tick, tick, tick. Pass the vermentino.

27 Best reason to shun sharing

Hobart’s Sweet Envy has an excellent, constantly changing ice-cream selection, a reflection of Alistair Wise’s restless energy. He keeps inventing new flavours and it’s hard to keep up. But one thing is a constant: his burnt honey ice-cream, which has been on the menu since the excellent pâtisserie opened midway through 2010, is an instant classic. The flavour is deep, the texture is quite perfect, and you won’t want to give away even a single lick.

**28 Trendsetting Tibet

**Not since Tibet’s much revered Fifth Dalai Lama commenced construction of the Potala Palace in the 17th century has Lhasa seen the arrival of such luxurious digs. The St Regis Lhasa Resort brings five-star comforts to the 3680-metre line with 150 butler-served guestrooms and 12 expansive villas adorned with Tibetan artwork, all overlooking the perennially snow-tipped Himalayas. Its vast spa delivers indigenous healing using Tibetan herbs and plants such as cypress and azalea leaves. And Si Zi Kang flies the flag as the world’s first gastronomic Tibetan restaurant. 

**29 Aged cocktails

**Time in barrel smooths the edges and integrates the flavours and textures of wine – so why not certain cocktails? It’s already happening in house bars in London and New York (Negronis and Manhattans are among the more successful experiments), and is picking up speed in Australia right now.

30 Most romantic desert escape

Located two hours’ drive from Abu Dhabi in a picture-book desert setting, the 205-room mirage fortress Qasr al-Sarab redefines Arabian luxe. In the glorious Al Liwan lobby lounge, cooling water sculptures and enormous glass archways overlooking golden dunes have a mesmerising effect. Guests wallow on plump sun loungers beside their private villa plunge pools and gaze across the undulating desert to… more desert. It’s quite magical. Sunset camel rides are mandatory, as are cocktails on the terrace in the cool of the evening.

**31 Best way to time-travel with a fork

**At Next, Grant Achatz is poised to evoke not just a menu but also a mood in culinary history. Make that multiple menus and moods. Every few months, the Midwestern molecular master will take gastronauts on yet another voyage through world cuisine’s time-space continuum. The destinations alone – Cajun 1977, Ayutthaya 1767, Hong Kong 2036 – set off epicurean alarm bells and Google searches. First stop: “Paris 1912” channels the Belle Époque, right down to period sterling egg cups and Escoffier’s oeufs Bénédictine. Achatz is also launching Aviary, a chemistry lab disguised as bar lounge. Space-age cocktails – a carbonated two-in-one Negroni White Lady, a vivid green bubble-tea G & T – will guarantee a buzz of light-year proportions.

**32 Smartest way to see the Amazon

**It’s one of the world’s last great frontiers, but exploring the Amazon doesn’t have to be primitive. Peru-based Aqua Expeditions proves the point by enlisting top South American designers to kit out its floating pleasure palaces; the latest, the M/V Aria, sets sail this month with floor-to-ceiling windows in its top deck observation lounge and 16 cabins. Trained naturalists are on hand to help cruisers identify passing kinkajous (also known as honey bears), two-toed sloths and pink river dolphins. 

**33 The Latin American invasion

**Once the exclusive territory of chain and theme restaurants, the food of the Americas is brushing off its nachos-soiled reputation and emerging into a bright new authentic day. Suddenly, thanks to the likes of Porteño (Argentine), Mamasita (Mexican), Cruzao (Venezuelan), Steer (Brazilian) and Newmarket (Cal-Mex) we’re beginning to asador, chimichurri, chipotle and dulce de leche with the best of them, to appreciate the merits of fine tequila, pisco and cachaça, and to understand that Australia doesn’t have a monopoly on barbecue fanaticism.

**34 Best supporting actor in cinema

**Forget shooting every other title in 3D: having more venues like Western Australia’s Mojo’s attached to cinemas might just be the film industry’s saviour. Never mind that the space looks like your run-of-the-mill coffee-and-cake pit stop: head through to the secreted-away lounge area, settle into a comfy seat and begin thumbing through the gem of a drinks list and impressions will change. Considering Bunbury’s proximity to WA’s oenological heartland, it’s no surprise that wine is a strong suit and bottles of something interest-piquing are always within sommelier Jake Atkinson’s reach. Factor in the lure of a far-reaching spirit selection that includes boutique tequila and absinthe (complete with water dispensed from ornate fountains) and skipping the trailers has never sounded more appealing.

35 Most stylish Asian resorts since Aman

When the cliff-top extravagance of Alila Villas Uluwatu opened in Bali in mid-2009 it signalled a spectacular new style of Indonesian resort design. Traditional architecture was given a modernist twist to create spaces like the geometric frangipani-fringed spa and the bird’s nest sunset cabana. Alila’s Villas brand proves that high-end hotels can be both striking and sustainable – Uluwatu has the Green Globe seal of approval for environmental sensitivity. The highs won’t stop there, with Alila Villas Musandam, a highly desirable stone citadel floating above the Strait of Hormuz in Oman, set to open in 2013.

**36 Best home-grown eating movement

**Cooking with native ingredients has quickly gone from sub-cultural to mainstream, thanks in no small part to last year’s flying visit from Noma patron-chef René Redzepi. Not that every restaurant in the country is serving finger limes and marrons (yet); but with smoked-at-the table “kangourou” making the menu at Vue de Monde, and with the Royal Mail team now foraging beyond their kitchen gardens for the likes of berry saltbush berries and muntries, the idea that advancing Australia fare and serious cooking don’t have to be mutually exclusive is gaining ground with our top chefs.

37 Best new address out of Africa

We can thank an enterprising settler named Pieter van der Byl for creating Babylonstoren in the Cape Winelands a few centuries back. Today the sweeping Cape Dutch homestead and farmyard in the Drakenstein Valley, an hour from Cape Town, has become a magnet for global nomads and design tourists. Babylonstoren’s owner is Karen Roos, former editor of Elle Decoration in South Africa and a woman who knows a thing or two about soft furnishings. Roos has renovated 12 rooms into sybarites’ retreats, but has wisely left corners of the 200-hectare farm – the walled bee garden, the mulberry grove, the vast orchards and kitchen gardens – to their own devices. Babel restaurant, housed in an elegantly overhauled cattle shed, serves the pick of farm produce. 

**38 The new tablecloth

**The new tablecloth, for many Australian restaurants, is no tablecloth at all. Melbourne designer and restaurateur Pascale Gomes-McNabb, for one, says the environmental cost of washing all that linen makes no sense in a country as dry as Australia (not to mention the laundry bills), and that operators can find other ways to create the luxe aspect that double damask denotes.

**39 The Rat Pack reborn

** If the gang of chefs brought in to revive the food scene at Sydney’s Star City casino were the Rat Pack, star recruit David Chang, ever the obscurest, says he’d be Peter Lawford all the way. A Milanese restaurant from Stefano Manfredi, an Adriano Zumbo dessert bar and a Teage Ezard grill are among the highlights, but Chang’s extension of his Momofuku brand, the first outside NY, is the jewel in the crown. The restaurant, with a working title of Momofuku Seiobo, will seat 30-40 diners at an open kitchen bar and small tables. “We want to use the bounty of Australia as our sandbox,” says Chang.

**40 Most surprising food city

**If your previous experience of Jewish food hasn’t extended much beyond bagels or salt beef, you might find Tel Aviv a big surprise. Firstly, it ain’t kosher; there’s no difficulty in tracking down a bacon sandwich for breakfast. Secondly, it ain’t dull; Ashkenazi Jewish cookery might be among the plainest on the planet, but Tel Aviv’s population is composed of the Jewish diaspora from the Middle East, Russia, even India and Latin America, and is as cosmopolitan as any city gets. The beach culture rivals Sydney’s and night-life options are plentiful, cheap and safe. When you’re thirsty or hungry, there are coffee shops that should make any Aussie feel homesick, and world-calibre restaurants of every style. Our favourite local hangout? Salon, on the city’s outskirts, must be the coolest restaurant in the Middle East right now. Chef Eyal Shani uses it to, ahem, “express himself”, and it’s definitely the place to see glam Israelis letting their hair down. Prices are high, fuelled by the drinks bill, but there aren’t many other restaurants where you’re guaranteed great local cookery followed by the sight of up-for-it party animals dancing on the tables in their bare feet. Salon, 8 Ma’avar Yabok St, Tel Aviv, Israel, +972 3 52 703 5888.

Related stories