The legendary La Mamounia in Marrakech has been a glamorous address since its art deco doors first swung open to the world in 1923. And it's a tradition that looks set to continue now that the hotel has completed a three-year makeover by French interior designer Jacques Garcia. Garcia has seamlessly blended the hotel's classic lines with richly detailed Arabesque interiors that evoke the romance of the region while amping up the dazzle factor. Any doubts that La Mamounia intends to keep her crown as the Queen of Marrakech were banished at last year's spectacular reopening, where the likes of José Carreras and Cirque du Soleil performers celebrated her return to the throne. Rooms from $830.
One of the most unique dining spaces in Melbourne, The Estelle in Northcote's High Street scores points for its quirky, endearing style. Walls tiled in '50s-bathroom colours of pink, grey and black match similarly hued crockery (and little vases sprouting carnations), while the furniture and back courtyard also channel the era. The booze and food is thoroughly modern, however, with both a sharply directed wine list that spends equal time in the Old and New Worlds, and a meaty menu that includes excellent steak for two, black pudding and clams, respectfully treated oysters and an addictive mushroom ragoût. It's all about retro that ditches the usual grunge for cleverly managed quality. The Estelle, 243 High St, Northcote, Vic, (03) 9489 4609
Armchair travellers can rely on Gadling for hours of high-quality virtual escapism. This savvy travel blog is packed with out-of-the-ordinary stories, engaging photo galleries and videos, consumer news, straightforward reviews and the sort of tips you may never need but can't resist reading anyway (such as how to plan a trip to Mogadishu). Contributors range from veteran travel writer Don George to a moonlighting pilot and air hostess, with the emphasis on the intrepid and adventurous.
The 1972 publication Food for Free by Richard Mabey (HarperCollins, $39, pbk) is the bible of foraging in Britain, and though many of the plants aren't found in Australia, enough have found their way into our ecosystems to make the book at least as useful to the average urban forager as Les Hiddins's works. Just the ticket for sorting your borage from your lovage and running down some chickweed for a little touch of Noma at home.
Australian-operated Orion Expeditions has defied the global economic downturn by announcing it will launch a second expedition ship next year. Orion chief Sarina Bratton expects the Orion II will set sail from May 2011 for the waters of Asia, seeking out fresh adventures in the Russian Far East and the inland sea of Japan, Vietnam to Cambodia and Indonesia to Borneo. The new vessel will complement Orion's current scheduled cruises around Australia, Melanesia and Antarctica. It will feature 50 elegantly appointed suites with ocean views and, of course, Orion's usual top-class amenities, fine-dining and drinking options and expert expedition staff.
It's not the newest, the highest or even the hippest, but the vertiginous Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree Bangkok still epitomises the thrills and glamour of a great rooftop bar. Alfresco cocktails rarely taste better than at this 61st-floor terrace with its mind-blowing panoramas of Bangkok. Make a night of it and book in for dinner at the adjoining Vertigo Grill (but be sure to dress up or you won't get in).
Boasting an international whiskey selection that includes an impressively comprehensive cross-section of Ardbeg Islay malts, salvaged vintages from ghost distilleries and single bottles lovingly hand-carried from America and Japan, Helvetica, a new whiskey-centric bar in Perth, makes a serious statement about going with the grain. With the exception of the ultra-rare stuff - of which there's a lot - all whiskey on offer can be purchased by the bottle and a bottle-keep service is available for those lacking self-control. Helvetica, 101 St Georges Tce (enter via laneway off Howard St), Perth, WA, (08) 9321 4422
Boring Singapore. Dull Singapore. Not any more, Singapore. The dreary city-state of the '80s and '90s has reinvented itself as a lively hub of clubs, restaurants and bars. Leading the charge is the former government neighbourhood of Dempsey Road, now home to galleries, great diners and old-school drinking holes such as The Tippling Club. Cocktails are an art form here, whether they're matched to former Vue de Monde chef Ryan Clift's very impressive dégustation menus or enjoyed on their own. The extensive list has something for everyone, from the $35 F* the Subprime, a blend of bitters, Champagne and Tippling Club Kummel, to a genuine Singapore Sling, the sort you don't get at Raffles any more.
"We'll be slow-cooking whole animals on the asador - pigs, lamb, goats," says Elvis Abrahanowicz. "One of the cuts we love that the old man does really well is the pork asado, short ribs done on the barbie," adds Ben Milgate. "It's wicked. There'll be beef asado, and we've also sourced some Suffolk lamb ribs. They're really, really nice." Milgate and Abrahanowicz are the chef-patrons of Bodega, the Surry Hills establishment where rockabilly style and contemporary takes on tapas collide to such great effect. The new venture they're describing is Porteño, a restaurant that channels their interest in Buenos Aires, where Elvis's "old man", grill master Adan Abrahanowicz, and his wife Hilda, hail from. Cooking over live coals is very much the focus at this two-storey 300-seater, but Abrahanowicz and Milgate say it won't be quite as concerned with meat as a traditional asador. "We'll have chicken, seafood, whole fish, as well as lots of salads and vegetables," says Abrahanowicz. And what about the flavour profile? "Salt," says Milgate. "Heaps of salt." Porteño, 358 Cleveland St, Surry Hills, NSW
"What's the fish of the day?" It's a local joke that in Tasmania the answer is nearly always blue-eye trevalla. There's nothing wrong with trevalla; its firm, meaty fillets are great eating. But it's the far-less-frequently served striped trumpeter (or stripey trumpeter) that really excites us. It's firm like trevalla but there's an oiliness that gives it a richer flavour and makes it a natural with tomato-based sauces and strong flavours. It's a rare find on menus - Lebrina's wood-roasted number is an exception - so see your fishmonger if pain persists. Lebrina, 155 New Town Rd, Hobart, Tas, (03) 6228 7775
The comprehensive airport guides collated on ifly.com are the transit traveller's best friend. There's no need to waste hours browsing identical duty-free outlets on stopovers when you can use this website to plan activities, research restaurants and scope out surprise attractions (a swim in Singapore Changi's pool, perhaps?) to amuse you between flights. The direct links to hundreds of world airports remove the finger-work from pre-flight planning, right down to listing average wait times at security checks.
There have been izakayas in Melbourne for years (more than two decades, in fact) but the more recent arrivals have turned a small splinter group into a full-blown trend. Richmond's Maedaya, St Kilda's Ichi Ni, Balaclava's En Izakaya and the city's Izakaya Den are all solidly pushing the authentic Japanese tavern line with extensive lists of exclusively imported sake, beer and shochu, alongside culturally appropriate snack-sized food that knocks the ridiculous "Japanese tapas" label firmly on the head. In a city with a love of mid-priced, shareable meals in bar-like surrounds, it's surprising the izakaya wave didn't break sooner.