21 Most regal return of a class act
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.
22 Best underground sensation In a year when half of cultural Paris seems to be under renovation (the musées Picasso, du Luxembourg, de l'Homme and d'Orsay come to mind), Les Catacombes de Paris have emerged from a three-month overhaul to again welcome visitors on a ghoulish tour through 2km of corpse-lined corridors. About six million bodies were interred here after the city's subterranean stone mines were turned into sepulchres in 1786. At the entrance, a sign warns in French, "Stop! This is the empire of Death." Enter at your own risk.
23 Finest oasis More than two decades after the visionary Adrian Zecha opened the first Aman resort, his latest property proves he's lost none of his panache. Amangiri, in America's south-west near the Utah-Arizona border, is a genuine jaw-dropper, a minimalist spread in a wilderness setting beneath the imposing Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. In contrast to the stark beauty of the surrounding canyons and plateaux, the 34 suites exude classic Aman sophistication in natural timbers, concrete and stone. A handful have their own pool and outdoor "sky terraces", framing views of remarkable rock formations. The biggest attraction is the spa, an extensive maze of indoor and outdoor rooms offering treatments that draw on Native American traditions. Rooms from $912.
24 Best link to add to your favourites Whether you're looking for a plain-English primer on low-temperature cooking, directions on how to find and handle liquid nitrogen or a tutorial on knocking the tops off Champagne bottles with a sword, Cooking Issues is the website for you. This official blog of the French Culinary Institute's department of culinary technology in New York, and its principals, Dave Arnold and Nils Norén, displays a heady mix of scientific know-how and inquisitiveness that makes it essential reading for forward-looking chefs, cooks and diners.
25 Biggest windfall from a high-flyer When Virgin's trans-Pacific service debuted in Australia last year, it signalled the first challenge to Qantas's dominance of the route in years and - more importantly for passengers - sent ticket prices on a downward spiral. Aussie travellers suddenly picked up tickets to Los Angeles for less than $1000 - half the cost of previous years - and experienced some unprecedented perks, such as in-flight bars and ladies-only loos.
26 Easiest way to time travel in a chair
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
27 Laziest way to travel: by mouse
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.
28 Hardest way to rustle up dinner
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.
29 Smooth sailing for star operator
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.
30 Best Rooftop Bar
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).
31 Best reason for crosstown traffic The Crosstown's deceptively simple menu is mirrored by its deceptively simple aesthetic. The three owners, brothers Matt and Benn Christensen and mate Matthew Howland, describe it as "a place to eat, not dine", a bar with food - but everything from the tables to the wooden cutlery and menu boxes has been painstakingly designed and handmade by the trio. A diverse selection of pithily described share plates offsets a carefully curated drinks list. Try the tasty little bread-crusted whiting fillets, dished with tartare and a lively salad of lemon flesh and parsley. Cool, but not too cool for school. The Crosstown Eating House, 23 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba, Qld, (07) 3162 3839
32 Best reason to give a dram - or two
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
33 Best excuse to stop in Singapore
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.
34 Most mind-blowing penthouse suites It's a tie between the Presidential suite at the Intercontinental Hong Kong and the two top suites at the Rome Cavalieri. The Intercon's offering is a two-storey, five-bedroom beauty spanning the 16th and 17th floors. The entire space is clad in glass so guests don't miss a single glimpse of Hong Kong or its glittering harbour, but for even more eye-popping views there's a vast terrace at your disposal, complete with infinity pool. If your tastes run more to old-world glamour, take either the Penthouse or the Planetarium suites at the Cavalieri, which is set in a private park above the Vatican, and kick back in the rooftop-garden spa tub while admiring dress-circle sights over St Peter's. Intercontinental Hong Kong Presidential suite from $14,050. Rome Cavalieri Planetarium suite from $10,900; Penthouse suite from $12,400.
35 Smokin' hot restaurant debut
"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
36 World's savviest travel advice Grant Thatcher, a former actor based in Hong Kong, hit the jackpot when he launched his series of pithy, opinionated insider city guides pitched at "smart, solvent people". Researched by resident writers, the Luxe City Guides are indispensable when navigating the world's hippest cities. They're refreshed every year - with online updates posted monthly - and read like little black books of a city's best assets (sundowners at the terrace bar of Rome's Hotel Raphael, for instance) without shying away from home truths ("Avoid La Rambla like you would a date with Franco" warns the Barcelona guide).
37 Australia's best new breakfast Demitri's Feast puts a refreshingly modern Greek slant on breakfast. There are poached eggs with ouzo and dill-cured salmon, and baklava French toast, but the mushrooms, pan-fried in butter and sage and combined with manouri (a slightly salted ricotta-like cheese made from the first whey of feta), toasted almonds and rocket dressed in lemon oil, are worth the trip alone. Demitri's Feast, 141 Swan St, Richmond, Vic, (03) 9428 8659
38 Most under-appreciated fish
"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
39 Smartest use of an airport stopover
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.
40 Favourite in the small-plate stakes
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.
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