Travel News

The Hot 100: 81-100

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.

**81 A new class

** Competition in cooking schools is fierce, but the classes offered at the Amantaka in Luang Prabang might just be among the most deluxe we’ve seen. A stroll through the town’s markets at dawn with the resort’s Lao-speaking chef, Anuchit, leads to some pretty amazing tastings. Produce secured, you disappear for a nap or breakfast, then meet the chef in an organic kitchen garden operated by Amantaka beside a rice paddy. It’s here, in an open-sided, palm-thatched pavilion, that you pull together your market goodies with ingredients picked from the field, transforming them into the likes of freshwater fish steamed Luang Prabang-style in banana leaves, or tam mak hoong, the local take on green papaya salad, using traditional wares. With a maximum class size of four, and a two-to-one guest-to-chef ratio, this is truly an eat-and-greet with a difference.

**82 Best reason for turning Japanese (or Indian or Thai) in Rome

** Hidden behind a discreet façade in the centre of Rome is an Asian oasis that has transformed the concept of relaxation in the bel paese. Kamispa, voted Best Urban Day Spa in the country in 2010, specialises in an array of body wraps and fragrant massages from Japan, China, India, Indonesia and Thailand to rebalance the body. Ideal after a punishing flight across too many time zones.

**83 Smartest cultural fix

** Rome’s MAXXI (the National Museum of 21st-century Arts) is a must-see in the Eternal City. Its provocative Zaha Hadid design, awarded WAF (World Architecture Festival) World Building of the Year in 2010, is starkly modern and meant to challenge perceptions of space and form. Winding walkways across four levels reveal thought-provoking artworks and installations from artists such as Anish Kapoor and Vanessa Beecroft.

84 The hottest (cold) new (old) technique

Freeze-drying is becoming increasingly popular in restaurants, adding intensity and texture, particularly at the sweet end of the meal. Companies such as New Zealand’s Fresh As and the Mornington Peninsula’s Totally Pure Fruits are freeze-drying everything from apples and pears to pineapple, coriander, Pedro Ximénez and manuka honey, products that have been gracing menus at restaurants including Victoria’s Maze, Attica and Royal Mail Hotel. As Attica’s Ben Shewry says, “It’s not a replacement for a fresh product, just a way of adding an interesting texture.”

**85 Most lavish way to get back to nature

** Tasmania’s Federal Group has pulled perfection out of the hat with its 20-suite Saffire resort on the Freycinet Peninsula. This timber, stone and glass showpiece occupies a former camp ground, but there’s nothing basic about the accommodation. Sleek pavilions are equipped with marble-lined bathrooms, 1000-thread-count linen and custom furnishings, though such luxuries pale into insignificance against the view. Full-length walls of glass frame idyllic dioramas of Great Oyster Bay and the multihued Hazards Range. Exhilarating activities, from speedboat safaris to Wineglass Bay hiking, work up an appetite ably catered for in Palate restaurant, where chef Hugh Whitehouse prepares feasts showcasing pure Tasmanian produce such as Mount Gnomon Wessex saddlebacks and Birchs Bay Grandvewe cheese.

**86 Raising the bar in Hong Kong

** Though its food is the stuff of legend, and its wine scene has now well and truly taken off, Hong Kong hasn’t been a real player in the cocktail stakes. Bars have tended to be naff bottle-service barns, clustered with trustafarians. The flavoured-vodka-and-lychee paradigm has been shattered, though, with the arrival of Lily. The bar – part of a venture that also takes in brasserie Bloom – trades the dated, fruity, fauxtini-plagued Hong Kong style for a more grown-up, brown-spirit-friendly approach courtesy of New York holistic design firm Avroko. Hit a classic Southside or a mercifully unreconstructed Julep, or go neo-old school with a Penicillin and revel in the superb detail work.

**87 Wine: for the people, by the people

** A heap of grassroots Australian winemaker-driven initiatives have popped up over the past couple of years: from the grandness of Australia’s First Families of Wine to the Twitter-fed, viral Rosé Wine Revolution; from the feral collective of winemakers called Natural Selection Theory to the controversial call to arms of All for One Wine, these promotions and events have injected much-needed energy and optimism into the local wine scene. Importantly, they have also been enthusiastically embraced by wine drinkers, so expect to see more emerge this year.

**88 Lightest way to travel

** Baggage carousels are so last century. With airlines increasingly charging for checked-in bags – and still losing an average 25 million of them a year – bespoke luggage services seem a smart alternative. The UK-based First Luggage takes the heavy lifting out of long flights by contracting global couriers Fedex and DHL to collect luggage from your home pre-departure and then deposit it at your destination. Local outfit Personal Porter offers a similar service. First Luggage claims 99.8 per cent on-time delivery, a success rate most airlines could only dream about.

89**Biggest fun afloat

** This year brought very big news in the cruise world with the launch of Royal Caribbean International‘s Allure of the Seas, a 6138-passenger behemoth complete with 16 passenger decks, 22 restaurants and the very first floating Starbucks. At 361.8 metres long, she’s five centimetres longer than her sister, Oasis of the Seas, and the largest cruise ship to set sail. Meanwhile, Australia’s Orion Expedition Cruises takes delivery of its new ship, Orion II, and departs for the wilds of Asia – Russia’s Far East and Japan’s Inland Sea for starters. All aboard.

**90 Favourite high-tech hospitality

** We’re not sure whether to file this under fad or here-to-stay, but the phenomenon of restaurants and hotels issuing guests with iPads – as readers, menus or wine lists – is circling the globe, from London’s Berkeley Hotel to the Anantara in Phuket. Sofitel’s hotels in London, Paris, Munich and Brussels offer iPads to guests; at the Four Seasons Scottsdale in Arizona, rent a luxe poolside cabana and get an iPad thrown into the deal; and, back home, the Mundo Global Tapas restaurant at Rydges Hotel North Sydney sparked excitement by being the first Australian restaurant to give diners an iPad menu and wine list. Would Sir like an iPad with that?

**91 Tastiest airport upgrades

** Vue de Monde’s Shannon Bennett is the latest top-flight chef to branch into aviation, opening an outpost of his Café Vue brand at Melbourne Airport. He’ll be joined airside later this year by Bar Pulpo, a new offering from MoVida’s Frank Camorra. Sydney stole the jump on the designer airport dining craze when it lured hip city restaurateurs Danks Street Depot and Bambini Wine Bar to Mascot. Overseas eateries of note include Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, a branch of San Francisco’s esteemed Ebisu at the SFO International Airport, Wolfgang Puck at Denver International, and Geneva’s Altitude, conceived by a posse of Michelin-starred chefs.

**92 Do it yourself one-upmanship

** It’s just not good enough to buy the best any more. Good restaurants have always offered their own bread, but recently the bar has been raised. That’s not house-made butter? How very last century. You don’t make your own lardo? How can you hold your head up in public? At Garagistes, Tasmania’s temple to all things house-made, they tick all of the above boxes. And they’re also at the forefront with the next big thing – not only do they have their own vegetable garden, but a few of their gardeners and farmers grow just for them. You buy your vegetables from a wholesaler? Dear oh dear.

93 Ultimate camp site

Camping in New Zealand’s chilly southern alps looks a lot more appealing with the advent of the country’s first tented resort at Minaret Station. Owned by the Wallis family, noted pastoralists and sheep and deer farmers, the 22,000-hectare station has no road access so guests at this elite camp must arrive by chopper. What a drag. Pampered stays (sheepskin carpets, hot-tub decks) and guided walks are standard at the camp, which sits at the head of one of Minaret’s six valley systems with only alpine fields and snowy peaks for company. +64 27 588 9865.

94 The Aussie boy done good

He’s an Aussie, and he holds three Michelin stars, but you’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of Brett Graham. The chef from Newcastle (north of Sydney, that is, not oop north) isn’t such a big name back home because he’s been based in London since he left Banc more than a decade ago, and his ascent to stardom has all been in the Big Smoke. His three stars are split between two locations. He has two for The Ledbury restaurant, and one for a more recently opened gastropub in Fulham, the Harwood Arms. Despite its trendy Notting Hill location, The Ledbury has the feel of a Mayfair restaurant (just like its older Mayfair sibling, The Square – another two-star), with refined modern European dishes, attentive waiting staff, and a wine list that can tempt your credit card towards its limit. But it’s the Harwood Arms, where he’s part-owner, that’s really raised his profile in London – very few gastropubs are awarded Michelin stars, and it manages to produce terrific British pub food in a casual, affordable setting.

**95 Greece’s hottest hot spot

** Thessaloniki has long played second bouzouki to Athens, but Greece‘s second largest city is emerging as a destination in its own right. Direct flights by British and European carriers have opened up Salonica’s unsung charms, such as the World Heritage-listed Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of the Upper City, and the permanent party vibe that comes from having a strong student population. Just south of here, in Pieria, lie Greece’s highest summit, Mount Olympus, and the country’s longest sandy beach. After an unsettled 2010, things are looking sunny again for Greek tourism.

96**Hawaii’s new wave

** The Pacific’s favourite playground continues to evolve with the opening of cult hotelier Ian Schrager’s Waikiki Edition, a 353-room design hotel for Marriott. The beach is a few blocks away, but a restaurant by Masaharu Morimoto (of Iron Chef fame), four bars and an outdoor cinema more than compensate. Just west of Waikiki, Pearl Harbor has a new $55-million museum-visitor centre with interactive wartime exhibits.

**97 Cool LA lodgings

** Most hotel owners would refrain from describing their sumptuous suites as “flats”, but the principals behind The Redbury have a refreshingly unpretentious approach. The cosy new hotel has a bohemian air and genuinely thoughtful service. The 57 rooms balance the whimsical (suzani bedspreads and vinyl record players) with the practical (a functional kitchen and dining area), an inspired combination that attracts creative types for extended stays. Cleo, a Middle Eastern-themed restaurant offering wonderful mezze under lofty ceilings, is a destination in itself. The Redbury is an SBE property, so a stay here grants access to the rest of its glittering LA empire, such as the SLS Beverly Hills hotel and branches of the Katsuya by Starck Japanese restaurant, one of which is situated – handily – across the road.

98**Best use of the word “grandpa”

** “Great-grandpa farming” is how David Hohnen describes his chemical-free approach to working the land. This gently-gently mentality might seem at odds with the go-get-’em spirit of the man who founded pioneering wineries Cloudy Bay and Cape Mentelle, but the unadulterated earthy tenderness of Arkady lamb suggests Hohnen is onto another winner. Hohnen is one of the WA producers whose product is name-checked on the Perth Rockpool Bar & Grill menu.

**99 Most effective griller tactics

** Blame Spain’s Etxebarri, blame Sydney’s Porteño, just blame it on the flame: grilling food is hot hot hot, and Australians are now as curious about what’s under the grill-plate as they are about what’s on top. So hot right now among gourmet fire starters is bincho-tan, or artisan-made Japanese white charcoal. A regular fixture in the yakitora-ya of Japan, bincho-tan is prized for its long-burning, odourless, smoke-free heat, making it the ichi-ban fuel source for barbecue enthusiasts and discerning chefs, both Nihonjin and gaijin. With prices starting at $45 for a two-kilo bag, bincho-tan isn’t cheap, but with importer Chef’s Armoury regularly selling out of stock, it’s clear we’re happy to pay for quality.

100 Most lust-worthy new kitchen reading

Believe the hype. Best known for being Microsoft’s founding chief technology officer, Nathan Myhrvold might seem an unlikely candidate to have penned the decade’s most talked-about cookbook. But Myhrvold’s background in science (he holds a string of degrees in everything from space physics to mathematical economics) makes sense when you look at the technical focus of Modernist Cuisine. The six-volume hardcover book retails for about $615, and is very much positioned for the professional market, but though much of it deals with cutting-edge restaurant techniques such as the use of hydrocolloids and centrifuges in the kitchen, its richly illustrated dissections of the science of the foundations of cooking make it highly covetable for anyone interested in food.

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