Food and Drinks


Celebrity chef Brisbane restaurants for the ultimate foodie experience

By Australia / Brisbane / Queensland /

Brisbane’s food scene is seriously stepping up to become as much a drawcard as its sweet sunshine. There’s diversity and first-rate quality being dished up and suddenly Melbourne and Sydney can’t lay claim so boldly with bragging rights as the standouts on the gastronomical front in Oz. What’s the buzz in Brisbane? All sorts of things. They include big and bold pub grubbin’, burger joints galore, Asian sensations, and anything that’s raw and organic. But it’s the fine dining where Brisbane is setting tongues wagging for more reasons than one, raising the bar in the process and carving a reputation as a serious player on a global scale in food finesse. With that sort of vibe comes the big boys and girls. So just where are the big name celebrity chefs setting up shop in Brisbane …

ARIA Brisbane, Matt Moran (pictured)

It’s easy to fall in love with Mr Moran’s food whether you’re watching one of his cooking show episodes or sticky noting a page in one of his books for that next dinner party. But there’s nothing quite like a first-hand two or three-hour dining experience at ARIA Brisbane on Eagle Street Pier to appreciate the celebrity chef’s finest work – or certainly what he’s set in motion. It’s Moran’s mission and principles derived from ARIA’s big sister and more renowned Sydney restaurant of the same name that has infiltrated into Queensland and found a monumental home on the riverfront. Moran’s – and his longtime restaurateur partner Peter Sullivan’s – food is all about seasonality and local produce, while flavoursome, balance and premium quality are imperatives. For the Brisbane incarnation, a quick warm up Chilli & Passion cocktail in the exquisite entrance bar area sets the scene and builds an appetite for a feast inside where some rock star treatment on the service front awaits. Think entree choices of freshly shucked oysters served with pickled ginger, soy and lime caviar or grilled lobster with tomato, asparagus, basil and lemon oil. Mains are insanely good, especially the roasted numbers:  fillet barramundi with spanner crab, puffed rice, sweet corn and cold pressed lemongrass or duck breast with witlof, turnips and toasted buckwheat. Dessert? It’s a tough decision, but a choice of seven from which you can’t go wrong, but the hazelnut, popcorn and caramel ganache with hazelnut ice cream is deliciously wicked and alone is worth road-tripping to Brisbane for. Head chef Ben Russell and team have completely nailed it. With an insurmountable wine-list, striking views from the restaurant across the Brisbane River and wait staff who make you feel like royalty, ARIA is up there not only as a standout on Brisbane’s elite food scene, but Australia’s.

More: ARIA Brisbane

Jamie’s Italia Australia, Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver’s  fun and delish restaurant opposite Queen’s Plaza is an experience for everyone to enjoy, young and old, offering an Italian feast for the senses at a price-tag everyone’s comfortable with. The two-storey, 240-seat venue is the celeb chef’s biggest in Australia (and his fifth), and features lots of Queensland-inspired leadlight glass, leather work and “exposed walls to create a cool, urban feel, which works really well against the backdrop of the traditional space”, Oliver told the Courier Mail recently. As for the food? Magnifico. Freshly made house-produced pastas, tasty antipasti and sides, mains including fillet steaks, burgers, osso bucco style lamb, baked king salmon and more.

More: Jamie’s Italia Restaurant

Fat Noodle, Luke Nguyen

As far as tasty Asian casual dining experiences go with menu’s delivered by the best, Fat Noodle at The Treasury, Brisbane Casino, in William Street is unbeatable. Think wok-tossed charred beef, chicken with peppercorns, and generally offering a mix of offers Chinese cuisine, with a mix of Vietnamese, Thai and Malay fare.

Moda, Javier Codina

Moda Restaurant is set in the heart of Brisbane city, a gorgeous Spanish-inspired restaurant with well-known chef Javier Codina at the helm and front of house whiz François Le Savéant charming one and all. Tapping into his Spanish heritage, it’s all about rustic cuisine that includes tempura whiting and manolette chorizo for entrees before feasting on gorgeous share plates, duck breast, spanish mackeral and loads of other scrumptious options.

More: Moda



Celebrity chef Melbourne restaurants for the ultimate food experience

By Australia / Melbourne / Victoria /

You’ll find brilliant restaurants on nearly every main street in Melbourne, offering fresh ingredients, incredible flavours and a relaxed dining atmosphere. For the ultimate food experience, dine at one of these five celebrity chef Melbourne restaurants.

Chin Chin with Benjamin Cooper (pictured)

Open 11am until late every day of the week, Chin Chin Restaurant in Flinders Lane serves South-East Asian cuisine with a shared-eating concept. Delicious dishes such as the crispy Barramundi and green apple salad, spicy corn and coriander fritters, curries and sweets are all made in-house, with Benjamin Cooper as the executive chef. The restaurant has a walk-in only policy, but one table of 10-12 people is available for bookings.

Rosetta at Crown with Neil Perry

The creative genius behind Rosetta, Neil Perry, became famous after appearing on Foxtel, LifeStyle Food channels in Australia and BBC2 in Britain. Rosetta’s menu includes some of Neil’s favourite recipes and wines discovered while travelling through Italy. Rosetta’s wood fired oven and char-grill brings traditional Italian dishes to life while the restaurant produces over 16 different types of pasta each day.

Attica with Ben Shewry

Attica Restaurant’s eight course menus are original, flavoursome and downright delicious. The multi award winning restaurant is set in the quiet suburb of Ripponlea. The restaurant is overseen by Ben Shewry, whose dishes reference the landscape of the wild west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, where he grew up. You can also taste the incredible earthy flavours in the vegetarian eight course menu.

The Fat Duck with Blumenthal Heston

For six months The Fat Duck is moving from Berkshire in the UK to the award-winning Crown Towers Hotel in Southbank, Melbourne. The Fat Duck aims to take its diners on “a journey of history, nostalgia, memory and emotion” and awaken every sense – even sound. Key dishes include the refreshing Nitro-poached green tea and lime mousse, and a feast of delicious hijiki seaweed, razor clams, mussels and sea urchins as you listen to the sound of the ocean.

Press Club with George Calombaris 

As stated in his new menu, it’s George Calombaris’ dream to make others happy through the love and emotion of hospitality. The MasterChef star and owner of The Press Club in Flinders St draws on his Greek heritage to bring you the exquisite flavours and aromas of Greece. His flagship Melbourne restaurant offers customers the choice between four and six course meals, treating you to delicious sweets and superb flavours such as Psari with plum and yoghurt.



Top wineries to visit in the Hunter Valley

By Australia / New South Wales / Sydney /

EVERYONE loves a wine region, especially in Australia where we have an abundance of great wine country whether it’s for whites, reds or stickies.

Australia’s oldest wine-growing region, the Hunter Valley, lays claim to being “the toast of NSW” and is only two hours’ drive from Sydney.

When it comes to things to do in Hunter Valley, there’s no shortage. But the wineries are an obvious standout.

Eleven Hunter Valley tourism operators have been acknowledged for their contribution to NSW Tourism by being named finalists and shortlisted for national recognition at the NSW Tourism Awards tomorrow and just to prove the strength of the Hunter Valley wine region when it comes to great wineries, prolific wine writer James Halliday has announced his Top 100 Wines for 2014, saying that of the 12 wines from NSW in his Top 100, 10 of the wines were from the Hunter Valley.

So, without further adieu, SCOTT PODMORE rolls out some of the top wineries in the Hunter Valley for road trippers


Tunes and a tipple or two – what better way to enjoy this venue which has played host to some fantastic outdoor concerts. Bimbadgen Estate is also a great venue for food and tastings in a beautiful venue. Be sure to sample the chards, semillon, verdelho and shiraz viognier and take the time to book in for a feast at Esca restaurant for either lunch or dinner.


Bob and Maryanne McLeish swapped the hustle and bustle of city life and headed bush for the wide open spaces of the Hunter back in 1985. They began by planting Semillon and Chardonnay on the 44 acre property and were onto a good thing. It’s led to their own established label, McLeish Estate Wines, and the award-winners have never looked back.


Brokenwood, Lindemans, McGuigan, Drayton and Wyndham Estate are just some of the famous wineries nearby, so Valley Vineyard Tourist Park is a cork’s pop away from the action but, better than just a place to park your wheels and stay the night, it also features a harvest of its own. This park is an ideal place to set up camp and explore the region, and is close also to cheese factories, chocolate shops, galleries, Hunter Valley Gardens, restaurants and the historical villages of Wollombi and Morpeth. See 


Chat with those in the know and you’ll quickly realise there’s absolute no chance of you leaving this hotspot without a bottle or 12 of the Tallawanta Grand Reserve Shiraz. There’s plenty more varieties where that comes from, and remember to dine in for dinner at the incredible Roberts restaurant while observing the local wildlife hopping about in the vines outside.


Let’s face it, Tyrrells is a name synonymous with Australian wine, an Aussie family owned ripper that stands up against the industry giants. Steeped in history that goes back to the mid 19th century, the Vat series wines are particularly among some of the best you’ll ever taste, especially the shiraz and chardonnay. You’ll also be tempted by the port and sparklings, so don’t be shy.



Travel the Top End Loop – Lazy Lizard lunch and cruising with Katherine – Day 5 & 6

By Australia / Northern Territory /

Pine Creek, Katherine Gorge and Cutta Cutta Caves

Before leaving the Jabiru area we stopped off at Mirrai Lockout, parked up the motorhome and a 20 minute walk up to the hilltop was rewarded with panoramic views of across Kakadu to the Arnhem Land escarpments on the other side of the East Alligator river.

We had thought about Jim Jim Falls however as it was accessible only via a 2 hour journey on an unsealed road it was off the agenda with our motorhome – no motorhome or campervan rental can be driven on unsealed roads (unless entering a camping ground or something similar and over a short distance). The Jim Jim Falls road as with many in the park is closed during the wet becoming impassable. As we drove south we crossed countless dry river beds all with the rather telling sign “Don’t linger on bridge and no fishing”, Crocs never seemed to be far away,

Lunch at the Lazy Lizard Resort in Pine Creek was everything you expect from a great Outback pub. Great food and décor to match. Amazing wooden troughs as basins in the toilets, outdoor pool tables and backpacking Germans serving behind the counter!

Having filled up with fuel it was on down the Stuart highway for the 70 minute drive to Katherine. This was our next stocking up point with a trip to Katherine’s large Woolies supermarket (in the main street on the left at the southern end of town) and then we checked in to the Katherine Big 4 , another great holiday park, plenty of space, pool & spar, surprisingly slightly more expensive than Jabiru (our Maui rental came with discounted rates at Big4 Parks) but still great value and excellent facilities including the best equipped kitchens of our trip. In fact we found the facilities wherever we went so good that our motorhome’s cooker had a holiday and was hardly used.

Of course no visit to Katherine is complete without a cruise through Katherine Gorge or to give it’s correct name Nitmiluk Gorge which sits in the Nitmiluk National Park belonging to the local Jawoyn people. We pre-booked online for convenience sake – $244 for the 4 of us and settled on the 2 Gorge tour – all very much dependent upon water levels.

There’s been plenty written about Katherine Gorge or Gorges as there are 13 in all, needless to say they lived up to expectations. You can hire Kayaks and make your own way down and it’s safe to swim in with only harmless and rather shy small freshwater crocs present.

The other expedition we mounted in Katherine was to drive 30kms south on the Stuart highway and visit Cutta Cutta Caves.

Only discovered in 1910 by a drover whose cattle disappeared into sink holes, the caves extend back 450 metres although only 250 are open to the public – the humid conditions and ammonia make it too dangerous to venture deeper. The local aboriginal clan named the caves Cutta Cutta meaning many stars after the sparkling calcium deposits found within. As it totally flooded during the wet season the cave system was not occupied by aboriginals and has no rock art.

The tour is short and there’s not a huge amount to see, however our guide did show how absolutely and totally dark it becomes when he shutdown the lighting system – the average person lasts 30 minutes before their mind begins to play tricks, we were gladed normal service was resumed after 2!

Nancy L

We travelled the Top End in a 6 berth Maui Motorhome.You can learn more about campervan hire in the Northern territory on the DriveNow Darwin pages.



Three of the worst places to visit in Victoria if you’re trying to give up chocolate

By Australia / Melbourne / Victoria /

WILLY Wonka and his chocolate factory started the rot for many chocaholics, and the sprouting of chocolate factories throughout Australia means there’s no escaping the lure of the cocoa bean. Let’s face it – good chocolate is worth the drive! And Victoria in Australia is as good as place as any for unforgettable chocky experiences.

So, you’ve flown into Melbourne airport and picked up a hire car but not sure where all the oompa loompas are plying their craft? Here are five destinations worth the road trip …and the sugar hit, among other reasons to stay around and explore Melbourne and surrounds.

Sweet road trip No.1: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery.
Talk about a treat for the senses! Best of all it’s only about 45 minutes drive from the airport on a good traffic flow when you head east on the M80, Eltham Road and Old Healesville Road before you enter choc heaven for free chocolate tastings, thousands of premium chocolates and European chocolatiers at work handcrafting some sweet creations. There’s huge showroom and café nestled amongst sweeping valley vistas while you chomp into Ice creams, decadent sweet treats or lunch while the venue’s lawns, orchard and sculptures are great for kids to play and explore. Better still, spend some extra time in the Yarra Valley and go ballooning, check out some terrific cold climate wineries and even scoot over to Healesville Sanctuary to check out the Aussie wildlife.

Sweet road trip No.2:Panny’s Phillip Island Chocolate Factory. Looking to go a bit further? Head south and to the charms of a little coastal paradise known as Phillip Island. Take an exit on the West Gate Freeway and head for the South Gippsland and Bass highways for close to two hours before rolling up to the “sweetest and addictive tourist attraction” Phillip Island has to offer. Open every day, it’s difficult to leave this hotspot the minute you get a sniff of Belgian premium handmade chocolate. Then the kid in you takes control for all the activities at Panny’s Amazing World of Chocolate exhibitions, sideshow alley, galleries – including a 2m tall statue of Michelangelo’s David – and a giant chocolate waterfall. Stay at the nearby Ramada Resort Phillip Island if you’re planning to discover some more of this popular tourist destination.

Sweet road trip No.3: Chocoholic Tours Melbourne is for those wanting to get into the city quickly (20 minutes from the airport), park at their city hotel, hit the footpath and get set for some of the best chocky tasting experiences on the planet. Chocoholic Tours Melbourne has  chocolate-themed walking tours, including an afternoon chocolate and historical treats walk, a chocoholic brunch walk and a chocolate treats walk. There’s a tour on Fridays and a choice of five on Saturdays, but remember to book in advance.


The North Island Foodie Road Trip

By Auckland / New Zealand / North Island / Wellington /

Zealand is a nation of foodies, so it only makes sense to visit the culinary hotspots of the country.

Here’s your guide for where to go to with your Wellington or Auckland car hire to keep your taste buds happy when travelling through the North Island!


Ask any Kiwi from the North island, the Coromandel is the place to go for oysters. It’s not bad as a holiday spot either, but that’s another story. The Coromandel Oyster Company is right in the heart of the Coromandel and offers fresh pacific oysters from the farm gate – as well as a multitude of other oceanic delights from the area.


Kapiti is a small area just an hour away with a Wellington car hire and while small, cannot be missed because it is home to two of New Zealand’s best dairy products. The name Kapiti goes hand-in-hand with both ‘cheese’ and ‘ice cream’. Cheeses from here are known throughout the country as award-winning favourites, and the ice cream comes in divine flavours like ‘lemongrass and ginger’ or ‘blue berry muffin’.


New Zealand’s capital city is known around the world as having more cafes, bars and restaurants per capita than New York. In particular, the ‘best little capital in the world’ is known for its cafes. It’s hard to go wrong here, so grab a coffee and a bite to eat in any one of them and see for yourself.


Many visitors to New Zealand will be interested in the indigenous Maori culture, and of course, their traditional food. In Rotorua you can book yourself a tour of the Tamaki Maori village, where you will be treated to a hangi feast. Your meal will be prepared in a traditional earth oven with native herbs by the local Maori chef.

This trip will only take you three hours from Auckland with a car or campervan rental.