Blue suede shoes in the age of innocence

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Julia gets rushed by the mob, and is swept up in the arms of her bodyguard on the most patriotic day of Australia’s calendar. Lookit them. *sigh* It’s all so Whitney and Kevin Costner, isn’t it?

It was quite a shock to see the footage of our Prime Minister bundled ungraciously into her waiting car as protesters stormed her on Australia Day. The poor woman was of course wearing a skirt, but instinct led and she managed to keep her knees together as she was stuffed into the car’s back seat.

But I love how what would have been an incredibly unnerving experience for the PM means just one thing here in sunny Australia: let’s talk fashion!

Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The lead photo on Fairfax’s website at this moment is of an activist brandishing his trophy, our Cindarella PM’s shoe, lost in the scuffle. The accompanying piece by the fashion editor on Joolia’s choice of footwear just shows how unruffled we are by her dramatic escape from an angry crowd.

While other countries fret about assassination attempts on their heads of state, we see it as a chance to pass comment on her sensible (if blue suede) shoes. The innocence of a young nation.

Right wavelength: Heron Island

Turtles viewed from the island’s quasi-submarine

“INFANTS are just hand luggage,” a travel veteran told me before the
arrival of a Jackson jnr. “Take them to all the posh restaurants before
they can walk, and travel.”

“Families should stick to holidays in Queensland and stop
inflicting their kids on the rest of us during long-distance flights,”
sniped a chorus of online travellers. Snipers, we took your advice.

So,
wary of the many evil eyes cast by business travellers on a red-eye up
to Brisbane and onward to Gladstone, the first family holiday is to that
bastion of family holidays, north of the border.

Heron Island is a coral cay 72kilometres off the coast of
Gladstone. It’s a two-hour ferry journey or, if you’re flush, half an
hour in a chopper.

To read more, click here

Dining high in Hong Kong

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The InterContinental Kowloon

IT’S ONE of the world’s eternal stand-offs: Hong Kong Island versus
Kowloon. The two sides of the city face each other over the gorgeous
Victoria Harbour, each with its own personality – HK Island sniffs and
says it’s sophisticated and fun, while Kowloon’s just for the tourists.

Yet Kowloon’s makeover, with the glamorous international
ocean terminal and Elements shopping and lifestyle complex, has sent it
on an interstellar flight far from street markets and dodgy basement
bars.

As Kowloon’s buildings are lower than those on HK Island,
this is the side to watch the nightly light show, Symphony of Lights,
with laser beams shooting out from 44 of the city’s skyscrapers. “It’s a
conversation between Kowloon and HK Island,” says my friend, Hong Kong
girl-about-town Rainbow.

Either way, either side, grab a seat at one of
the best bars and dining rooms on high.

HONG KONG ISLAND
Looking to Kowloon

Hong Kong, SHD 
Travel Jan 22. Felix Restaurant and Bar. Peninsula Hotel, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Image courtesy 
Peninsula Hotel
Felix Food Mood Shot (lower res).JPG
Felix restaurant and bar.

Hip to the eyeballs, Cafe Gray Deluxe is
on the 49th floor of The Upper House hotel in the Admiralty district.
Stop in to eat Gray Kunz’s celebrated one-Michelin-star fare – ask for a
corner table for the best views – then move to the bar for late-night
cocktails. In fact, go straight from customs to this bar. The harbour
views from the gorgeous loos are jaw-dropping.

For exciting contemporary Spanish, FoFo is
a tapas bar at the back of Central. Sadly, the rooftop bar is only for
private parties. But the views of HK Island’s Mid-Levels from the dining
room are expansive. Snack on 36-month-old Iberian ham, beef cheek
cooked with banana and passionfruit, or crispy suckling pig dished up by
Barcelona’s Alex Martinez Fargas and married with one of FoFo’s many
marvellous tempranillos or the house’s Sexy Sangrias. Open for almost
two years, it’s already a Bib Gourmand – meaning you can score a quality
three-course meal for less than $HK300 ($37) – in the HK Michelin
guide.

Isola, in the IFC Mall in Central,
doesn’t have to be a night-time gig. In fact, we’d recommend slipping
into its little rooftop terrace bar for a lunchtime pizza, as Maria
Sharapova has been known to do. Set right on the harbourside, it’s the
spot to watch the Star Ferry slosh by.

For a late-night option with the same views, head to the glass-cube G Bar (Podium Level 4, IFC Mall).
Super-chic Sevva has a “lazy type of
glamour”, somewhere to have your divine cake and eat it in divine
surroundings presided over by HK-Australian fashion and cake maestro
Bonnie Gokson. Get the elbows and knees out to bag a terrace sofa and
gaze at the best of Hong Kong architecture, from the old Legislative
Council to the Norman Foster-designed HSBC Building. The clientele
ranges from Hong Kong tai-tais (ladies who lunch) to cigar-chewing VIPs
(complete with bodyguards). An arty party set descends at sundown and
Fridays are deservedly manic. Dress code: fabulous.

You wouldn’t think Hotel LKF would have any decent views
but the little boutique hotel set in the Mid-Levels is built up the
hillside leading to the Peak. So when you ascend to Azure restaurant on the 29th and 30th floors, you’ll also find the swankiest, most secretive little bar with the worst name – Slash.
Pitched at the indie-design set, it doles out cocktails until 1am most
nights and 3am on Thursdays to Saturdays, with a daily three-hour happy
hour from 5.30pm.

ToTT’s is on the 34th floor of the four-star business hotel The Excelsior, in Causeway Bay.
It’s easy on the wallet, with cocktails below $HK90, but
uneasy positioning means it’s not the best place for the Symphony of
Lights. However, the revamped rooftop bar is the place for a
post-shopping restorative bevvy – the hotel is just minutes from the
late-closing Causeway Bay shops. Ask for the Moonlight Lychee Blossom, mixing Aviation gin
from Oregon in the US with rose water, green lychee liquor and brut
sparkling wine.

The Harbour Grand is breaking new ground in the eastern HK Island locale North Point. The five-star hotel’s cheesily named Le 188°
indicates just how far the views span, encompassing both harbour
entrances. BBQ in the Sky starts in September, with seafood barbecues
every weekend until 1am. The best way to get there is via Exit A of the
Fortress Hill MTR station.

Wooloomooloo is best known for its
steakhouses but the Wan Chai branch includes a chic rooftop 32 floors
high, plus 360-degree views. You can just about stretch out and touch
the Peak up above. The meat here is 120-day Australian Black Angus, with
set lunches from $HK138. Beloved by meat lovers and naughty Hong Kong
ladies whose husbands don’t like heights.

M bar at the Mandarin Oriental does dark
and moody to a T. Renovated last year, the 25th-floor bar whispers the
secrets of molecular cocktails but the staff still remember how to do a
good old-fashioned one. Hot tips: wrap your lips around a Hong Kong Legend, a mix
of vodka, lychee liqueur and kuei hua chen chiew, a Chinese wine that’s
almost a health drink, dammit. We also love the elegance of the Earl
Grey Mar-tea-ni (geddit?). And if you’re hunting for a HK banker, this
is definitely the place to prowl.

Of course, there’s a pool at the Grand Hyatt’s open-air Waterfall Bar,
a teensy 36-seater in the heart of Wan Chai, by the convention centre.
Cuban-cigar lovers will relish the alfresco puffing and city views and
the rack of booze is as smart as the dress code (which reads “smart”,
not “smart casual”).

KOWLOON
Looking to Hong Kong Island
“Hong Kong Island’s skyline at night yanks New York’s
shorts down and whups its butt, hard,” say the saucy scribblers of Luxe
Guides.

The biggest news on the Kowloon side of town is the opening of the Ritz-Carlton and its OZONE bar on the 118th floor, which it claims is the highest bar in the world. You can eat and dance here and, of course, there’s a
signature cocktail, the Senses, which blends Hennessy VSOP with vanilla
syrup and blackberries.

There are no reservations, so get in early to
grab a prime table by the windows. Without a swanky name, the Lobby Lounge
at the Intercontinental could be dismissed as another dreary hotel bar
but it’s not. And Kowlooners agree it has the best views of the light
show. This great HK staple is also blessed with a gorgeous Mariage
Freres afternoon tea, jazz at 6pm and crooners at 9pm. The drinks to
drink are the Nine Dragon cocktails (all $HK120), ranging from the
Dragontini (kuei hau chen and Jagermeister) to the non-alcoholic Green
Dragon.

We suggest you wear white when you visit Aqua Spirit
so your friends can see you in the sultry darkness. Key spots are the
glam curtained alcoves and the drink de jour is the Aquatini, which
swirls Ketel One Dutch vodka, Chambord, lychee liqueur and, because it’s
Hong Kong, gold leaves. Otherwise, order a One Peking, which blends
jasmine tea, peach schnapps, saffron and elderflower cordial.

Felix is the restaurant atop Tsim Sha
Tsui’s iconic Peninsula Hong Kong and atop the restaurant is a little
bar designed by Mr Fabulous, Philippe Starck. Take your drink to the
window and look across to Victoria Peak, HK Island and down on Victoria
Harbour. Otherwise, men can head to the glass urinals to wow while they
wizz. Avoid if your wallet is dieting: this is one to visit if you’re
hell-bent on impressing.

There are plenty of bars we haven’t got to yet: RED bar and Barcepage wine terrace on HK Island; Living Room in Kowloon’s W Hotel; the Sheraton’s Sky Lounge in Tsim Sha Tsui …

We’ll leave you to it.

Address book

  • Aqua, 30/F, 1 Peking Rd,

  • Tsim Sha Tsui, +852 3427 2288, aqua.com.hk.

  • Cafe Gray Deluxe, Upper House, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, upperhouse.com.

  • Felix, The Peninsula Hong Kong, Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2315 3188, peninsula.com.

  • FoFo, 20/F, M88 Building, 2-8 Wellington St, Central, 2900 2009, fofo.hk.

  • Harbour Grand Hong Kong, 23 Oil St, North Point, 2121 2688, www.harbour-grand.com.

  • Isola, Level 3, IFC Mall, Central, 2383 8765, isolabarandgrill.com.

  • Hotel LKF, 33 Wyndham St, Lan Kwai Fong, Central, 3518 9688, hotel-LKF.com.hk.

  • M bar, Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Rd,

  • Central, 2522 0111, mandarinoriental.com.

  • Lobby Bar, Intercontinental Hotel, 18 Salisbury Rd,

  • Tsim Sha Tsui, 2721 1211, intercontinental.com.

  • OZONE, ICC, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, 2263 2263, ritzcarlton.com.

  • Sevva, 25/F, Prince’s Building, 10 Chater Rd, Central, 2537 1388, sevva.hk.

  • ToTT’s, The Excelsior, 281 Gloucester Rd,

  • Causeway Bay, 2894 8888, mandarinoriental.com.

  • Waterfall Bar, Grand Hyatt, 1 Harbour Rd, Central, 2588 1234, hongkong.grand.hyatt.com.

  • Wooloomooloo, 31/F & Rooftop, 256 Hennessy Rd, Wan Chai, 2893 6960, wooloo-mooloo.com.

Well I’ll be burgered. Shopping Australia Day


It’s that time again when we celebrate sunburn, sand in your swimmers and all things beetroot.

Yes I know most of you are still reeling from Christmas and New Year’s, and the first hot cross buns have already appeared in the supermarkets in preparation for Easter, which doesn’t appear till 8 April.

But in between, we still have Australia Day, on 26 January. I remember an Irish colleague marvelling at his first Australia Day barbie in rainy, wintery Dublin. “We had beetroot burgers!” he reported back to the rest of the Dublin newsroom, eyes wide with astonishment. Oh, the culinary heights. Australian theme bars the world over (most notably London’s notorious Walkabout pubs) break out the Men at Work and Ganggagang records and the cricket and tennis are on.

This year, the Aussie Day theme seems to have gone into overdrive in the homeland. Building on the 2011 Christmas must-have decoration, reindeer antlers for your car, you can now replace them with car-safe Aussie flags. Forget that American ‘respect for the flag’ thing, our flag also appears on paper plates and serviettes, swimmers and dresses, tins of beetroot, inflatable thongs, singlets, and of course, eskies and beer coolers.

Hot, or what?

You can buy raw burgers moulded in the shape of Australia (yes, Tassie is attached), or savoury biscuits in Aussie bbq meat lovers flavour. Lamingtons, those all-Australian cakes, are on special, as are ANZAC biscuits and flag-emblazoned Nutri-Grain (IronMan food).

I nearly gave the award of most useless Australia Day object to the disposable nappies emblazoned with our Union Jack and stars, but the winner is… an Australian Flag car mirror sock, free when you buy slabs of beer from a leading supermarket. Yes, car mirror socks – you know, a sock for your car’s side mirror. Total must-have.

Have a Happy Australia Day, wherever you are.

New Year’s fever

I wish I could blame a fortnight-long hangover for my lack of New Year’s wishes, but I can’t. So I won’t. Please accept my belated wishes for a fantastic 2012. I hope you all found yourselves somewhere fabulous on the most overrated night of the year.

I remember semi-ruptured eardrums from an enthusiastic Chinese firecracker contingent on a back street in frozen Amsterdam, on my first year out of Australia.

Talk about a baptism of fire: it was so cold the canals had frozen over, and those canny Dutch skimmed home like swans over the ice, while the rest of us land-bound foreigners trudged cautiously back to our sticky-carpet hostel rooms along iced cobblestones. The next morning, the quiet streets were strewn with frozen bicycles, ice-cycling obviously discarded as a deeply dangerous idea at 4am.

There was the year we watched fireworks over Belfast, the New Year’s Day swim in Dublin, many frightening house parties thrown by someone you’d never heard of, and the backyard bonfires of Australia (when it wasn’t a total fireban). One year, we celebrated in the car somewhere behind the pyramids of Saqqara, driving from one gig to the next, to find that every single one had been closed by the police.

Each year, you think it’ll be the year you have a penthouse eerie looking down over fireworks with someone who adores you, and 100 of your closest friends grooving to the DJ, then you end up potting metal ducks in a tacky carnival side-show. Or you give up at 11.30pm and pass out beneath a pile of empty plastic cider bottles. Oh, you don’t?

Where’s the most bizarre place you’ve found yourself on New Year’s Eve?