THE AUSTRALIAN, TUESDAY, JANUARY 30, 2018 theaustralian.com.au/life
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GR APE VINE NICK RYAN
Abstinence makes heart grow fonder Twenty-five days sober and I broke my drought in an effort to be neighbourly. Several months ago, friends sent us a message to say: “Hello neighbours. Guess who just bought the house over the road?” We replied, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but our house goes on the market tomorrow.” Some would say bad timing, others might say good. Either way there was no way the one week overlap between their moving in and our moving out could pass without at least one neighbourly dinner. I had decided I would go dry for January. I’d done the numbers and worked out more than 370 months had passed since I’d gone a 30-day stretch without a drink. I still haven’t, but in getting close I’ve learned a few things. I’ve lost count of the number of times people queried the decision to choose January as the month to go dry. “It’s the holidays, mate. That’s the best time to get on it.” There’s some truth in that but when you write about booze for a living it’s easier to give up social drinking than professional drinking, so January it had to be. I’ve also lost count of the number of people who have felt compelled to ask if I was sick, as if a desire to be a little bit healthier was actually a sign I was anything but. And I’ve learned that the one mate who noticed I wasn’t drinking, lowered his eyes to my stomach and said, “Congratulations. Twins?” is actually a bit of a dick. So with the finish line in sight I gave up the race and opened a few bottles with our new and terribly temporary neighbours. And it felt good to be back. Perhaps the most significant learning of this brief abstinence is just how much I love the liquid drawn from crushed and fermented grapes. Because much of my working week revolves around tasting wine I’d almost allowed it to become a chore, but taking a break from it helped rekindle my ardour. I’ve been reminded a great bottle of wine is a vessel of many pleasures and the world’s a better place for having this stuff in it. There have been moments when I’ve hankered for a cold beer to wash away the salt of an ocean swim and several sunsets that would’ve been improved with a large measure of gin, but it’s been the absence of wine that’s gnawed at me most. I’ve been craving the electrified acidity of sprightly young whites, the supple sinews of grenache and pinot noir, the stern tannic embrace of nebbiolo and cabernet. And I’ve missed the companionship of a good bottle and the way a silent conversation is conducted with a great wine that evolves in the glass and reveals itself in different ways each time you go back for more. Like Jesus, I too have spent time in the desert fighting temptation and even though my trial was a fortnight short of his 40 days I’ve come to the same resolution he did. The first thing Christ did on his return from the wilderness was to perform his first miracle and turn water into wine. After a January spent adding lemon wedges to liven up my mineral water, I’m going to attempt to do the same.
Pikes ‘The Merle’ 2017, Clare Valley, $50 This is the wine that broke me. When the new neighbours turned up with this, the utter ridiculousness of a summer going by without a great bottle of riesling struck home hard. Sterner men than I would weaken when faced with its thrilling citric freshness and geological grandeur. They would be rendered utterly powerless by its effusive lime and jasmine aromatics, floored by its precision and energetic drive and be left with the lip-smacking sensation of sucking on quartz and slate that leads to the misuse of the word “minerality” when discussing the way the acid in wines like this gives them an almost crystalline edge. I know I was. A footnote for riesling freaks Riesling Downunder, a series of guided masterclasses and tasting events, runs from February 4 to 7. It’s one of the great wine events anywhere in the world — and for real riesling lovers, one not to be missed. Details at rieslingdownunder.com.au.
Perfectly personal baggage Your luggage these days is more than an accessory, it’s an extension of your style CARLI PHILIPS
TRAVEL EDITOR’S PICKS THE PRINCIPAL, LONDON The Principal group specialises in the restoration and reimagining of landmark buildings and its latest is a transformation of the former Hotel Russell, a grade IIlisted 19th-century pile on the eastern side of Russell Square in Bloomsbury. There are 334 guestrooms, a restored Palm Court conservatory-style salon for drinks and afternoon teas, a Gatsby era-inspired cocktail bar, several dining options, and artwork and design flourishes in tune with the literary and artistic heritage of boho Bloomsbury; theprincipalhotel.com.
ARTIST RESIDENCE HOTEL
UNIVERSITY ARMS HOTEL
VINTRY & MERCER, LONDON
BE OUR GUEST Britain’s eight top hotel openings of the year are centred around buildings that’ve stood the test of time TOM CHESSHYRE
THE LANGLEY, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE Take the Duke of Marlborough’s old hunting lodge in 200ha of idyllic Buckinghamshire countryside, spend a few million pounds doing up the rooms, and this is what you get. Opening in the northern summer, the grade II-listed mansion will have 41 guestrooms plus a vast spa and fitness centre. The 18thcentury gardens were designed by Capability Brown; thelangley .com.
KETTNER’S TOWNHOUSE LONDON Kettner’s restaurant opened in 1867 under the auspices of Auguste Kettner, Napoleon III’s chef. It reopened on January 8 as Kettner’s Townhouse, the latest project from the hip Soho House group. The hotel features 33 guestrooms in Georgian townhouses, next to Soho House’s Greek Street members’ club. Britain’s coolest new hotel for 2018? Probably, although Soho House is also opening White City House in west London in April; kettnerstownhouse.com.
GRAND CENTRAL HOTEL, BELFAST Set to open in June, Grand Central Hotel in Belfast will be a slick, partly new-build property in a shiny glass and grey-stone tower with more than 300 stylish guestrooms, restaurant, casual bistro and hip
We all know that feeling. The conveyor belt circling around and around with black bag after black bag, all of which could be yours, and many of which you will inevitably (and embarrassingly) drag off, inspect, and then begrudgingly put back on. Sonney Roth, managing director of the Cache Group of Companies and distributor of Antler Luggage, says that even though blacks and greys still dominate the suitcase landscape, there has been an increased demand for more colour. “We believe this comes down to not only wanting to have recognisable luggage on the carousel but the reality that now luggage is an extension of your style. People update their luggage more regularly … and often own more than one set,” Roth says. Away is one of the first to market to millennials (“first class for
rooftop cocktail lounge. Grand Central is part of the Hastings Hotels group, which also runs the nearby Europa Hotel, where Bill Clinton once stayed, and Slieve Donard Resort at the foot of the Mountains of Mourne; hastingshotels.com/grand-central.
FINGAL, EDINBURGH Fancy sleeping in a “boutique floating hotel” moored next to Britannia, the former royal yacht that’s now a popular tourist attraction? Fingal is a 1964 lighthouse steamer that is being converted into a lavish, art deco-style hotel with 23 cabins named after lighthouses built by Robert Louis Stevenson’s family. It’s to be run by the owners of the Royal Yacht Britannia, its neighbour in the historic port of Leith. The guestrooms will be available by Easter; expect gold ceilings, wooden panelling, tearooms and a cocktail bar. Fingal is 73m long, about two-thirds the length of Britannia; royalyachtbritannia.co.uk.
STOCK EXCHANGE HOTEL, MANCHESTER Following hot on the heels of Hotel Football next to Old Trafford, former Manchester United soccer stars Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, who run GG Hospitality, are opening an upmarket sister hotel in the old Manchester Stock Exchange in the northern
coach price”). Its hard-shell, direct-to-consumer suitcases feature clever interior compression systems in upwards of eight on-trend colours such as terracotta and turmeric. It has collaborated with artists and even designed a grown-up leather sticker collection. Selling just two sizes — Carry and Check — Raden captures a similar market with its minimalist designs and tech features including integrated chargers, location apps and GPS tracking. However, earlier this year Virgin Australia, Qantas and American carriers Delta, American Airlines and Alaska placed restrictions on “smart” luggage, banning bags with non-removable lithium-ion batteries. Lucky for Raden and Away, theirs are removable. Not all carriers have implemented the ban, though, and there’s still a plethora of
popular GPS bag-tracking apps such as Lugloc and Luggage Leash. The ingenious TravelTag app notifies you when your bag is on the belt. At the other end of the style spectrum, the vintage look is enjoying a renaissance. Inspired by the golden era of train travel, UK-based GlobeTrotter has been making classic-look luggage for upper-crust clients and the royals since the late 19th century. On luxury antiques site 1st Dibs, Louis Vuitton Steamship Trunks can cost upwards of $26,000. In 2016, LVMH purchased a majority stake in premium heritage German brand Rimowa. New co-CEO Alexandre Arnault observes that the luggage market is evolving in three major ways:
spring. There will be 40 designer guestrooms with a lilac colour scheme, modern art and a slick contemporary style. The best suite (likely to be popular with top Premier League players) will have a huge gold-framed four-poster surrounded by Corinthian columns. There will be two restaurants overseen by celebrity chef Michael O’Hare; thestockexchangehotel.co.uk; hotelfootball.com.
MONKEY ISLAND ESTATE BRAY, BERKSHIRE Another former Duke of Marlborough haunt — his former fishing retreat from the early 18th century — is being turned into a hotel by the Malaysia-based YTL corporation. The location is Monkey Island, a 2.8ha isle on the Thames, next to the village of Bray, which was popular with writers including HG Wells, Rebecca West and Siegfried Sassoon. The 27 stylish guest chambers are being created by New York-based Champalimaud Design. There will be a restaurant, although guests may wish to dine at one of the three Michelin-star restaurants in Bray, including Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck and Michel Roux Jr’s Waterside Inn. There’s a footbridge to the island; ytlhotels.com.
ARTIST RESIDENCE BRISTOL Artist Residence is a hip chain
Away Savanna Coordinate carry-on, about $280 awaytravel.com
Fendi x Rimowa suitcase, $2950 fendi.com
with an eclectic, arty style that runs properties in Brighton, Penzance, London and Oxfordshire. The latest, set to open in November, is in a former boot factory, a grade I-listed building that has been derelict for years, on Portland Square. Decor will be courtesy of contemporary artists across 27 smart guestrooms and a restaurant and bar. It’s a big year for the hospitality scene in Bristol as the Avon Gorge Hotel, overlooking Clifton Suspension Bridge, is rebranding as part of the Hotel du Vin stable after a plush, multi-million-pound investment; artistresidence.co.uk; the avongorgehotel.com.
UNIVERSITY ARMS, CAMBRIDGE It’s not a brand new hotel, but the University Arms should feel like one when it relaunches in the middle of the year after a revamp overseen by interior designer Martin Brudnizki, who has previously worked at the Ivy and Scott’s in London, plus Soho Beach House in Miami. The University Arms dates from 1834 and will be big, with 192 smart guestrooms, restaurant, underground valet parking and gym. The architect John Simpson, who has worked at Buckingham Palace, is also involved in the project, which is destined to be the new Cambridge hot spot; universityarms.com.
Opening in March in the City, the capital’s financial district, this 92room boutique-sized offering is from the team behind South Kensington’s The Ampersand Hotel. It’s already been accepted as a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Expect a roof terrace restaurant with views over Southbank and St Pauls, two additional “dining destinations” and an underground 1920sinspired speakeasy bar called Do Not Disturb. The property’s name pays homage to the neighbourhood’s historic Vintry and Mercer guilds, the former trading in wine and the latter in fine fabrics; vintryandmercer.com.
THE SALUTATION, SANDWICH, KENT A 25-minute drive from Dover, this exquisite property beside the River Stour is housed in a grade Ilisted building designed in a Queen Anne revival style in 1912 by civic and colonial architect extraordinaire Edwin (Ned) Luytens, perhaps most famous for his visionary New Delhi parliamentary project. Ramble around the groomed estate or stay snug in a choice of eight guest chambers across the main house, with the grandest and most spacious on the first floor, or three charming cottages with two, three or four bedrooms. Cuisine is courtesy of Michelin-starred Shane Hughes, late of The Connaught and The Lanesborough hotels in London, who features local Kentish produce and estategrown herbs and vegetables in his innovative dishes; thesalutation.com.
THE NED, LONDON With a centrepiece ground-floor sprawl of bars and restaurants across about 3000sq m, this hotel opened last year in the 1924-built former Midland Bank building in the City. The monumental pile is another Lutyens masterpiece and he’d no doubt be intrigued by the prospect of a stiff “Nedgroni” in the 24/7 Millie’s Lounge or smoothies and superfood salads at Malibu Kitchen; or the subterranean bar within the former vault. The 252 guestrooms across myriad categories (even tiny ones known as Crash Pads) are kitted out in Edwardian splendour, with designers channelling the heyday of transatlantic voyaging aboard majestic liners such as the original Queen Mary; thened.com. SUSAN KUROSAWA
“One is fashion, two is tech and three is ease of use. You see people who are much more interested in buying suitcases that look good with what they’re wearing and are interested in their look when they travel.” Roth says that while soft-side luggage will always be popular, hard-side cases have skyrocketed in popularity and now dominate 60 per cent of their market. “The Louis Vuitton decision of what Horizon 55cm case is right for carry-on, $3750 you comes down 1300 582 827 to what type of traveller you are,” Globe-Trotter Centenary says Roth. Will you be in a 20” suitcase, about $2179 taxi or a car? A bus or a matchesfashion.com boat? A plane, train or car?