Category Archives: Hotels

Hong Kong – Upper House Hotel

‘Your mission – should you accept – is to live like James Bond for a day.’
‘Live like James Bond for a day, you say?’ Doesn’t sound too difficult.
You said live ‘like’ James Bond – not ‘with’ James Bond. After watching ‘Skyfall’ I rather fancy Daniel Craig. That back of his….hmmmm…’
‘Please try to focus on the mission at hand 008. I said live ‘like’ 007. Not ‘with’ him.You’ll be his decoy while he is in Hong Kong.’
‘Decoy you say? Just for one day? OK. I accept.’
‘Good. Let me take you through the accommodation we’ve selected for you.
 We’ve got you a suite at the Upper House. It’s where all the well-heeled hipsters stay and dine. So try to blend in and don’t wear those cowboy boots of yours.’
‘Hey! What’s wrong with these boots? They’re hand-made you know… from real rhino hide. I had to drag that rhino through the Botswana jungle.’
‘Look. Just try to be inconspicuous – is that too much to ask 008? You are a spy afterall.’

‘OK.. come this way. We’ve already checked you in as Ms Indira Naidoo. She’s an Australian journalist and broadcaster who’s meant to be reviewing this hotel so it won’t raise any suspicions if you’re seen taking photos and asking pesky questions.’

‘Do I have to be an Australian? You know I can’t tolerate that accent. Everything is ‘gday this’ and ‘ow ya going mate that’. It’s so grating. Can I be that Swiss gymnast again? Please?’

‘Not after all the weight you’ve stacked on. Have you seen yourself in the mirror lately.’

‘It’s just a couple of kilos….

‘008 can we just get on with it?

‘This is your room. As you can see it’s extremely spacious with views across Hong Kong harbour.’

‘Geez……007 really does get the royal treatment doesn’t he? You usually put me up in a Mecure. Look at these fabrics and furnishings, and potted orchids. No expense has been spared.’

…. I love phaelanopsises….

‘OK, 008 that’s enough horticultural observations… let me take you through to the bedroom..

‘Wow…. that bed looks dreamy….. what’s the thread count on these sheets? Looks like Egyptian cotton..

‘Don’t get any ideas 008. You know the rules. No sleepovers while on duty.’

‘ But 007 always …

‘ I don’t care what 007 does. No visitors. Period.’

‘Here are your suitcases…

‘… and the closet…’
‘… and the bathroom..’
‘That’s some tub. Nice a deep. Looking forward to a long soak. And there’s a TV as well… want to
  see the finale of American Idol. Love Keith Urban.’
‘There won’t be time for that 008. After you unpack I want to take you to the outside deck where you’ll receive further instructions from your contact.. ‘

‘Oh. He doesn’t seem to be out here. Let’s wait for him in the hotel’s award-winning restaurant Cafe Gray.’

“Nice views.’
‘I took the liberty of pe-ordering for us both.
I’m having the gnocchi…’
‘…And how’s the organic heirloom beetroot salad?’
‘Not bad. I’ll be able to squeeze back into that leotard in no time.’
‘I could get use to pretending to be 007.’
‘Don’t get any ideas 008.’
Saucy Onion stayed as a guest of the Upper House.

Palm Beach – Frangipani Cottage

It’s the first weekend of Spring and the outdoors is calling.

We’re staying at Frangipani Cottage on Barrenjoey Road, Palm Beach – the new accommodation
offering from the folks at Barrenjoey House a few doors down the road.

The two-bedroom cottage is perfect for two couples and a stone’s throw from the ferry and beach.

The frangipani trees in the front garden aren’t in flower yet. Now their branches look like huge chunks of underwater coral.

The cottage draws on similar design elements to the famous Barrenjoey Restaurant and Guesthouse.

.. light, space and air, textured collectibles all to be enjoyed from deep comfortable couches.

 It’s a space to relax and unwind in..

.. and with a large flat screen television and foxtel for those who don’t want to completely disconnect.

There are piles of books, magazines and travel guides to flip through

… although the outside is always beckoning.
your own private deck to daydream on..

The beds are extremely comfortable and covered with luxurious linens. It will be a sleep you’ll always remember.

a dreamy space to dream in…

as the scented spring air sends dappled light across the room


the kitchen is functional with only a microwave oven an obvious omission.

but with Barrenjoey’s excellent restaurant and a host of other eateries just around the corner you won’t be spending much time doing the dishes.

The cottage only has one bathroom so the sharing couples need to know each other well. We did notice that the hot water was peetering towards the end of our two showers.

After an evening walk on the beach it’s an early dinner at Barrenjoey restaurant. 

I’ve always admired the interesting decorating touches in this wonderful colonial-style space.

We begin with a plate of the most delicious briny oysters and then onto a crab pasta and a fillet
  steak – all cooked perfectly.
a sundowner and then a tipsy stroll back to our cottage for a deep, deep sleep surrounded by crisp fresh linen, soft pillows and that hypnotic sea breeze.

Saucy Onion stayed and dined as a guest of Barrenjoey House.

Hunter Valley Accommodation – Krinklewood Train carriages

We’re all trying to recycle, reuse, refashion to live more sustainable lives. But Marie Garvey has taken the mantra to a whole new level.

Marie has been collecting old train carriages from around New South Wales and bringing them back to life as unique accommodations on her property nestled in the vineyards of Pokolbin.

She does most of the renovations herself -repannelling the cabins with rosewood, ceilings with pressed metal … even sourcing thousands of authentic rivets.

The carriages vary in size and sleep between two and 12 people. Perfect for weddings, celebrations and family gatherings.

We stayed in the Royal carriage which captures the romanticism of the best of luxury train travel. Ever so comfortable bed, heating, soft lighting, kitchen, bathroom and toilet. And beautiful touches like the stained glass window Marie made herself and some original antique lights.

The pictures below show a carriage she is renovating at the moment. It should be spruced up and ready for its first guests for summer.

Krinklewood with its carriages under the gumtrees, kangaroos grazing in the paddocks, is a special experience for any traveller looking for a slice of a bygone era.

Hunter Valley, Pokolbin – Peacock Hill Vineyard B&B

Why is it that the paradise on our doorstep tends to get overlooked? If the Hunter Valley was in Burgundy  – or Margaret River for that matter – Sydney-siders would be beating a path to its lush vineyards, world-class restaurants and jaw-droppin surrounds …. all just 2 1/2  hours drive away.
Instead the region is doing it tough. The high Australian dollar has driven down export sales and a glut of grapes has scene winemakers forced to multi-skill.

One of our favourite Hunter labels is the Peacock Hill Vineyard in Pokolbin. We’ve been keen members of George and Sylvi’s wine club for several years now and are devotees of their

 individually-crafted boutique wines.
They have 20 hectares of vineyards planted with Shiraz,  Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc grapes. Their wines have been showered with awards.
Our favourites are their Godfather Chardonnay, Shiraz and their distinctive fortifieds. These are dedicated craftspeople following their passion, swimming against the mainstream and producing wine of true elegance.
They’ve even installed extensive rain-water tanks and solar-panel grids as part of their commitment to make their operation more sustainable.
They also have some lovely accommodation options. This is country hospitality at its best. We stayed in the spacious, two-bedroom apartment above the tasting room.
Wonderfully comfortable beds, large shower with great water pressure, flat screen TV, iPod and a chef’s kitchen stocked with everything you need for a hearty cooked breakfast.
.. and a wonderful view overlooking a citrus orchard.
Isn’t time to revisit the Hunter?

Hotel Realm – Canberra

I’ve managed to squeeze a weekend away to Canberra. It’s autumn, the grapes in the vineyards are ripe for the picking and it’s Harvest Festival time.
Good opportunity to try out some new digs that have hotted up the Canberra accommodation scene recently.

Hotel Realm is a new 5 star sprawling accommodation, spa and entertainment hub in the Canberra suburb of Barton just behind Parliament House.

Its cavernous entrance atrium certainly announces its cool, global vibe. And we receive a smooth, friendly and unobtrusive check-in. Full marks.

The atrium installation is several stories high…

We stayed in a one-bedroom apartment with a balcony overlooking a park and Parliament house in the distance. There are 186 rooms in total.

Really comfortable beds and linen –  although we did find the room temperature difficult to stablise – either a little too hot or too cold!

These apartments are going to be a hit with Canberra’s itinerant public servants and long-stay guests – full size kitchen with all the gadgetry including sharp knives. There was also a washing machine and dryer.

A fruit plate on arrival….
Stylish and well laid-out bathroom..

…designed with woman in mind. A good make up mirror and plenty of space for toiletries..

a good-sized bath that sadly we didn’t have time to sample..
The view from the balcony
and the fiery sky at sunset.
The Hotel Realm has three restaurants and a bar with a very uber-chic courtyard. It was hard to believe we were still in suburban Canberra.

For dinner we went for the wood-fired marguerita pizza..

… with a caprese salad. Excellently prepared with fresh ingredients. Highly recommend it.

The next morning –  less than 20 mins away –  the Lerida Estate and Lark Hill wineries beckoned…

chooks scratching amongst the vines for bugs
And a quartet playing some chilled jazz..
The Hotel Realm is going to really shake-up the Canberra scene not only for travellers but for locals who now have a very cool quarter that will put Canberra on the international map.
Saucy Onion stayed as a guest of the Hotel Realm.

MK Maison – Marrakech, Morocco

Finally a little peace in this crazy, mad, frenetic, crossroads of humanity that is Marrakech.

We’re staying at the MK Maison a hip boutique hotel on the other side of the Old Medina. It’s owned by British couple Paul & Aoibheann Hopkins who have created a slice of cool sophistication amongst the dust and alleyways. It has the most magical roof-top view of the city at sunset.
…the minaret of the famous Koutoubia mosque in the distance, hazy pollution blotting out the Atlas mountains, lanterns flickering and a chilled glass of local Moroccan chardonnay. It’s a big call I know… but this may well have just become one of my most favourite places in the world..
The attention to furnishings and lighting shows what a wonderful eye both Paul (a well-known photographer) and his wife have.
This is the tear-shaped pool in the entrance courtyard – again invitingly lit.
Our room is flooded with light, stylish yet comfortable.
rose petals are strewn on the velvet bed cover…
Fresh roses and fruit and a oil burner to also greet us
The bathroom is a marble-polished curvaceous retreat.

…complete with a giant-sized rubber ducky, over-sized shower-head (which can give the whole bathroom a soak!)

A luxurious bath that cleanses away the dessert heat and sand

rose petals also adorn the vanity basin

fun and playfulness

exotic Moroccan toiletries
Every room has an iPod docking station but the chilled grooves from the hotel playlist set the mood
Afternoon sun streams in through the intricate metal shutters
It beckons us outside again onto the roof under the gently flapping saffron-coloured shades
This is were British chef Jamie Oliver filmed some of the cooking demonstrations in his recent hit show “Jamie’s Food Escapes : Marrakech”
No wonder the international cooking star picked MK Maison … what a backdrop!
MK Maison also has its own gastronomic credentials. Its restaurant Gastro MK features perfectly executed reinventions of traditional Moroccan dishes
This carrot and honey soup was spicy and sweet and beautifully balanced
crumbed quail eggs with beetroot carpaccio and dressed salad leaves
Grilled John Dory fillet with lentils, beetroot puree, lychee and caramelised mango spaghetti
leg of lamb confit with potato and carrot puree and couscous
And of course when the streets are this narrow this is how we moved hotels at the end of our very relaxing stay.
manager : Mary Teare
mobile : +212 (0) 661 09 61 27
hotel: +212 (0) 524 37 61 73
14 derb sebaai, quartier ksour, medina, marrakech, morocco
uk contact…
paul & aoibheann hopkins

uk mobile: +44 (0) 7733 265 658

uk landline: +44 (0)1428 682262
Saucy Onion stayed as a guest of MK Maison

Morocco – The Angsana Riads of Marakech

Ok. Take a break from your trowel and potting mix, oven and stove and let me take you on the adventure of a lifetime.
This is the breakfast room at our hotel in Marakech, Morocco – The Angsana Si Said Riad. Heavenly isn’t it?
The Angsana Resort Group has a collection of 6 riads in Marakech ( former aristocratic homes) in the Old Medina which have been exquisitely converted into luxury accommodation while preserving their historical features.
Each riad has a central courtyard, spacious rooms, pool, a fireplace, and roof terraces.  There are beautiful zellig (ceramic art) tiles, gabbs (picked honey comb plaster work) and tagguebasts (cornices of sculpted plaster) all restored by local artisans.
I Dream of Jeannie meets Arabian nights…..
Being a former French colony, breakfast is a combination of croissants, pastries, eggs and jams or traditional Moroccan breads, rotis and cheeses. And the perfumed filtered coffee and mint tea will leave you in raptures.
Service is 5 star. Your every indulgence is seen to efficiently and discreetly.
Each riad has a menu of local Moroccan dishes including of course a wide variety of tagines. They feature the local ingredients of goat, lamb, chicken, almonds, dried fruit, saffron and paprika.
intricate mosaic floors

The bedroom suites are adorned by tadelakt, a Moroccan plastering technique, and have local antiques, hand-woven carpets, and contemporary artifacts and textiles.

Outside, the Old Medina is buzzing with motorbikes, noisy crowds and loud merchants spruiking their wares. But in our room it is an oasis of calm.

The bathrooms are mesmerising, magical places consisting of curved plastered walls, flickering lanterns and relaxing body treatments.

You’re transported to another world…

And then you experience your first hamman – the Morrocan weekly spa and massage ritual.
You lie on stone slabs in warm softly lit treatment rooms and are washed down with strong jets of warm cleasing water. Then you are scrubbed down with desert crystals, rubbed with exotic oils extracted from lavender, rose and argan and lotions made from orange and lemon peels.

And after an hour’s massage you won’t recognise yourself. I literally floated out the room.

then some mint tea and Moroccan sweets….

and a relaxing drink on the roof-top terrace. While Morocco is a Muslim country, all the Angsana riads have terrific wine lists serving surprisingly excellent local wines. The Romans first introduced wine-making to the region and France developed the industry into a thriving export business until the French relinquished control of Morocco in 1965. My favourite was a Chateau Roslane white from the Les Celliers de Mekenes winery. It’s a pity more Moroccan wines don’t find their way to Australia.
The Koutoubia Mosque built in the 12th Century. The amplified call to prayers 5 times a day across the city takes a little getting use to.
donkeys and carts are still the best way of getting around in the narrow streets and souks.
The Angsana resorts are all situated a short walk from the busiest square in Morocco – the Jemaa el Fna.
This is one crazy place that has to be experienced to be believed. You’ll find snake charmers, monkey-sellers, food stalls, acrobats, dancers and musicians.
And if all this isn’t enough the Angsana’s managers will arrange tailored tours for you. We enjoyed a guided walking tour through the city with our brilliant guide Ismail. We also drove East through the deserts and oases to the white-washed seaside resort of Essaouira.
On our way we saw what looked like an hallucination. But it wasn’t. There were goats in this tree. Apparently the fruit of the argan tree are delicious and the local goats often clamber up to the top branches for a feed!
And the next day a breath-taking trip over the snow-covered Atlas mountains to the 12th Century fortress city of Ait Benhaddou.
Marakech is a dizzy exotic whirl of colour, excitement, romance, and adventure.
It will leave you breathless.
Saucy Onion stayed as a guest of the Angsana Morocco Riads Collection