Things I like – sparkling wine

One thing I like about Australia is the ready availability of sparkling wine – and it’s cheap!

This is the first of a series of posts about things I like about Australia and would miss if I were no longer here.  You will find that few of them are very profound.

So the first thing I wanted to mention is sparkling wine.  This is my drink of choice.  In the UK, I used to drink cava, the Spanish sparkling wine.

I was very pleased to find that sparkling wine is readily available in Australia.  You can get a glass in lots of bars and restaurants.  Moreover, it is relatively cheap.  It is normally about the same price as still wine, which is not normally the case in the UK.  This is particularly the case since the size of the sparkling wine glass is not that much smaller than the size of the still wine glass here.  Wine is served in glasses no bigger than 150 ml in Australia, whereas sparkling is normally in 100 ml or 120 ml glasses.

On a similar vein, you also get sparkling wine at catered events – work receptions and the like.  In the UK, again, it is rare because it is seen as a luxury so is served only at higher priced events.  Here it is more mundane and cheaper.

There are lots of different sparkling wines to choose from – and all Australian.  You can get champagne of course – that is proper champagne from France.  I have also seen Prosecco from Italy but I’ve not seen cava.

There is also sparkling shiraz.  This is a truly red wine, not a pink one.  It is quite a surprise when you first see it but it is very nice.  It has a bit more body than white sparkling.

The nice thing about travelling around Australia is that you then have a choice of locally produced wines, including sparkling.  You’d think I’d have kept a note of all the ones I’ve enjoyed but I haven’t.  So, you’ll just have to wait until you can try them out for yourself.

I will mention two that I have enjoyed.  Philip Shaw produces wine in Orange, NSW, and I’ve had his sparkling in a restaurant.  Jansz Tasmania also produces a very nice drop. Not that this is cheap: it is a special occasion wine.

So, that is my first “thing I like about Australia”.  Check back for more over the coming weeks.


A new talent … and memories

We had a great night out on Friday: dinner at deVine, Elaine Paige concert at the State Theatre and an amazing new talent: New Zealand’s Nic Kyle. He nearly stole the night – brave of Elaine to gift him that but then I suppose it was in part the surprise and unexpected nature of it. We got what we expected from Elaine but, Nic, well, wow!

But, first, dinner. I like deVine, which is on the corner of Market Street and Clarence Street in Sydney’s CBD.  It has a great wine list and the food – Italian style – is always tasty. It is a moody place, quite dark, and, on a Friday night, busy and loud.  However, the sardines for the entrée (starter for my British friends) were very tasty and the egg papardelle with duck  ragout & crisp sage were scrumptious.  And I went for an Austrian – yes, Austrian, not a mistyped Australian – red wine for a change: 2006 Cabernet Merlot , Hartl Amicus, from Niederoesterreich. Find moreabout deVine here.

The State Theatre on Market Street, Sydney, is stunning.  It was built in 1929 with spacious, high-ceilinged foyers and staircases covered with elaborate gilt decoration, accented in red. We had seats in the second row of the dress circle, which is great viewing. Catch a look at the virtual tour here.

Elaine Paige is nearing the end of a tour of New Zealand and Australia. She did two 50-minute halves of old favourites with a couple of new songs thrown and a quarter-set of jazz numbers. We liked her dramatic performances of her classic numbers best and my favourites were those I’d personally seen her sing on stage: Nobody’s Side and I know him so well from Chess and As if we never said goodbye from Sunset Boulevard.

It was interesting experiencing her artistic choices.  I thought Don’t cry for me, Argentina was a bit fast and then All that Jazz was just in a very odd arrangement, which just lost the rhythmic finger-clicking that we all know from the film and most recent stage productions. However, it also seems to me that a singer should try new things.

She tackled Dreamed a Dream, from Les Misérables and made even more famous by Susan Boyle’s first appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. Her performance captured the raw anguish and heart-break of the moment better than most I’ve seen in the last year or so – and that includes several London stage versions.

She also sang The Closest Thing to Crazy, the Mike Batt song that launched Katie Melua onto the waiting world when Katie was 19. It was a choice that could have been designed to irritate Graham, a fan of the original. However, it was a great performance.  My only argument was that, as well as changing the musical arrangement, I thought it would have been a moving addition to change the lyric. “Feeling 22, acting 17” is all very well for Katie but it could have made it a whole different story to sing: feeling 62, acting 17! And, I know it’s not polite to ask a lady’s age – but the emotion that could stir would be worth it! I’m tempted to try it at my next Karaoke, feeling 52, but I don’t want to have to wait 20 years for my next Karaoke! Think about it… Joke!

Graham was cock-a-hoop, having predicted her closing group of songs: Memories from Cats and Just One Look from Sunset Boulevard.

OK, I’m drivelling on and still haven’t got to NIC KYLE.  Yes, that’s how you spell it: all sub-editors and bloggers, please copy.

After a brief overture, he opened the show, setting the scene for Evita’s big number with an awesome version of Oh, what a circus! Eat your hearts out, David Essex and Antonio Banderas! He dueted with Elaine on Nobody’s Side from Chess. He nailed Sunset Boulevard. He then stole the show twice: in the first half with a version of Burn for You, the John Farnham hit; and in the second with a dramatic rendition of Gethsemane from Jesus Christ Superstar.  What impresses me most, thinking back on it, is that I didn’t know those songs very well and yet I was still amazed by the performance. The man has a great voice, presence and dramatic skill. Cast him in something big, someone!

Here’s where you can find more about him.  Enjoy!

A lunch outing in Benalmádena

On a weekend when the UK is shivering under the onslaught of Arctic temperatures, I’ve escaped to Southern Spain … which is shivering under the onslaught of Arctic temperatures!  It was 6° C overnight.  The sun retains the warmth of the Southern sun but there is a strong, icy wind off the sierras so that, even in the day, it is very cold unless you are tucked up well away from it.

Today we went for an outing that was appropriate to the weather.  We walked down to the front and then we went to a new, 5-star hotel where the dining room has picture windows looking out over the sea.  To give it its full name, it is the Vincci Seleccíon Aleysa Boutique & Spa hotel.

The dining room is elegant with white walls and ceiling, stripped wooden floors, white leather chairs, white linen and dark wood side boards and screens.  It has floor to ceiling windows looking over the beach, which was practically deserted today.  The service was impeccable; waiters humoured my attempts at Spanish and spoke perfect English too.

We had a fino, dry sherry, to start and were offered an appetiser of marinaded tuna before our starters came. Mummy had a foie gras paté with accompaniments of pear and crumbs of ginger bread; while I had a selection of roasted vegetables served with three large prawns – and some of the foie gras! My vegetables included aubergine, cucumber, green chillies, peppers, cherry tomatoes, carrot and onions.  They were all delicious.

We ordered a glass of wine: Mummy white and me red.  They were poured into the glasses at the table, mine from a magnum of red wine, which was impressive.  To go with this, Mummy had a thick fillet of hake on a bed of julienned vegetables.  I had a lump of roasted Iberian pork, beautifully cooked with a rich sauce of mustard and beer.

It was wonderful.  The chocolate cake looked wonderful too but we could manage only a café solo each.  Even that was special, being beautiful coffee, served in fine white cups.  All in all, we thought we’d earned a taxi home after all that! J

Anyone wanting to look it up, the web site is and the link to this particular restaurant is here.