Apologies for being remiss with my blog – have been on a book promo tour in New Zealand and Australia and finally heading home now.

Managed to avoid the perils of the Christchurch earthquake (but was there in March…)  and managed to avoid being poisoned, stung or eaten in Australia.  Read the charming statistic that of the world’s ten most venomous snakes, Australia has all ten!   In fact it is hard to imagine a country where where there are more hostile creatures to man….  Salt water crocodiles, sharks, box jellyfish, venomous spiders, all those snakes, the occasional serial killer, and just to spice it up a little further, in the UK the dawn chorus of birds is a really pleasant sound.  But when I went running, early morning, in Sydney’s Botanical Gardens, the birds made a terrifying, straight out of a horror movie screeching sound, as if they were all about to eat me!

And on the subject of food – I was asked recently what nation, I thought, had the best food in the world.  Thirty years ago I would have said France, unhesitantly, with Italy second.  Now, it is Australia, hands down, by a country mile.  And New Zealand can be superb, too.  I stayed in some really good hotels courtesy of my publishers and can recommend all of these if you’re not on a budget or someone else is paying!  

Wellington: (beautiful city but beware the winds…)  Bolton Hotel.  Really smart, modern, cool and very friendly.

Auckland:  (the yacht basin area is the buzziest)  Rendezvous Hotel.  Traditonal but modernized really well.  Very sharp service.

Melbourne:  (one of my fave cities in the world).  Sofitel on Collins Street.  Huge, modern, very sharp.   There are loads of truly great restaurants in Melbourne with fab food and brilliant service.  I recently ate at Vue du Monde (great fun, rather like El Bulli, as much a performing “theatre of food” as restaurant, reassuringly expensive).  Taxi.  Very modern, great atmosphere.  Grossi Florentino.  Three restaurants in one.  Downstairs modern, buzzy, upstairs traditional, courteous.  I ate in both twice, they are so good.  Coda – bar and restaurant, very buzzy, food brilliant.

Sydney:  Stayed in Blue Hotel – definitely the coolest hotel I’ve stayed in anywhere.  A converted wool warehouse on the waterside, right by the Botanical Gardens.  Could not recommend this highly enough – if you get the right room.  I recommend the 4th floor which with bigger windows and the rooms have more light.  Ate out in Universal – a really great and original experience.  Fusion food, no starters or mains – you choose three dishes first, and then a cheese or dessert.  Owner used to run the fabled Paramount in Sydney and then EastWest in London.

Brisbane: (a really pleasant surprise of a city).  Stayed in the Stamford Hotel.  Very traditional but superb, with a fab position on the river bank.  Ate at Aria – right on the river, wonderful modern, spacious room, brilliant staff, fantastic modern Australian food and global wine list.

Hey ho, now back to reality and slumming it over a hot keyboard…