November 30, 2015

It’s amazing the difference a few months can make. Lizard Island is now ticking like a Swiss watch. It’s exciting and energising to see how one of Australia’s premier resorts has come back to life. With the recent re-opening of the shady Marlin Bar – where you’ll find passengers and crew of boats harboured off the beach choosing from a list of outrageously good pizzas and other casual fare, Lizard Island has stepped back into situation normal – a pretty fine normal at that.

My role at Lizard Island is to curate the wine program at the Salt Water restaurant, to assist in the pairing of wines with chef Mark Jensen’s fare and to support the service staff with training and familiarity with the large number of wines now on the list. I’m partially a frustrated teacher, having conducted a wine school for years, and it’s very satisfying to see the way the team at Lizard Island has responded.

JEL_Salt_Water_695x296My view on a wine list such as this – and we’re talking one of Australia’s premier and most exclusive resorts here – is that guests should be happily surprised. Surprise in that the selection includes high quality wines with which they are familiar – and the Island attracts patronage from all over the world – but also surprise in the discovery of something new. So it’s an international list but with a strong Australian component, featuring many of the wines you only expect to find in small, high-end retail outlets or very smart restaurants.

Chef Jensen will shortly launch a new menu as the resort heads into a warmer time of the year, but key Island attractions like the Thai Night, Italian Night remain, along with its particular and appropriate focus on a range of Asian-inspired dishes. I was there recently and could not believe how good were the Thai duck curry and the lunchtime laksa. The kitchen also prides itself on its steak, and word is that the carnivore’s selection will be expanding with the new menu.

A new feature at Lizard Island is the walk-in wine cellar, whose stocking is for me a project of love. Here the task is simple – to make available a cellar of international standard whose wines have been impeccably sourced and carefully handled. I’m choosing from the best wines around Australia and the rest of the world, but I’m only buying bottles from great vintages and from sources where provenance is as strong and reliable as it can be anywhere in wine’s secondary market.

wine_cellar_695x296Again, it’s to ensure a very pleasant surprise to any wine drinker. So there are great Burgundies (Rousseau, Leroy, Dujac, Ramonet, etc. etc.), Bordeaux (featuring a number of First Growth and other great chateaux from 1982, 1995 and 2000), an incredible collection of mature Australian reds from top vintages (including old Penfolds, Wendouree, Cullen and Giaconda) and a pleasing support cast from Italy and Spain.

It’s an ongoing story, since most of the wines listed are in small quantities that demand regular replacement.

Lizard Island caters only for a small number. It has only 40 suites but more than half that number of beaches. The northernmost resort on the Great Barrier Reef, it comes fully equipped with a range of water-based opportunities – above and below the surface – plus the staff who can teach you what you need to know to experience them fully. It’s a kid-free paradise where adults can chill out and give rein to the child within.

If you’d like to discover more about Lizard Island, click here.