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Aløft

There's nothing new about Nordic interiors - blond timbers, concrete surfaces, warm, mid-century charm without the twee - and thank heavens for that. It's a style that augments the beauty of everything around it, in this case, gorgeous Hobart harbour, which makes up one whole wall. What is new here, however, is the food - by veterans of Garagistes, which once dazzled diners down the road, Vue de Monde in Melbourne and Gordon Ramsay worldwide. There's a strong Asian bent, but with Tasmanian ingredients. In fact, the kitchen's love of the local verges on obsessive - coconut milk in an aromatic fish curry is replaced with Tasmanian-grown fig leaf simmered in cream to mimic the flavour. Other standouts include a gutsy red-braised lamb with gai lan and chewy cassia spaetzle, pigs' ears zingy with Sichuan pepper and a fresh, springy berry dessert. While the food is sourced locally, the generous wine list spans the planet. 

Secret Tuscany

A far cry from Tuscany’s familiar gently rolling hills, Monte Argentario’s appealing mix of mountain, ocean, island and lagoon makes it one of Italy’s hidden treasures, writes Emiko Davies.

Farro recipes

Farro can be used in almost any dish, from a robust salad to accompany hearty beer-glazed beef short ribs to a new take on risotto with mushrooms, leek and parmesan. Here are 14 ways with this versatile grain.

Moon Park to open Paper Bird in Potts Point

No, it’s not a pop-up. The team behind Sydney’s Moon Park is back with an all-day east-Asian eatery.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

Grilled apricot salad with jamon and Manchego

Here we've scorched apricots on the grill and served them with torn jamon, shaved Manchego and peppery rocket leaves. Think of it as a twist on the good old melon-prosciutto routine. The mixture would also be great served on charred sourdough.

Discovering Macedonia

Like its oft-disputed name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia defies simple definition but its rich diversity extends from the dinner table to the welcoming locals, writes Richard Cooke.

Brae

Prepare to enter a picture of the countryside framed by note-perfect Australiana but painted in bold, elegant and unsentimental strokes. Over 10 or more courses, Dan Hunter celebrates his region with dishes that are formally daring (Crunchy prawn heads! Creamy oyster soft-serve! Sea urchin and chicory bread pudding!), yet rich in flavour and substance. The menu could benefit from an edit, but the plates are tightly composed - and what could you cut? Certainly not the limpid broth bathing fronds of abalone and calamari, nor the clever arrangement of lobster played off against charred waxy fingerlings under a swatch of milk skin. The adventure is significantly the richer for the cool gloss of the dining room, some of the most engaging service in the nation and wine pairings that roam with an easy-going confidence. Maturing and relaxing without surrendering a drop of its ambition, Brae is more compelling than ever.

Cocktails by the batch

Bottled Negroni at Bar Americano

Bottled Negroni at Bar Americano

Did the cocktail game just get easier? We look at why more and more cocktails are being served straight from the bottle and not the shaker.

It might seem an odd move for a guy so wedded to the ideal of cocktail integrity that he started his own hand-carved ice company, but Michael Madrusan of Melbourne booze temple The Everleigh and neo-dive bar Heartbreaker is a convert to the cause of bottled cocktails. 

Never fear, mixology fans: he's not reaching for the Malibu and Coke can. Ordering a cocktail has become as simple as the bartender cracking a bottle and pouring the contents over ice. Easy. We've reported on it before, but in the last couple of years batching, as it's called, has been catching on worldwide, from London's White Lyan and Craft Cocktail Co to New York's Booker and Dax at Momofuku Ssäm Bar. Sydney's Dead Ringer bar and The Apo in Brisbane are also no stranger to the pre-batch. And in Melbourne the bar movement's spiritual leaders are taking up the cause. 

In Madrusan's case it was move initially driven by necessity. Batching cocktails made a whole lot of practical sense when providing the booze for a pop-up last year. It made sense to continue with Heartbreaker - "although when we first opened we had plenty of people giving us shit about it" - which, despite being patently not a cocktail bar, now shifts a thousand bottles a week. 

So did the bar game just get a whole lot easier? 

Well, from the customer's point of view, yes. No more waiting 15 minutes while an intricate display of measuring and muddling takes place behind the bar. 

From the bartender's perspective? Well, if they're done properly, not so much.  

At Fitzroy's Bar Liberty, cocktail prep begins four hours before the doors swing open. Co-owner Banjo Harris Plane says batching frees them up to make more complex recipes. Case in point: Pepe's Plums 2.0, a Negroni-esque combination of spiced house-made cherry vermouth, plums, gin, orange bitters and salt.

"Quite a bit of work goes in ahead of time," says Harris Plane. "It's about precision and being able to deliver a better quality product." 

Madrusan prefers sticking to the classics. Heartbreaker has four: a Manhattan, a Martini, a Negroni and an Old Fashioned. He has a few rules. Each bottle, for example, must represent a single serve. "And don't put anything in the bottle you wouldn't put over the bar. The quality and dilution have to be perfect." 

Matt Bax started serving a bottled Americano when his tiny Bar Americano opened in 2011 - a move due more to the complicated recipe, which involves a secondary infusion of several bitters and vermouths - and added a Negroni about two years ago. "Bar Americano, being so small, is not plagued with any issues of consistency or needing to rush. I think in bigger bars, bottling can help with consistency, but you have to put your best bartenders on during the prep to guarantee any advantages. Bottling takes skill, patience and concentration. It should be simple but it's often not." 

Bottling has an added value: it opens up a secondary take-home market. 

"Through bottling our guests can still enjoy the drink back home," says Bax. "We serve from the bottle at Bar Americano not for consistency or speed, but to demonstrate the authenticity of our bottled cocktails. It's the very same hooch you can take home."

The Everleigh, 1, 150-156 Gertrude St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9416 2229, theeverleigh.com

Heartbreaker, 234A Russell St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9041 0856, heartbreakerbar.com.au

Bar Liberty, 234 Johnston St, Fitzroy, Vic, barliberty.com

 

Looking to batch your own cocktails before a big party? Here's our guide.

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