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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. 

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.


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.

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.

2017 Australian Hotel Awards: The Finalists

This year's finalists across 11 different categories include established and new hotels, all with particular areas of excellence. Stay tuned to find out which hotels will take the top spots when they're announced at a ceremony at QT Melbourne on Wednesday 24 May, and published in our 2017 Australian Hotel Guide, on sale Thursday 25 May.

Doctor cocktail

If you've met Sam Ross, you certainly haven't forgotten him. Until recently he sported a mullet and a Mohawk (the mullet now hangs on his refrigerator door, still in its hair band). If Ross has made you a drink, you won't have forgotten that either, especially if it was a Penicillin, the drink that's come to be associated with his name. It's well on its way to becoming a latter-day classic. The first time I sat at New York cocktail bar Milk & Honey, some four years ago, I ordered one of these arrangements of smoky Islay whisky atop a froth of ginger, honey, lemon and blended Scotch. It now stands as my favourite cocktail of all time.

When I joined Ross one afternoon for lunch at Brooklyn's sepia-tinged Fort Defiance restaurant, he said, "I'm channelling Gene Wilder," as he greeted me, rolling his eyes toward the puff of hair floating above his forehead. Not unlike a young Dr Frankenstein, the Melbourne native has more than a streak of flamboyance (an old red Vespa and denim suits are among his weaknesses) and is quietly inventive. He didn't realise the Penicillin was a revelation until a waitress at Milk & Honey's sister bar, Little Branch, insisted that everyone should experience the drink at least once. With a cult following akin to that of Dick Bradsell's Bramble or Dale DeGroff's Whiskey Smash, the Penicillin now appears on cocktail lists in establishments all over the world, including Ross's favourite restaurant, Keens Steakhouse in New York. "It gives me great pleasure to think that people might be drinking it long after I'm gone," says Ross. "It's very humbling."

Before he moved to New York, Ross helped build Melbourne's cocktail reputation with his work at the now bygone Ginger, says fellow bartender Matthew Bax of Der Raum. "I'm sure many of the cocktail-competition dudes were well happy when he left for the US," says Bax. "It gave them a chance to win something."

Bax's view that Ross has grown to be one of the finest classic bartenders anywhere in the world is shared by many in the cocktail sphere. "And despite his huge reputation he remains ever so humble."

Knowing that New York's cocktail scene was where he wanted to forge a career, Ross sought out Sasha Petraske, the accidental inventor of nouveau speakeasy culture, and his tiny, sign-less back-alley bar, Milk & Honey. For those conspiring to re-create classic cocktail culture, Milk & Honey was and is hallowed ground, praised for its spare, prescriptive yet innovative approach to drinking. The bar has never had a menu, but the barkeeps are catalogues of classic and modern recipes.

Aside from the occasional flamed orange peel, there is nothing extravagant about Milk & Honey's style, and Ross's method is thoroughly informed by this approach. "He has a certain flair," says legendary tiki bartender Brian Miller. "He's extremely creative, and his drinks are well balanced but simple. I know no one else whose cocktail has gone global like the Penicillin." Miller adds, "We worked at Pegu Club together. I couldn't have long hair or jewellery. I got sent home on the first day to shave, and Sam shows up in acid-washed jeans with a mullet and a Mohawk. He looked like he'd just rolled out of a Loverboy video. But he could bartend circles around me. You can do anything you want when you're that good," he laughs. "And that accent - he could insult you and you'd thank him, he's so charming."

It's looking like a watershed year for Ross. He and fellow bartender Michael McIlroy are set to take over Milk & Honey's current clandestine Lower East Side digs when that bar relocates to a new site. They'll open Attaboy, a cocktail bar that promises to be more forthcoming than its predecessor by ditching the reservations-only policy, adding windows and introducing blackboard specials.

From his beginnings as a bartender in Melbourne, Ross has cultivated an ability to intuit a room's energy. "So many young bartenders are so focused on the drinks that they don't grasp the overall concept of being a bartender - having the right music, seeing if there's a situation over here, or if we're going to run out of this," he says. Then, reflectively, he declares, "I still just want to be behind the bar." Luckily, that's exactly where you'll be able to find him. Attaboy.


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