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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. 

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Hawkers Beer, Victoria

Mazen Hajjar and Joseph Abboud

Mazen Hajjar and Joseph Abboud

Chef and restaurateur Joseph Abboud (Rumi, The Moor's Head, Moor Please) was never a big beer drinker, but now he owns a brewery and can't wipe the smile off his face.

"Beer has changed my life," says Abboud. "I really had no idea that it could taste so good and could have a place on the dining table like wine does."

Abboud's beer awakening has seen him join forces with Mazen Hajjar, the Lebanese beer guru he met about three years ago on a trip to Lebanon to source new beers for his restaurants. Hajjar, who has moved to Australia with his young family, is known around the international beer traps as something of a craft beer crusader. He founded 961 Beer during the 2006 Lebanon war, and the range has won acclaim for the use of local spices and herbs including za'atar, sumac, chamomile, sage, anise and mint.

Abboud became 961's exclusive Australian importer, and now the pair have launched Hawkers Beer, a 1400-square-metre brewery in the industrial back blocks of Reservoir in Melbourne's northern suburbs. The brewery is named after the time they spent on the road together in Australia, hawking the 961 to restaurants and bottle shops.

It's a project that's met with instant success. Within hours of brewing their first keg of pale ale last week, the pair took home the people's choice award at Geelong's Great Australian Beer Festival.

"It's a pretty satisfying drop," says Abboud, surveying the brewery's high-tech stainless steel brewing gear. "People kept coming back at the beer festival asking for more. That's when we knew we'd hit the sweet spot."

The next brew to come off the Hawkers production line will be an IPA (India Pale Ale), followed by a traditional Czech pilsner and a saison (French/Belgian farmhouse ale).

Both Abboud and Hajjar live within walking distance of Hawkers, and spend all their spare time tinkering, bottling, and cleaning the warehouse-turned-brewery.

Huge crates have been flipped over to create a makeshift bar plonked on top of a Persian rug right next to the gleaming brewing equipment. Visitors can sample brews on tap or buy a slab on site. It's a friendly, casual space - a kind of craft beer paradise. There's even a pool table.

Several Melbourne bars are already pouring Hawkers, including Thornbury's Carwyn Cellars, East St Kilda's Local Taphouse, the CBD's Papa Goose, Toorak's Hawksburn Hotel, Footscray's Station Hotel and Newport's Junction Beer Hall. Once fully established in Victoria, Abboud and Hajjar plan to sell their beer nationally.

As Abboud says, "It's hard to believe that a few years ago I didn't even drink beer. That's all changed."

Hawkers Beer, 167 Henty St, Reservoir, Vic, (03) 9462 0650, open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.

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