Healthy Eating

We're championing fresh food that packs a flavour punch, from salads and vegetable-packed bowls to grains and light desserts.

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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.

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. 

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.

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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

Pea and ham soup

Robert Gordon homewares

The pottery wheel has been spinning in the house of Robert Gordon for generations, taking the family business from tin-shed operation to Australia's top restaurants, writes Michael Harden.

In a purpose-built factory in Pakenham on Melbourne's outer fringe, there's a crew of people stirring and dipping, brushing and shaping. Recipes are being followed and ingredients selected. There are great vats of liquid and super-hot ovens.

It might sound like the kitchen of a bakery, but the craftspeople at Robert Gordon, one of the last remaining production potteries in Australia, aren't preparing food; they're making the vessels in which food is cooked and served. Plates, bowls, teacups and saucers, teapots, jugs, pitchers and bottles, casserole and roasting dishes, trays and cake stands are stacked around the factory in varying states of completion, and in a dizzying number of permutations and combinations of colour, shape and purpose. For kitchenware and tableware fanatics, it's a kind of heaven.

"We have between 500 and 600 items in our range with a huge archive and library of shapes and colours," says Sam Gordon, Robert's youngest son who now, along with his sisters, Kate and Hannah, and brother, Bobby, runs the family business. "We stock over 3000 independent retailers both in Australia and overseas, plus we make items for people under licence, and we design bespoke plates and dishes
for individual restaurants."

Chances are, if you've eaten at Vue de Monde, Gazi, Grossi Florentino or a Merivale restaurant, to name but a few, you'll have encountered some of the beautiful handcrafted work produced for each restaurant in the rather prosaic Pakenham factory. Shannon Bennett, owner-chef of Melbourne restaurant Vue de Monde, is a long-term Robert Gordon fan, collaborating with Sam since the first incarnation of Vue in Carlton. Together they devise bespoke plates for his venues.

"I think a restaurant should put a lot of thought into what they serve food on," says Bennett. "It's an important part of the whole story, so I was looking for a place that could make something unique for the restaurant and found this one. It was so full of energy, a family-run business with all these talented craftspeople working there. There was an attitude of collaboration.

"We've been to Japan together to study those influences," he says, "and we've collaborated with artists like Stieg Persson. It's the kind of place where they just do whatever it takes to make things happen."

This direct connection with clients seems to be an integral part of the business and its success.

"Every chef I work with has come to the factory and understood what we are doing here," says Sam. "When people appreciate that we're a family business, that we have talented people who have been working for us for up to 30 years and that we make the stuff right here, that always seems to work for us. I don't want to sound too precious, but the connection and the understanding is really important."

It's easy to understand why the notion of family is important - pottery runs in the blood. Robert's parents ran a pottery business called Dyson Studios, which his mother, June Dyson, set up in 1945. They sold direct to the public and in Myer and David Jones stores. Dyson was a famed, much-collected potter and her mother before her, Dorothy Dyson, designed patterns for Colley Shorter, husband of famed English ceramicist Clarice Cliff. Many of the shapes June created are still used today, glaze recipes are based on those she devised and the company is often inspired by her colour palette.

Robert grew up around the pottery wheel and became a skilled thrower himself. After spending three years overseas - and meeting his wife Barbara in England - he succumbed to the pottery lure and set up Pack Track Pottery in 1979, in Gembrook in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges. Business boomed, outgrowing the tin-shed operation, and in 1987 it moved to the factory in Pakenham.

Today, all Robert and Barbara's children work in the business and he says it has been invaluable to their continued success. "All of them bring something unique to the business. I understand the clay and the machines and the kilns very well, but there really needed to be generational change to keep the company going. It wasn't planned that way, but that's how it's worked out."

Robert Gordon now has a commercial range designed in Australia and made at their stable of factories in China, as well as accessories to accompany the ceramics, such as woven and metal baskets, and paper baking products. All told, Robert Gordon produces about 150,000 individual items per year.

But it's Australian-made items, made to order and finished by hand, that are always in demand. A new kiln was recently installed to keep up with demand from retailers, while increasingly chefs are turning to Robert Gordon, lured by the prospect of serving their food on tableware that's locally made and unique.

"The chefs love it because of the flexibility and durability," says Sam. Add the word "family" and that could well be the company's motto.

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Outdoor dining
01.03.2017
The Gourmet Traveller Christmas Boutique extends opening hours
14.12.2016
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05.12.2016
Our second homewares range is out now
22.11.2016
Our pop-up Christmas Boutique is now open
22.11.2016
Inside the GT x STILY Christmas Boutique
16.11.2016
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Signature Collection

Find out more about the Gourmet Traveller Signature Collection by Robert Gordon Australia, including where to buy it in store and online.

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Recipe collections

Looking for ways to make the most out of seasonal produce? Want to find a recipe perfect for a party? Or just after fresh ideas for dessert? Either way, our recipe collections have you covered.

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2017 Restaurant Guide

Our 2017 Restaurant Guide is online, covering over 400 restaurants Australia wide. Never wonder where to dine again.

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