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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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Pea and ham soup

And the winners are...

"Very nice, thank you" was chef Andrew McConnell's not quite numerically accurate response when asked for a three-word summation of his feelings about Cutler & Co. being named Australian Restaurant of the Year. Pascale Gomes-McNabb, the restaurant's designer, was more succinct: "It's f***ing awesome".

"That's absolutely frightening," McConnell said as he accepted the award. "This award is not about me, it's about Cutler & Co. It's about an incredible front-man, Adam Cash, a seriously hot sommelier, Sally Humble, and a very talented designer, Pascale Gomes-McNabb. I'd also like to thank my right-hand man, John Paul [Twomey], the head chef of Cutler & Co., who I've been fortunate enough to work with for over six years now." McConnell also thanked his business partners, Frank and Sharon van Haandel, before his words were drowned by applause.

It was, safe to say, a decision that went over well with the assembly of Australia's top cooks, waiters, wine people and bartenders. It probably didn't hurt that this year's major winner was named in Melbourne, at that most Melbourne of Melbourne restaurants, Flower Drum.

The announcement of the top spot in the nation's 100 best restaurants was the culmination of six months' hard slog by GT's reviewers. It was also the highlight of a very special evening. Though Flower Drum rarely hosts events of this kind, chef Anthony Lui and manager Jason Lui pulled out all the stops to make it a night to remember. The Drum is well staffed at all times, but reinforcements were called in nonetheless, resulting in what almost seemed to be a waiter for every two diners. Spring onion pastries and tempura-like fried garfish fillets made superb canapés (we couldn't keep Neil Perry away, truth be told), and other highlights were crab-rich Shanghai-style steamed dumplings with red vinegar, and deeply savoury slices of Blackmore full-blood wagyu beef cheek braised with ginger, red date and garlic.

Channel Nine's Leila McKinnon, meanwhile, kept things fresh as host. "I only wish the Logies were this fast-paced," she said, "and I think you know which awards ceremony has the better food." Between McKinnon's jokes and glamour and the photographers staking out the entrance, the Oscars-of-food buzz was greater than ever. On the drinks front, our partners at Signé, the premium drinks division of Pernod Ricard Australia, contributed plenty of élan, from the Perrier-Jouët Champagne apéritifs to the after-party's Chivas Regal nightcaps. In addition to our sponsors Signé, Ilve, Vittoria Coffee, Qantas and Škoda, we thank the chefs and restaurant people of Australia, not to mention the diners and drinkers, for making this such an interesting business to write and read about. "Vision, team, result," was Cutler & Co. maître d' (and Maître d' of the Year nominee) Adam Cash's three-word take on their success, but we'd like to run with Sally Humble's slightly longer offering: "Cheers to you guys."

More Restaurant Awards

To find out who won the other awards in the Gourmet Traveller 2011 Restaurant Awards, check out our Restaurant Awards section, including coverage of previous years, video footage from the awards ceremony and much more.  

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2017 Restaurant Guide

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