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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

Best at Est

Est's crack troupe of waiters is ferrying an extra-special line-up of dishes this month. An eight-course tasting menu, Peter's Best at Est, marks executive chef Peter Doyle's 10 years at the fine-diner. But with a repertoire that spans four decades, why stop at one? So Doyle has put together a greatest-hits compilation that draws from his back catalogue as well as the present, and shows good taste never goes out of fashion.

And what might his teenage self say about where he is today? "My 16-year-old self didn't have the slightest idea that I might be a chef," he says, "but he definitely would have thought it was a great idea to start work late enough to allow time for a surf whenever the waves were good. So, from that point of view, I'm sure he would say 'well done'." Indeed.

GT attended a dinner to introduce the celebratory menu, which will run until the end of November.

The food The menu nimbly traversed the decades, from 1988 - quail breast and bone marrow wrapped in Savoy cabbage - to the present. Classics from the Est menu included gazpacho consommé with buffalo mozzarella and green tomato, which first appeared in 2004, partnered at this particular dinner with its contemporary vintage of Dom Pérignon.

The drinks Dan Sharp, Est's head sommelier, masterminded the wine matches; stars included the Brash Higgins 2013 "SMR" Semillon-Riesling Field Blend, a vintage that produced only 600 bottles, half of which have been snapped up by Merivale group sommelier Franck Moreau. The 2011 Porter Creek Russian River Valley "Old Vine" Chardonnay, meanwhile, made a worthy partner to John Dory and grilled scallop with sauce Jacqueline.

We loved Everything, really, including the magnificent room and the choreographed service, but if we had to choose, it would be the raviolo of prawn with crab boudin, snow peas, ginger, soy and coriander - as fresh today as when it débuted in 1989.

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