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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. 

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.

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.

Moon Park to open Paper Bird in Potts Point

No, it’s not a pop-up. The team behind Sydney’s Moon Park is back with an all-day east-Asian eatery.

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.

Qualia Weekends of Wonderment 2015

Clockwise from top right: Lisa Cooper, Alastair Waddell, Elise Pioch Balzac and Andrew McConnell; Nicky Tindill

Clockwise from top right: Lisa Cooper, Alastair Waddell, Elise Pioch Balzac and Andrew McConnell; Nicky Tindill

Hamilton Island luxury resort Qualia hosted its annual Weekends of Wonderment last week, with Melbourne chef Andrew McConnell's gala dinner just one of the highlights of the action-packed program.

The Weekends of Wonderment reflects the "true meaning" of Qualia, says the resort's brand manager, Nicky Tindill. "The idea stemmed from the actual meaning of the word Qualia, which is 'a collection of deep sensory experiences', so we wanted to capture that and also deliver a program that's uniquely Australian and that celebrates our local area," says Tindill.

Guests commenced their weekend with a hands-on mud-crabbing experience at Gulnare Inlet on Whitsunday Island with marine biologist Matt Vickers, while Johnnie Walker Blue ambassador Sean Baxter presented a whisky tasting and cocktail masterclass on how to build the perfect Old Fashioned. Elise Pioch Balzac, founder of boutique Australian soy wax candle brand Maison Balzac, shared her passion for candle-making (with guests making their own rose-scented sample to take home), and florist Dr Lisa Cooper imparted her knowledge on the art of arranging flowers.

Andrew McConnell prepared the Saturday night gala dinner at Qualia's beachside restaurant Pebble Beach, closing the weekend with a menu celebrating the region's local produce. There was, of course, the crab hand-caught by guests, which McConnell served as canapés (devilled on a bed of cos lettuce with fennel seed, chilli, Espelette pepper and a fried curry leaf, and also atop a seaweed cracker with sorrel and avocado), and as the garnish for a risotto of rice venere with nettles. "Going crabbing and collecting them with my own hands and then bringing them back into the kitchen and preparing them was one of the best cooking adventures I've ever had," he says.

THE FOOD  Resident executive chef Alastair Waddell prepared a banquet-style seafood menu for the opening dinner on Friday night, featuring grilled marron and goldband snapper with pine mushrooms and a knockout dessert of caramelised banana ice-cream with kaffir lime popcorn and white chocolate.

Andrew McConnell's Saturday night carte also included burrata with an heirloom tomato salad, shiro kin wagyu sirloin with pepper sauce and slow-roasted onions, and a refreshing and surprisingly savoury dessert of meringue with sheep's milk yoghurt and an apple and shiso granita.

THE DRINK  Sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon from the Robert Oatley 2013 Signature Series, Clover Hill 2008 vintage brut, Luna Rosa 2015 rosé, Tyrrell's Stevens 2010 sémillon, Cullen 2012 'Diana Madeline' cabernet merlot, and Frogmore Creek 2013 iced riesling.

WE LOVED What's not to love about spending a weekend at this benchmark luxury property in the heart of the Whitsundays? And did we mention that autumn weather in these parts means a balmy 25 degrees?

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