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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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

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.

Fergus Henderson's tips for entertaining

Fergus Henderson gives new meaning to hamming it up in his top tips for successful entertaining.

Let's not muck around here - whatever tips you may want to take away from this party issue, the first thing you want to get in hand is the drinks.

As soon as booze is involved with a large number of people, in my experience, a little gentle contentment sets in. But a lesser-known useful tip to further this contentment is to have someone in the middle of your party carving slices from a Spanish ham. This focus is very therapeutic - just as the feng shui people believe fish ponds and raked sand induce tranquillity, likewise folk at a party will calmly stand for ages and watch a ham being sliced, making this a very fine and subliminal form of crowd control. Just don't give in to offers from guests to slice the ham themselves once the first few cocktails have been downed. That is guaranteed to end in tears, if not stitches.

It may seem out of kilter to talk of giving a party in the same terms the police might use to speak about managing mobs after a football match, but there are basic similarities. The herd mentality is not to be underestimated. You want it to go off happily and without anyone injuring themselves, which sounds reasonable, and none of the theories detailed here should be intrusive to the core business of having fun.

Now, to the business of feeding the hordes. Seat everyone, if you can, with place names, which breaks up any factions that might have been forming. This solution will naturally collapse over the course of the evening (usually around the cheese course), but in itself causes a frisson of anticipation over the meal about the forthcoming conversation. Once seated, serving the food family-style is a wonderful way to get folk together; there's something very bonding about helping your neighbour to their lunch.

Have you ever partied in someone else's hotel suite? There's a special tension there between the sense of freedom you feel being in an anonymous space and the voice in your head reminding you that the space is not your own and therefore some kind of order should be maintained. Contrast this with the time I rather foolhardily asked the whole restaurant team from St John back to my place for a drink after our Christmas party. They rightly thought that it was their day, which somehow made it okay to smash every glass in the apartment. I took this as a sign that they were feeling comfortable, which was reassuring, and quietly resolved never to have them over en masse ever again.

Like glass smashing, there are those telltale signs that the party is slipping away from you. It's important to monitor these as your merrymaking proceeds although admittedly some are easier to spot than others. The signifier closest to me is when my dear wife starts dancing with chairs, which routinely entails her swinging them around like an obliging dance partner (but a little more destructive). So if we are at a party together and you hear me shouting "No chairs!" then you know what's afoot. Take shelter.

I feel we have covered a whole gamut of emotions here this month, which is very appropriate for this subject - giving a good party is emotional stuff. The initial fear is that of wondering whether anyone will turn up, then they do and you can relax for a moment, and then suddenly the dancing-with-chairs moment creeps up on you, and that contentment passes. But everyone sounds like they're having such a nice time. They have the ham, so don't worry about them.

Party on, I say.

Illustration Lara Porter

  • Magazine:
  • Nov 2014
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