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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.

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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

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.

Recipes by Restaurant Hubert

Restaurant Hubert's chicken fricassée, kimchi gratin and red butter lettuce with caper and anchovy vinaigrette

Restaurant Hubert's chicken fricassée, kimchi gratin and red butter lettuce with caper and anchovy vinaigrette

Chef Daniel Pepperell teams up with Sydney’s favourite bar czars to give bistro classics a reverently irreverent twist. Welcome to Restaurant Hubert.

Anton Forte and Jason Scott like to go their own way. And for this pair of Sydney hospitality professionals, it has paid off. Starting with the runaway success of their Darlinghurst basement dive, Shady Pines, which they opened in early 2010, they went on to open the equally well-received Baxter Inn and Frankie's Pizza, and have gone on to inspire a score of imitators nationwide. Now, in opening their first restaurant, in the Sydney CBD, the founders of the Swillhouse group are taking a gamble and stepping outside their comfort zone. Will Restaurant Hubert put a current through the Sydney dining scene the same way their bars electrified the drinks world?

Scott and Forte have crafted a restaurant so restauranty it's almost a parody of restaurant craft. Follow the stairs down to what was once the Celestial Chinese Restaurant on Bligh Street (yes, another subterranean location) and you find yourself in a sepia-tinged collection of rooms lined with timber and leather, banquettes and bars, dimly lit with tiny fringed lamps and hung with framed posters of French booze. It even has a stage. "We want fat businessmen drinking Burgundy and shiraz out of beautiful glassware with Frank Sinatra crooning over the speakers," says Forte. "We want glamorous ladies drinking icy-cold Martinis. We want cool kids with glasses peering off into their mineral water."

But the menu is no joke; nor is the wine list. Bringing edge to the food is star recruit Daniel Pepperell; they're hoping he can do for bistro what he did for trattoria food at 10 William St, giving the classics just enough backspin to turn heads as they come out of the kitchen. As the dishes he shares here may indicate, Pepperell is unafraid of embracing the glimmering aspic of tradition on one hand while playfully courting irreverence on the other, dosing the gratin with kimchi and giving shiitakes the à la Grecque treatment. On the wine front they've got Andy Tyson, a graduate of Monopole, the Wine Library and Buzo, aided and abetted by mmanager, Anthony Moore, also late of Monopole.

"Initially we wanted a restaurant where we could have a crème brûlée and a schnitzel on the same menu," says Scott. But the concept tightened in focus along the way. "It evolved into more of a big-night-out restaurant than just a little cosy wine bar."

And the Swillhouse team likes a big night out. Before they were bar czars, Scott clocked time on the floor as a waiter and sommelier at Ivy, North Bondi Italian Food and Foveaux, while Victorian-born Forte has a CV that includes Becco, The Melbourne Supper Club, Lotus and The Victoria Room, where the pair met.

"We've always loved restaurants, and dining out has always been something we've been passionate about," says Forte. "It was working in restaurants where we developed the style that has become Swillhouse's signature - we want rigid service standards but we want them delivered by people who are really cool in a place that has plenty of buzz. That's what we're about and we want to see if we can test our mettle and do that in a restaurant of our own."

Recipes by Restaurant Hubert:

Chicken fricassée

Stracciatella with lemon and orange

Red butter lettuce with caper and anchovy vinaigrette

Clams à la Normandie

Kimchi gratin

Shiitakes à la Grecque

Créme caramel

Restaurant Hubert, basement, 15 Bligh St, Sydney, NSW, restauranthubert.com

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