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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. 

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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.

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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.

Crème brûlée


You'll need

30 gm sliced almonds 30 gm pistachio kernels 550 ml coconut cream 1 vanilla bean, split lengthways and seeds scraped 5 egg yolks 2 tbsp coconut sugar, plus extra for dusting (see note) 2 tbsp raw honey 1½ tsp powdered gelatine (such as Great Lakes) To serve: ground nutmeg   Red wine-poached pear 200 ml dry red wine 30 gm (¼ cup) coconut sugar (see note) 1 cinnamon quill 2 cardamom pods, crushed 1 star anise 1 pear, such as William, peeled, cored and quartered

Method

  • 01
  • Preheat oven to 140C. Roast nuts on a baking tray until golden (10 minutes). Set aside to cool, then coarsely chop pistachios and reserve both for serving.
  • 02
  • Place coconut cream and vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to the boil, whisking continuously. Remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve.
  • 03
  • Whisk yolks, coconut sugar, honey and gelatine in a bowl until sugar dissolves and mixture is thick and foamy (2-3 minutes). Gradually add hot cream, whisking continuously. Strain custard through a fine sieve, then pour into four 200ml ramekins and fill almost to the top. Place ramekins in a deep roasting pan lined with a tea towel and pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until just set, but still slightly wobbly in the centre (50 minutes to 1 hour). Remove ramekins from pan and cool briefly (5 minutes), then refrigerate to set (2-2½ hours).
  • 04
  • Meanwhile, for poached pear, combine ingredients except pear and 300ml water in a small saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add pear and cover directly with a round of baking paper. Place a small plate on top to keep pear submerged and bring to a simmer and cook until pear is tender (15-18 minutes). Cool pear in liquid, then thinly slice before serving.
  • 05
  • To serve, lightly and evenly dust tops of custard with coconut sugar and caramelise lightly with a blowtorch (be careful – sugar burns easily). Scatter with nutmeg and top with sliced poached pear and roasted almonds and pistachios.

Note Coconut sugar is available from select delicatessens.


At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 4 people

Featured in

Jul 2015

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