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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.

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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.

Pea and ham soup

Arabian nights


You'll need

440 gm (2 cups) caster sugar 6 cardamom pods, cracked Thinly peeled rind and juice of 1 lemon 9 apricots, halved, stones removed   Saffron goat’s milk ice-cream 600 ml goat’s milk ¼ tsp ground cardamom Pinch of saffron threads 8 egg yolks 100 gm caster sugar   Brioche 35 ml milk, lukewarm 4 gm dried yeast 175 gm softened butter 15 gm caster sugar 250 gm (1 2/3 cups) plain flour 3 eggs, at room temperature 1 egg yolk, lightly whisked with 1 tbsp milk, for eggwash For scattering: flaked almonds   Honey pistachio toffee 100 gm caster sugar 75 gm honey 30 gm slivered pistachios 10 gm sesame seeds 10 gm sunflower seeds

Method

  • 01
  • For saffron goat’s milk ice-cream, bring milk, cardamom and saffron to just below boiling point in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk yolks and sugar in a bowl until thick and pale. Pour in milk mixture and whisk to combine. Return mixture to pan and stir over low-medium heat until mixture thickly coats the back of a spoon (5-6 minutes). Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl, refrigerate until chilled, then freeze in an ice-cream machine until required. Makes about 800ml.
  • 02
  • For brioche, stir milk and yeast in a bowl to dissolve yeast and set aside in a warm place until foamy (4-5 minutes). Meanwhile, beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy (2-3 minutes), transfer to a bowl and set aside. Combine flour, eggs, yeast mixture and 1 tsp fine salt in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and knead until smooth and elastic (8-10 minutes). Add butter mixture a little at a time, kneading well to incorporate between additions, then knead until smooth and glossy (4-5 minutes). Cover and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size (1½-2 hours). Knock back dough, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. Divide dough into 6 even pieces, roll into balls, place in 6 buttered and floured 125ml dariole moulds, cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size (45 minutes-1 hour). Preheat oven to 220C. Brush brioche tops with eggwash, scatter with flaked almonds and bake until golden brown (15-20 minutes). Stand to cool slightly (5 minutes), then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely. Brioche will keep stored in an airtight container for 3 days.
  • 03
  • Stir sugar, cardamom, lemon rind and 500ml water in a wide saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add apricot halves, bring to the simmer, poach until tender (10-15 minutes) and set aside to cool. Remove apricots and set aside, stir lemon juice into syrup and refrigerate apricots and syrup separately until required.
  • 04
  • For honey pistachio toffee, scatter sugar over the base of a heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat, add honey and cook, swirling pan occasionally (do not stir), until dark caramel (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat, stir in pistachios and seeds, pour onto a large piece of baking paper, top with another piece of baking paper and roll as thinly as possible with a rolling pin. Set aside to cool completely and break into coarse pieces. Honey pistachio toffee will keep stored in an airtight container for 3 days.
  • 05
  • Place brioche in a wide container, pour apricot syrup over and set aside, turning occasionally, to soak (5-10 minutes). Serve with poached apricots, a scoop of saffron goat’s milk ice-cream and a shard of honey pistachio toffee.
This recipe is from the February 2013 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.

This brioche sundae is full of Middle Eastern flavours. If you’re pressed for time, feel free to use good shop-bought brioche or even sponge cake. If the weather is humid, it’s best to make the honey pistachio toffee on the day you’re serving it, as it can get quite sticky. Otherwise it can be made three to four days ahead and stored in an airtight container, though you’ll have to hide it from the family (and yourself) – it’s far too easy to snack on.

At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people

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