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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.

Pancakes


Stack them up and gobble them down. These fluffy little numbers are just too flippin' good to resist.

You'll need

180 gm butter, coarsely chopped 450 ml buttermilk 3 eggs, separated 300 gm (2 cups) plain flour 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method

  • 01
  • Melt 60gm butter in a small saucepan over low heat, cool slightly, then combine in a large bowl with buttermilk and egg yolks and whisk until smooth.
  • 02
  • Sift over flour, bicarbonate of soda and 1 tsp fine salt, mix until smooth and combined (do not overwork).
  • 03
  • Whisk eggwhites and a pinch of salt in a separate large bowl until firm peaks form (2-3 minutes), then fold into flour mixture.
  • 04
  • Melt 10gm butter in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat, add ¼-cupfuls of pancake batter, allowing room for it to spread. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface and edges are golden (1-2 minutes).
  • 05
  • Turn with a wide spatula and cook until pancake is firm and base is golden (1-2 minutes), transfer to a plate and keep warm in a low oven. Wipe pan with absorbent paper between batches and repeat with remaining butter and batter.

Pancake Day - also known as Shrove Tuesday - is thought to have come about as a way to use up rich ingredients such as eggs, butter and sugar before the fasting days of Lent began. Religious reasons aside, now seems a good time to start feasting and it's the perfect time of year for a heartwarming breakfast or brunch. And there are few better breakfasts than a pile of warm, fluffy pancakes. No penance required.

Pancake recipes abound and seem to be split into two categories - those that are aerated by beaten eggwhite and those that aren't. If you like your pancakes on the thinner side of the spectrum, go for a recipe that doesn't call for beaten eggwhite. If you like a thicker, pillowy pancake - all the better to soak up the requisite lashings of maple syrup - the recipe we are working to here is the method for you. And although it involves an extra step in the preparation process, it's possible to make the base batter, cover it and refrigerate it overnight. You benefit doubly by doing it this way - not only are you prepared well in advance, the batter also has ample resting time, ensuring delicate pancakes. Resting the batter lets the gluten in the flour relax, which results in a more tender crumb. If you don't rest the batter, the pancakes will be tough and rubbery. Once this is done, whisk the eggwhites and fold them through the batter just before cooking and you're good to go.

The key to successful pancakes is a heavy-based frying pan, preferably cast iron. Anything too flimsy and you'll find the outside of your pancakes will cook but you'll have a semi-raw interior. A heavy base also helps prevent the butter burning. Make sure you wipe out your pan with absorbent paper between batches for the best results.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about making pancakes is that you can only cook two or three at a time. But don't be tempted to rush things by overcrowding the pan - you need to give the pancake batter room to spread a little. Equally, a higher cooking temperature won't make the process faster - again, you'll end up with a raw interior. Slow and steady wins this particular race. Pancakes are for leisurely breakfasts, after all. Have your oven on low heat to keep pancakes warm while you wait for their companions to cook and then serve without delay.

Pancakes are the perfect vehicle for all manner of accompaniments. It could be as simple as a drizzle of honey and some sliced banana, or a dollop of yoghurt, a handful of berries and a glug of maple syrup - the real deal please, this is no time for substitutes. Or you could use the maple syrup as a poaching medium for wedges of perfectly firm, ripe pear (click here for the recipe). As the pears cook, they become fragrantly, lusciously glazed. You can do the pears ahead of time if you like and gently warm them in a pan just before serving. A simple spiced ricotta offsets the sticky sweetness.


At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people

Featured in

Apr 2010

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