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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.

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.

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.

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.

Matt Moran on The Chopping Block

Matt Moran takes it to the ‘burbs in The Chopping Block, this year’s hottest new local food TV show.

Don’t expect foul-mouthed Gordon Ramsay-style antics from Matt Moran on his new show, but don’t expect a pussycat either. Channel Nine’s The Chopping Block sees Moran and co-host Catriona Rowntree visiting ailing restaurants around the country and giving it to them straight. Each show sees two eateries critiqued, and whichever does the best job with its makeover and makes the most of Moran’s tough-love walks away with the glory and a cash prize. Morris Mansour, of Morris’ Egyptian, says he’s happy to participate, but doesn’t want to be the Aria of Dulwich Hill. “The pyramids and the Sphinx met Napoleon Bonaparte and sent him packing – I think we can stand Moran.” The Chopping Block premieres on Channel Nine in February, www.thechoppingblocktv.com.

Read on for our web exclusive interview with Matt Moran and Catriona Rowntree, plus try some of Matt's recipes and watch a video clip of the show.

Matt, did your friend Gordon Ramsay happen to give you any advice for the show?
Matt Moran:
Gordon gave me a little bit of advice. The first piece was "lose some weight, you fat c***," the other one was that they’re running [Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen] Nightmares before ours – "I’ll get the ratings, so don’t f*** it up for me.”

What have you learned from visiting these restaurants?
MM:
I don’t want to put these guys down – that’s the last thing I want to do. Ours is a very different market at Aria, and it always makes me realise that to have a successful restaurant you have to use great products. It’s so easy to put a good dish on a menu when you’ve got good produce rather than second-rate stuff, so I feel pretty lucky about the kitchen I’ve got. I’ve seen some scary hygiene practices, and organisation – you don’t realise how organised you are until you come to other restaurants. It’s just chaos. 

Scary hygiene practices?
MM:
One of them, and I won’t say which, was the worst, filthiest kitchen I’ve ever seen. And I’m from Blacktown. It was so bad.

Do you have to be an expert on each cuisine to be able to help them?
MM: No, I’m not an expert on Egyptian food, say, but what I can bring is something clean and fresh – taking a good product and doing something with it. It’s not rocket science, really.

What’s doing TV like for you?
This is the fourth show I’ve done now, and it’s starting to get a little bit easier.

Catriona, are you eating constantly on the show?
Catriona Rowntree:
I thought that doing this show I’d gain five kilograms. It’s actually working out that I’m losing weight because we’re running around like headless chooks racing from one location to the next. If you saw some of the restaurants that we’ve filmed in – the ‘before’ scenes of course – you’d see that it’s a mixed blessing.

Where do you like to eat yourself?
CR:
I have a foot in both Melbourne and Sydney. In Sydney I like the Bather’s Pavilion at Balmoral. It makes me proud to be a Sydneysider, as does Aria, of course. And I love watching friends from overseas go green with envy when I take them to Icebergs in Bondi. In Melbourne, I’ve just fallen in love with Mirka at Tolarno Hotel, and I love the Stokehouse in St Kilda – some friends from Channel Nine put me on to that one and now I go there all the time.

What’s Catriona like behind the burners, Matt?
MM:
I’ve cooked for Catriona, but I’m still waiting for her to cook for me.

CB: I provide the entertainment, but I treat someone like Matt with instant respect because I burn two-minute noodles. And I’ll still eat it.

This interview was posted on 28 January, 2008.
 


 

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