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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.

Father Fergus

Christmas is a moveable feast and has taken a turn for the better since we've taken control of the reindeers' reins.

The musk of game roasting, the port decanter full, walnuts, the gnaaah of Stilton, bowls of fruit, corks popping, a chill in the air heightening the appetite. The turkey is being stuffed with a chestnut stuffing. Stuffing is a kind of jazz thing. As long as you have the essentials - chestnuts, sausage meat and apples - the rest is improvisation. Think about the stuffing's role in life and just follow that vibe. (I have an image of a generation who will try stuffing their pyjamas into the chicken's bottom not knowing what should have been there.)

Red Burgundy is breathing, over-excited children are being sent off to wrap presents, the first snowflakes winnow their way down. It is going to be a white Christmas. Quick, turn on the radio, it's the King's College Choir carol service.

Make stock for the gravy, with turkey giblets. Brandy butter needs to be made too. There's a slight tingling on the liver as you mix the butter, brandy and sugar together.  Pick the sprouts - very sobering, with freezing water trapped in the leaves.

Oh damn! The drain is blocked and the plumbing hasn't yet dealt with the festive season. My sister is threatening to leave the home because of some argument with mum, which has been exacerbated by Christmas tensions.

Supper is pheasant cooked in cream and Calvados. Next comes a little Scottish wine, my jovial father's name for malt whisky. "Well, I don't mind if I do."

Christmas morning… ahh. The little darlings are hyper on natural adrenalin and mum has already put the turkey in the oven. No wonder people think turkey is a dry bird. The poor thing doesn't stand a chance.

The Christmas pudding is a wonderful thing: suet and fruit left to mature for a year, during which they break down into something dark and delicious. No sign of any Penicillium forming, nothing that a healthy splash of brandy can't deal with. Put it on the stove to steam away, a few bottles down already.

Twenty-four hours into Christmas and all is remarkably well. The bird is carved at the table, your plate is groaning, your stomach taut, and the prospect of Stilton and Christmas pudding yet to come is overwhelming. There's something daunting about a plate full of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, bread sauce (the best bit), roast potatoes, sprouts. It almost defeats you before you've started, but eat you do, going in for seconds and yet more eating. Don't forget to drink and drink. This one lunch will keep you in cold turkey and Christmas pudding (which is very good fried in butter) and Stilton for days.

I fall off my chair into a slumped position with eau de vie to help digestion, hoping there will be a James Bond film on TV. Roger Moore's dulcet humour might be all the excitement my battered frame can take at this point.

Uncle Charles is on the phone from Australia, lighting the barbecue. The youth are waxing their surf boards, suntan cream is liberally applied, a snowman doesn't stand a chance. Let's open a few more cold beers.

Is that Father Christmas taking the shade under that tree, an Esky by his side? He's taken off his red jacket, using it as a cushion for his head, he's kicked off his big boots and he's sporting a fine pair of flip-flops.

It's a funny old world.

Happy Christmas.

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