2017 Australian Restaurant Guide

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The Woods, Skinner & Hackett, Lark Distillery, Bistro One Eleven, Marcelita's Empanadas

The Woods, Four Seasons Sydney

The Woods, Four Seasons Sydney

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country including The Woods, Skinner & Hackett, Lark Distillery, Bistro One Eleven and Marcelita's Empanadas.

SYDNEY
The Woods
If you go into The Woods today, the big surprise is light, fresh, interesting food in the lobby restaurant of a large international hotel. Chef Hamish Ingham and manager Rebecca Lines, of Bar H, may have seemed like a very left-field choice for a project with the Four Seasons (and vice-versa), replete with Michael McCann fit-out, but the union seems a happy one. Certainly the snacks we've tried so far suggest great promise: radishes, served as simply as can be with house-churned butter, excellent bread and salt. Or very fresh scallops with citrus, purslane and puffed rice for crunch. Or - because they're all about the wood-fired oven here - a good, puffy, charry pizzetta with kale, currants and bacon. And the goat's curd with juicy berries (mulberries in the picture here, blackberries this week) and powdered cane juice - almost like a cross between a cheesecake and a free-form coeur à la crème - is a dead-set stunner. Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, 199 George St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9250 3160 PAT NOURSE

MELBOURNE
Skinner & Hackett
This new Purveyor of Fine Meats brought to you from the team at the neighbouring Gerald's Bar is a great reason to stay home and cook this weekend. As the guys who run the place (Jonathan Stobbs and Bruce Gray) will explain to you, all the meat comes from small producers and they can give you all the particulars about breeds and provenance. The Poon Boon Lamb Co's superb racks and butterflied legs are rushing out the door and there's brilliant local and imported charcuterie, sliced to order on a lovely black Maineri machine named Desdemona. 400 Rathdowne St, Carlton North, Vic, (03) 9347 6642 MICHAEL HARDEN

HOBART
Lark Distillery
With Friday's forecast a delicious 25 degrees, the lawn in front of the Lark Distillery on Hobart's waterfront is the place to be. Heel-clicking live music, Seven Sheds and Moo Brew beer on tap, and great whiskies and spirits from Lark is an appealing package, but the best theatre comes from Tasman Quartermasters' blowtorched burgers. Working with Robbins Island wagyu, wallaby or Thorpe Farm venison, Stuart Addison uses some geeky processes to prepare his meat- and -salt-only burgers, then cooks them sous vide to bring them to the right temperature. The penultimate step, which happens in a tent on the lawn, is to blast them with a 6000-BTU blowtorch, just before serving them with his own pickles and mayo-mustard-ketchup sauce in a homemade brioche bun. Great Friday night drinking food. Go early, supplies are limited. 14 Davey St, Hobart, Tas, (03) 6231 9088 SUE DYSON & ROGER MCSHANE

BRISBANE
Bistro One Eleven
With lofty ceilings, acres of plate glass and a polished, big-city feel to the interiors it might seem counter intuitive to head to this corporate heartland over the weekend. But if you're allergic to suits, there's really no better time. Check out chef-owner Philip Johnson's long-awaited second Brisbane venue for dinner on Saturday night and you'll find exactly the sort of fare harried executives dream of anytime: rustic, simple, and for the location, remarkably well-priced. Sample a soft-yolked Scotch egg with curry mayonnaise, or textbook liver parfait topped with a glossy Pedro Ximénez jelly. In the "more than a bite" section, we're backing the crisp-skinned, fall-apart confit chicken with a gutsy pistou, cotechino and green lentils ($19). Way too tasty to leave to the business brigade. Bistro One Eleven, 111 Eagle St, Brisbane, QLD, (07) 3220 2557  FIONA DONNELLY

PERTH
Marcelita's Empanadas
Marcelita's  made its name in deep-fried savoury treats: whenever the crackling, pork and lime special is on, order as much as they'll sell you. But Matt and Marcela O'Donohue are just as eager to get us enjoying dessert Colombian-style. Set some pesos aside for panelitas de coco (aka coconut fudge) as well as the obscenely good caramel-centred brownies. Crisp without, rich and chewy within, each square packs enough chocolatey thrills and spills to sate two. While you'll find me somewhere in the Marcelita's queue at Friday's Twilight Hawker Market, the O'Donohues do their deep-fried thang at various farmers markets and venues all summer. Do like the rest of us: track the couple's movements via Twitter, then follow from a safe, non-stalkerish distance. MAX VEENHUYZEN

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