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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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

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.

Rockpool, Street-ADL, The Town Mouse, Fifth Element

The Town Mouse, Melbourne

The Town Mouse, Melbourne

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Rockpool, Street-ADL, The Town Mouse, and Fifth Element.

SYDNEY
Rockpool
What a saucy, glossy thing this new Rockpool is. Fifty shades of black create the Bridge Street room's delicious backdrop, contrasting a matte pressed-tin ceiling with shiny black wall tiles. At lunch, it's a prix-fixe affair: $52 for one course, $69 for two and $72 for three. Thus far we've been most taken with the entrées, not least an intensely flavoursome bowl of silken prawn cake, shreds of prawn, coriander and peanuts bathed in a prawn broth, and the superb salad of shredded poached chicken and bamboo fried in pork fat, dressed with a fine XO sauce. Dauphine potatoes, creamy inside, crisp of shell and drenched in a kombu-amped butter, make a very persuasive argument for sides, and the wine list is a document at once thrilling and dangerous. We're looking forward to dinner. Rockpool, 11 Bridge St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9252 1888. PAT NOURSE

ADELAIDE
Street-ADL
Orana, Jock Zonfrillo's fine-diner, is set to open this week, but his bustling downstairs bar and casual dining space, Street-ADL, is already attracting enthusiastic crowds. The concept here is street-food favourites given intriguing twists with Australian native ingredients. A pulled meat sanga is stuffed with hot-smoked kangaroo shoulder with piquant Kakadu plum and pickled wild garlic, while a plate of green beans comes with a delicious XO sauce made from bush tomato and pepperberry. Big pork ribs are marinated, slow-cooked, glazed in quandong and then fried, the quandong adding a tangy-sweet note to the crust. Flavours are subtle rather than blaring, but distinctive enough to prompt questions from diners about their origins. Street-ADL, 285 Rundle St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8232 3444. DAVID SLY

MELBOURNE
The Town Mouse
With Melbourne's seemingly endless reprise of winter weather finally on the wane, the scramble for alfresco seating has begun in earnest. One of the smartest outdoor areas around opened recently in the backyard of Carlton's Town Mouse (pictured above). It's a compact space deftly designed by Allistar Cox (the New Zealander also responsible for the interiors), with daybed-like cushioned bench seating, a tessellated tiled floor and festive party lights strung overhead. It seats about 20 people - nearly doubling the restaurant's capacity - and is a good place to get a load of the clever and intricate food Dave Verheul has devised for his summer menu. It's a joy to announce, too, that gems such as the venison tartare have been retained among a swathe of new dishes, including poached chicken with shaved artichoke and ricotta, and asparagus with pecorino custard. There are new season-appropriate cocktails, too, involving rum, roast pineapple and the like. It's another great excuse to get outside this summer. The Town Mouse, 312 Drummond St, Carlton, Vic, (03) 9347 3312. MICHAEL HARDEN

BRISBANE
Fifth Element
There's a sixth element at play temporarily at Fifth Element: the surprise addition of Jake Nicolson. The former head chef of Melbourne's Circa has relocated to Brisbane to head Ghanem Group's ambitious Blackbird restaurant at Eagle Street. That isn't set to take wing until early 2014, so in the meantime he's raising the bar here. The crisp fried snapper is a cracker; its eye-catching fish frame is wrapped around three crunchy battered fillets served with a fragrant Thai-style slaw and tomato chilli jam. Fat hand-cut chips get the triple-cook treatment, served with a whipped-tofu mayo and ginger and beetroot-flavoured salts. The restaurant itself might be showing a little age, but the new carte means there's a whole set of fresh reasons to stop by for something to pair with your glass (or half-pour) of Burgundian Mischief and Mayhem, say, or a chilled Petit Chablis courtesy of William Fevre. Fifth Element Bar & Dining, cnr Tribune & Little Stanley sts, South Bank, Qld, (07) 3846 5584. FIONA DONNELLY

Got a hot tip for our Hot Plates team? Tweet us at @gourmettweets, or tag your Instagram photos with #GThotplates.


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