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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.

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.

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.

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.

Alice's Makan, Bia Hoi Brunswick East, The Survey Co, Garagistes

Alice's Makan, Sydney

Alice's Makan, Sydney

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country including Alice's Makan, Bia Hoi Brunswick East, The Survey Co, and Garagistes.

SYDNEY
Alice's Makan 
Thornleigh's loss is the CBD's gain as Makan@Alice's, one of the nation's most respected Malaysian restaurants, reopens as Alice's Makan in a spiffy new food-court setting near Town Hall. Alice Tan's outstanding char kway teow (pictured), nasi lemak, airy rotis, gutsy fried radish cake and signature kuih sweets are all here, along with chicken rice that puts most of its city competitors to shame. Alice's Makan, 580 George St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9262 7771. PAT NOURSE

MELBOURNE
Bia Hoi Brunswick East
When is a pop-up not a pop-up? When it's a summer fling, of course, which is what this Vietnamese kitchen occupying Small Block café in Lygon Street two nights a week is all about. Semantics aside, it's a whole lot of fun with excellent Vietnamese street food (banh mi, sugar-cane prawns, grilled eggplant with shrimp) cooked by chef Tom Stanislavski (ex-St Judes, Next Door Diner) to go with small-batch beer brewed fresh from local outfit Thunder Road. The hospitality veterans working the floor - Chantelle Kallmeier, Kath Utry and Peter Healy - dreamed up the idea travelling together through Vietnam. It's cheap, very cheerful and cash only. Bia Hoi Brunswick East, 130 Lygon St, Brunswick East, Vic, Thursdays and Sundays (until the end of March), 6.30pm-9.30pm until March 24. MICHAEL HARDEN

BRISBANE
The Survey Co
With just token signage and a tucked-away laneway location, places like The Survey Co can easily fall under the radar. But try one crisp tostada-scoop of chef Nick Stapleton's orange-scented slow-braised pork shoulder and you won't have any problems finding your way back. This banana leaf-wrapped flavour-riot of pulled goodness, tarted up with zingy tomatillo, comes topped with a sprinkle of seeds and nuts for extra crunch and texture. It's just one of a raft of share dishes referencing everything from Mexican to Asian in a relentless drive for flavour. It may be fewer than 12 months since the opening, but aside from the industrially chic, moodily-lit glam-grunge interiors, The Survey Co offer is light-years away from its original Euro-leaning classic entrée, main and dessert beginnings, and very much worth rediscovering. The Survey Co, 32 Burnett La, Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3012 8725. FIONA DONNELLY

HOBART
Garagistes
Things have changed at Garagistes, Gourmet Traveller's top-rated Tasmanian restaurant. Until recently, Luke Burgess ran an à la carte list, with most dishes designed for sharing. In a major shift, he has just switched to a set menu - either three or five courses at $55 or $85 per person. What used to be a free-wheeling ride is now a much calmer experience, and the extra control over produce and cooking, with a more compact menu, is making for some intensely interesting dishes, especially in the five-course option where there's more room to play. Last week a dish of chargrilled smoked eel, eel dashi, shiitake, puffed wild rice and basil was masterly, and cherry kernel parfait with redcurrant and Kentish cherry ice-cream and anise hyssop flowers an expression of summer. They may not last but something equally interesting is likely to take their place. The restaurant still doesn't take bookings but, now that the great January tourist rush has subsided, it's relatively easy to negotiate a table. Garagistes, 103 Murray St, Hobart, Tas, (03) 6231 0558. SUE DYSON & ROGER MCSHANE

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