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We're championing fresh food that packs a flavour punch, from salads and vegetable-packed bowls to grains and light desserts.

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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.

Cipro, Pad Thai Cafe, Assaggio Ristorante, The Conservatory Restaurant

Cipro, Sydney

Cipro, Sydney

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Cipro, Pad Thai Cafe, Assaggio Ristorante, and The Conservatory Restaurant.

SYDNEY
Cipro
"Children left unattended will be fed fresh pizza, strawberry cordial and gelato," warns Cipro's Facebook page. Lucky kids. On the eatery's opening weekend, this week just past, the place was indeed overrun with the small fry, their parents drawn in droves by the promise of seriously good food in a resolutely casual environment. Certainly the setting ticks the box, a bit like Kitchen by Mike in the way some of the food is laid out behind glass on the counter by the register, the tables low and communal. But then that's Penny Watson-Green, a longtime Rockpool manager taking your order, and if you look past her into the kitchen you'll see Rockpool Bar & Grill's one-time culinary dream team at work, with Khan Danis pulling big slabs of Roman-style pizza from the oven, Angel Fernandez grilling quail to serve with breadcrumb salsa and Catherine Adams constructing ice-cream sandwiches from peanut-butter cookies and vanilla gelato (pictured). It's the very definition of "undersell and overdeliver". It's open Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 8pm - get your slice today. Cipro, shop 9, 21 Fountain St, Alexandria, NSW, (02) 9698 4183. PAT NOURSE

PERTH
Pad Thai Cafe
New owners and a new paint job have transformed this once ho-hum diner into a north Perth rallying point for Thai food. Granted, Siamese standards pepper the tri-fold menu, but care in the kitchen helps distance Pad Thai from the also-rans. Short, chubby links of sai krok, the fermented sausage from Isaan, are juicy and deliciously tangy. Slices of char-grilled pork share plate space with a superbly sharp and smoky tamarind dipping sauce. And what of the som tum? Choose from dried shrimp, seafood and pickled crab configurations, but know that even the medium-heat version packs enough sting to get eyes a-watering. Keen weeknight-friendly pricing is yet another compelling reason to punch Joondanna into your GPS. Pad Thai Cafe, 17B Wanneroo Rd, Joondanna, WA, (08) 9443 4333. MAX VEENHUYZEN

ADELAIDE
Assaggio Ristorante
Chef Camillo Crugnale celebrates 30 years at the stoves and seven years at the helm of his own restaurant with a menu of delectable Italian-inspired treats. The star of the show is his witty take on "eggs" as dessert - a bowl of sweet, cold Roman custard flavoured with orange and nutmeg, topped by a yolk-coloured salted caramel macaron and tiny beads of gold cocoa. It has the seductive wobble of poached eggs, but a rich, luscious texture and sweetness. Assaggio Ristorante, 92-94 King William Rd, Hyde Park, SA, (08) 8272 4748. DAVID SLY

CANBERRA
The Conservatory Restaurant
Local stalwart Janet Jeffs, of Ginger Room fame, has cranked up a Japanese robata grill in her latest venture. Offering breakfast and lunch for a handful of tables, The Conservatory is huddled discreetly in a corner of the recently opened National Arboretum building, just off the Tuggeranong Parkway near Scrivener Dam. It has sweeping views over new plantations and further afield to Lake Burley Griffin. Environmental sustainability guides the cooking, with Jeffs sourcing organic and biodynamic produce from local farms. It's hard to go past some incredibly supple grass-fed Angus beef, with béarnaise to coat its charcoaled exterior. Pork and fennel sausages or yakitori quail also benefit from the wood-fired grill. The Conservatory Restaurant, Village Centre, National Arboretum, Forest Drive, off Tuggeranong Parkway, Canberra, ACT, (02) 6130 0173. GARETH MEYER

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

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