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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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

Hoo Ha Bar, Ombretta, University Asian Restaurant, Neighbourhood Wine

Hoo Ha Bar, Brisbane

Hoo Ha Bar, Brisbane

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Hoo Ha Bar, Ombretta, University Asian Restaurant, and Neighbourhood Wine.

BRISBANE
Hoo Ha Bar
Despite the name, this spacious spot (pictured) is a less-is-more venue devoid of hoo-ha. And until 21 May it's also an alcohol-free zone. But grab a sunny table, add a slice of Le Sebastien sourdough topped with dill-laced feta and ricotta, mix in a fresh-pressed glass of lychee and pineapple juice, and all will be well. The daytime menu is big on flavour: wagyu polpette with capers and ciabatta, or perhaps tapenade, artichoke and buffalo mozzarella on sourdough with balsamic vinegar and walnuts. When evening trade starts, the focus will shift to charcuterie, cheeseboards and the like, and you'll be able to celebrate with a glass of Feral Hop Hog. Hoo Ha Bar, 41 Tribune St, South Brisbane, Qld. FIONA DONNELLY

SYDNEY
Ombretta
Taking over tiny Glebe local Italian La Tavolaccia is… tiny Glebe local Italian Ombretta. This very new, sweet little trattoria is barely a fortnight old, so the menu is still a mixed bag, and the main courses need work, but among the hits are broccoli and sausage orecchiette, fierce with red chilli, and ribbons of tagliatelle tossed with mushrooms, and a bittersweet contorno of grilled radicchio. Of special note is the welcome plate of mozzarella in carrozza, just the sort of fried bready goodness you want this close to winter. Ombretta, 355 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe, NSW, (02) 8060 7893. PAT NOURSE

PERTH
University Asian Restaurant
Never mind the coats and scarves - for us, nothing signals the imminent arrival of winter better than the re-emergence of University Asian's wondrous master-stock pork belly. Featuring thick slices of deeply flavoured braised pig tucked into squishy mantou buns, it's a glorious picture of pork-bun virtue. Heads up: a limited number of serves is available each day so pre-ordering is a must. But regardless of the pork belly situation, the restaurant's repertoire of predominantly Cantonese-style dishes make this a worthy candidate for BYO high jinks. University Asian Restaurant, 88 Broadway, Nedlands, WA, (08) 9389 1168. MAX VEENHUYZEN

MELBOURNE
Neighbourhood Wine
Located in a former illicit gambling den, Neighbourhood Wine has retained a charming, club-like feel, with the only games of chance now taking place on the full-sized billiard table in the back room. Today the action centres on the bar and open kitchen where Almay Jordaan (ex-St Jude's) pumps out great classic bistro food at very reasonable prices. Carnivores shouldn't miss the expertly cooked bavette steak served with a red wine and shallot butter, chips with a scintillating crunch and a salad that's simply, expertly dressed. It's a good idea to book ahead - word is getting out fast. 1 Reid St, North Fitzroy, Vic, (03) 9486 8306. MICHAEL HARDEN

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

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