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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.

Mary's, Mexi-Mart, Cabiria, Chianti Classico

Mary's, Sydney

Mary's, Sydney

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Mary's, Mexi-Mart, Cabiria, and Chianti Classico.

SYDNEY
Mary's
Mary's, the very new venture from Jake "the Pirate" Smyth, of Bodega, and Gardel's barman Kenny Robertson, looks like a bar, smells like a bar, and most definitely sounds like a bar. The drinks are excellent, covering the spectrum from Reschs and Young Henry's on tap to picpoul, gamay and Washington state riesling by the glass, not to mention surprisingly drinkable Malibu Daiquiris (no, really; they're from Robertson's Edinburgh alma mater). But we're here to talk food, and in that department Mary's has a secret weapon: Luke Powell. Asking a former head chef of Tetsuya's to oversee a bar menu that runs to three burgers, fried chicken, chips, mash and gravy might seem a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, but in this case the results speak for themselves. The burger (pictured) is the best and juiciest in its class (and there's been no shortage of chefs testifying to that fact), while the chicken, cooked in a frighteningly rugged pressure-fryer, is radically juicy under its crunchy, celery-salty crust. Make mine Mary's. Mary's, 6 Mary St, Newtown, NSW. PAT NOURSE

MELBOURNE
Mexi-Mart
Mexi-Mart, the latest addition to the Acland St Cantina, is a shop specialising in Mexican groceries, a few seasonal ingredients (wild mushrooms at present) and sweet stuff such as dulce de leche scrolls and house-made ice-cream. Pick of the bunch, however, is the seasonal recipe kit, which includes all the ingredients you need to prepare a dish to feed four. This season it's Ancient Grains Risotto. The Paul Wilson-designed kit includes a bag of farro, house-made wild mushroom ragù and chicken stock, a block of parmesan and a bag of sage leaves. You have to soak and boil the grain, chop the sage, grate the cheese and add the stock and mushrooms at the right time, but otherwise it's pretty straightforward. And the result? Sensational flavour, great texture and much admiration from the dinner-party guests. Mexi-Mart, 2 Acland St, St Kilda, Vic, (03) 9536 1175. MICHAEL HARDEN

BRISBANE
Cabiria
This low-lit wine bar is studded with tempting bottles. Wherever you look there's another reason to call for the carte and raise a glass. It's dangerous territory, as Cabiria's cool craft beer and cocktail lists are just as enticing. Luckily, as befits a spot named after Fellini's '50s classic Nights of Cabiria, there's food for sale, too, courtesy of recently arrived executive chef Jonathan Bryant. Try a trio of crisp crumbed croquettes crammed with creamy potato and spicy 'nduja and feel the glow. Follow up with a pared-back carpaccio plate, a raft of just-seared tender veal slices drizzled with a tuna and caper mayo and the broad wooden bar you're hugging could start to feel like home. And now, Tuesday and Sunday nights are dedicated to a "raid the cellar" deal that neatly slices the price of any bottle listed at more than $150 by half. Salute! Cabiria, 6 The Barracks, 61 Petrie Tce, Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3368 2666. FIONA DONNELLY

ADELAIDE
Chianti Classico
To celebrate the launch of the 2008 Hill of Grace shiraz, Henschke winery is offering a 125ml glass with specially created main course plates at select restaurants in Australian capital cities during May for $125 a serve. In Adelaide, the Barossa winery has teamed with Chianti Classico, and it's a great match. In keeping with the restaurant's Italian heritage, chef Tobias Gush presents cotoletta alla Valdostana Henschke - a roasted veal cutlet crusted with breadcrumbs, sage, anchovy and Fontina, bravely matched with a sharp radicchio and sliced fennel salad. The sharp salad notes effectively draws the best out of this outstanding vintage, playfully highlighting the intensity of the fruit and tannin profile. Chianti Classico, 160 Hutt St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8232 7955. DAVID SLY

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

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