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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.

Uncle Downtown, Melbourne

A coal pit is pretty much de rigueur for any self-respecting restaurant aiming for street cred in these smoke-obsessed times. Pair your coal pit with currently trending Vietnamese food, as Uncle is doing in St Kilda, and you're painting yourself in all kinds of cool.

Now known as Uncle Downtown, the ground-level bar in the Carlisle Street venue has a new fit-out by design firm Foolscap Studio that sees a flock of colourful woven plastic food covers crowding the ceiling and a tight focus on the new 1.2-metre coal pit.

The pit-driven bar menu is all about tapping into the memories of chef Dai Duong and Uncle co-owner Rene Spence. "One of my strong food memories is of the meat charred over coals in Hoi An in central Vietnam," Spence says. "Dai remembers all this food as a kid, too. Barbecue is so simple, so powerful… memories on a stick. We wanted to capture those memories, but the key is not to overcomplicate things."

Dai's memories of Vietnamese home cooking will see marinades to the fore in the likes of pork steeped in condensed milk and lemongrass, and chicken coated in a ginger, soy and pâté combination before being given the pit treatment.

Cocktails like the Smokin' Ho, a mix of pit-seared pineapple and chilli, lime juice, Vietnamese mint and tequila, will be on hand alongside an all-can beer list.

The opening of Uncle Downtown next Friday coincides with Uncle's first birthday and will no doubt see queues forming along Carlisle Street. Luckily, Uncle Downtown features a new takeaway window that will serve skewers and banh mi so there's no need to go hungry, even if you can't get in.

Uncle Downtown, Thurs-Sat from 5pm, 188 Carlisle St, St Kilda, Vic , (03) 9041 2668

Looking for more Melbourne dining options? Check out our list of the best restaurants in Melbourne.


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