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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. 

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

2017 Australian Hotel Awards: The Finalists

This year's finalists across 11 different categories include established and new hotels, all with particular areas of excellence. Stay tuned to find out which hotels will take the top spots when they're announced at a ceremony at QT Melbourne on Wednesday 24 May, and published in our 2017 Australian Hotel Guide, on sale Thursday 25 May.

George Livissianis, restaurant designer

Restaurant designer of the moment George Livissianis creates drama with subtle style, writes Maya Kerthyasa.

Is George Livissianis the hottest name in Australian restaurant design right now? Judging by his work on some of Sydney's favourite dining rooms, the answer is a definite yes.

He's the interior architect responsible for the dramatic good looks of The Apollo and the cliché-free approach to modern Japanese lines at Cho Cho San in Potts Point, the sow's-ear-to-silk-purse work at Darlinghurst pop-up Café Paci, the recent revamp of Surry Hills' Longrain, and soon the design of the new Potts Point incarnation of Billy Kwong, and a half (Pascale Gomes-McNabb is designing the other) of the resurrected Stokehouse St Kilda, slated to open mid-2015. His work might be diverse (a Jac+Jack store and an outpost of Luxe Café at Miranda Westfield number among his other recent jobs) but the style is unmistakably contemporary. "Minimal but considered" is how he likes to describe himself if pressed. "But I wouldn't want to be designated a look because it always changes."

If you were to try to pin down the Livissianis style, you might start with muted palettes. Take the washed-out white-painted brick, birch ply and pale concrete tones at Cho Cho San, for example, or the dusty hues at The Apollo, inspired by the crags and cliffs of the Greek islands. Decorative detail is kept to a minimum, but where it appears there's always a wry touch.

And although it may not always be noticeable at first glance, it's always there for a reason.

"It could come down to the way that you detail something that might be a little bit atypical," he says, "or it might be an unexpected highlight somewhere like that very fine neon-pink paint line on top of the column at The Apollo, and in the stitched detail of the sofa." At Cho Cho San he uses the ceiling - an illuminated LED light-box stretching the length of the room - to suggest the notion of a shoji screen. "I like that subtleness about it," he says. "That it's there if you notice it."

Livissianis studied interior architecture at UNSW, moved to London to work for Virgile & Stone and then back to Australia, where he spent six years at Burley Katon Halliday before going solo. It's a blue-chip background, but he's not afraid to mix it up. With Café Paci, for instance, he created drama without the sort of budget you'd associate with a BKH project, painting the entire room and everything in it the same shade of Taubmans Iron Age grey. At the entrance he created interest with a cluster of white paper lanterns, and divided the dining room and the bathrooms and kitchen with a simple grey curtain. A smart response to a contemporary site and a small budget. "I'm open to anything that's right for the space."

Restaurant design has its challenges. Lighting and acoustics, for example, aren't Livissianis's favourite part of the job, but he recognises that all the pieces have to be considered together. "Restaurants need to appeal to everybody and that's very tricky," he says.

Looking beyond his own contributions, he says he'd love to see more original ideas in Australian restaurants - something more of a homegrown feel. "There are some things that you look at and think, I've seen this somewhere overseas," he says. "It would be great to see more things that have an aesthetic that's more Sydney or Australia."

And what of the way his ideas are perceived by the people who throng to the rooms he designs? "I'd like to think my natural style is quite understated and honest in the materials it uses," he says. "And hopefully that's what people see in the spaces."

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