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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.

Stokehouse City, Melbourne

"It's an exceptional venue - there's nothing else like it."

Architect and designer Pascale Gomes McNabb is referring to the great bone structure of the grand double-storey building in Melbourne's CBD that once housed Mietta's and Comme, and from Thursday next week will house Stokehouse City.

But she might just as well be talking about the extraordinary and original transformation she has wrought, melding together beach-shack motifs and graffitied urban grit in a kind of glamorous punk-tinged whole that's edgy, colourful, a little bonkers and a whole lot of fun.

Gomes McNabb (whose work includes The Bentley and Monopole in Sydney, Cumulus Inc and Cutler & Co in Melbourne and the restaurant at Penfolds Magill Estate in South Australia) has history with Stokehouse, having redesigned the upstairs dining room of the landmark St Kilda venue that was destroyed by fire in January.

"I've tried to embody the spirit of the Stokehouse in St Kilda while giving it a city vibe and feel," she says. "Stokehouse to me always felt like going on holiday and escaping the everyday and I wanted to recreate that here, but in the context of the significant city building it now occupies."

Certainly the layout of the beachside Stokehouse has been emulated with a casual café-bar downstairs and a restaurant upstairs.

The menus follow suit, with chef Oliver Gould heading the upstairs kitchen and Nick Mahlook back in the café space, and their cartes are liberally dotted with familiar Stokehouse favourites.

But while the sand-like, geometric "tidelines" painted across the parquetry floors in each space (including the intimate late-opening nightclub in the former Comme restaurant space), along with the beach hut-style light fittings and the rough rope netting around the ornate chandeliers upstairs speak of the restaurant's seaside associations, there's enough leather and graffiti-like painting, gorgeous bespoke mirror-work and hot-pink banquette seating to show Stokehouse is perfectly at ease in the city.

Gomes McNabb is quite right - there's really nothing else like it.

Stokehouse City, 7 Alfred Pl, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9525 5555, stokehouse.com.au

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


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