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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.

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.

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.

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.

Chaco Bar, Polepole, The Lane Vineyard

Chaco Bar, Sydney

Chaco Bar, Sydney

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including Chaco Bar, Polepole, and The Lane Vineyard.

SYDNEY
Chaco Bar
And just like that, Sydney suddenly has a credible yakitori bar. But Chaco is more than that. In addition to a roster of all the chicken-skewer essentials, including crunchy gristle, pink-centred liver, juicy hearts and gizzards, stunning kokoro nokori (aka aorta), golden skin and deftly cooked thigh meat, they push the boat out a bit. Sticks of lamb shoulder are reminiscent of China's cumin kebabs, and the dishes of salt and shichimi togarashi on the table are complemented by another filled with chimichurri. And there's plenty to like beyond the stuff from the bincho-tan grill, whether it's an intriguing spicy salad of sliced pig's ears and seared tuna belly, dressed with chilli oil and Sichuan pepper, or simply today's rice special, enriched with porcini. Better still, there's no green-tea ice-cream or mochi to be seen - the signature dessert is a scoop of vanilla ice-cream set on a granita of banana-infused brandy. Great little room, friendly, knowledgeable staff - could it get any better? Well, cheapskates, for the moment Chaco's licence hasn't come through, so if you get in quick you can enjoy all this with a bottle of something brilliant from Best Cellars down the road. I can't get enough of the place. Chaco Bar, 238 Crown St, Darlinghurst, NSW, (02) 9007 8352. PAT NOURSE

MELBOURNE
Polepole
The space formerly known as Tony Starr's Kitten Club has been given a thorough going over, emerging as an East African-inspired bar and kitchen called Polepole - Swahili for "take it easy" or "go slow" - serving African beer and cider (from Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa) and theme-appropriate cocktails (the tequila-based Dr Livingstone) alongside a list of East African bar snacks designed by consulting chef Andy Mac (Axil Coffee Roasters). The snacks include some rather good corn and chickpea "cakes" (more like fritters) topped with kasundi, lamb ribs slathered with harissa and served with tahini yoghurt, some curious but satisfying squid-ink crackers topped with cold curried sea bream and salty, deep-fried goodness in the form of pork, almond and cinnamon cigars. It's an interesting mix made even more palatable by the owners, husband and wife team Dean and Jeanelle Mariani, who have travelled extensively in East Africa and are supporting a couple of African aid organisations (YGAP and Women for Women in Africa) through the sale of African beers and ciders. Surely the perfect excuse to order another round. Polepole, level 1, 267 Little Collins St, Melbourne, (03) 9650 2811. MICHAEL HARDEN

ADELAIDE
The Lane Vineyard
The picturesque cellar door setting at The Lane Vineyard in Hahndorf turns itself over to comfortable dining with the opening of a new wine tasting room that has been separated from the dining space overlooking the vineyard and surrounding valleys. Chef James Brinklow is celebrating by adding a decent blast of spice to his late-winter menu - most impressively in a carefully balanced Sichuan-style black pepper and basil saucing of blue swimmer crab ravioli, and a measured pinch of chilli adding bite to tuna tartare with yuzu custard and peanuts. The Lane Vineyard, 5 Ravenswood La, Hahndorf, SA, (08) 8388 1250. 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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