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We're championing fresh food that packs a flavour punch, from salads and vegetable-packed bowls to grains and light desserts.

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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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Pea and ham soup

Magic Mountain Saloon, The Bounty, Long Summer Table, 2KW

The Bounty, Brisbane

The Bounty, Brisbane

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including Magic Mountain Saloon, The Bounty, Long Summer Table, and 2KW.

MELBOURNE
Magic Mountain Saloon
The opening of all-day through late-night Magic Mountain Saloon is cause for celebration for night owls keen on a quality feed. The latest addition to a renowned stable of small-hours-loving joints (Cookie, The Toff in Town, Revolver Upstairs, Boney), it embraces the family ties by putting robust Thai flavours front and centre, but shakes the formula up by adding an American barbecue element. The menu's section of wings and ribs, for instance, emphasises soy and coriander or salt and pepper seasoning and offers sweet and green chilli sauces as accompaniments, while classic pork scratchings are teamed with beer-battered mussels and sticky pork, and a grilled half-chicken is flavoured with turmeric and lemongrass. Elsewhere, there are more straightforward Thai and European dishes (red duck, lychee and pineapple curry, steak tartare) and a hefty drinks list with several pages of powerful cocktails, refreshing Spritzes, tap beer (more than 15 on any given day) and a sharp, decently priced wine list of New and Old World labels. Magic Mountain Saloon's kitchen closes around midnight but the drinks and music (via DJ seven nights a week) keep coming until three, adding another spark of late-night life to Melbourne's CBD. Magic Mountain Saloon, 62 Little Collins St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9078 0078. MICHAEL HARDEN

BRISBANE
The Bounty
What's the next logical step following a stint as co-owner of Esquire, Brisbane's ambitious dégustation destination? If you're Cameron Murchison, it's to surf the casual-dining wave and open a smart neighbourhood bar-restaurant in the inner-city suburb of Rosalie. The Bounty set sail before Christmas and its curved zinc-topped bar has been thronged with well-heeled locals ever since, many taking advantage of a snappy $16 Moët by-the-glass option. Chef Emlyn Thorrington (late of the CBD's Spring) is keeping it simple. His Manchego fritters with a cumin- and chilli-laced mayo, or a deconstructed wagyu burger, gussied up with a fried quail egg and crisp slivers of jamón, are an ocean away from Esquire's cerebral fare but ideal with a craft beer or two. It's a short menu in tune with a cleverly put-together drinks list. The likes of crisp-skinned barramundi, perhaps, with a classic clam and chorizo sauce and crushed baby potatoes, or share-style pot-roast lamb with green beans are all pitched to ensure The Bounty's well-upholstered banquette remains sought-after property with nearby residents. The Bounty, 6/165 Baroona Rd, Rosalie, Qld, (07) 3368 1201. FIONA DONNELLY

BALINGUP
Long Summer Table
Check the air in your tyres, the oil in the engine and the playlist on the iPhone: the South-Western Highway and next weekend's annual Long Summer Table beckon. While rural Western Australia offers plenty of fine eats and drinks, few celebrate the vital union between farmer and chef quite like this event. As with previous editions of the dinner, collaboration is the name of the game and this year's line-up is full of intriguing partnerships. There's an entrée of heirloom tomatoes with watermelon and feta, a joint effort between David Coomer and gun vegetable growers the Nieuwenhuyzes of Newy's Vegie Patch. The cheesemakers at Cambray, meanwhile, have produced a one-off brocciu - a French sheep's milk ricotta - specifically for Millbrook's Guy Jeffreys, and the canapés are a co-production between El Público Mexican firebrand Sam Ward and native-flavour advocate Paul Iskov of Fervor Food. Tickets to the eight-course dinner are $160 and include matched drinks and good vibes aplenty. See you at the Balingup town hall on February 7 (and at The Olde Shed Café the morning after). Balingup Town Hall, Jayes Rd, Balingup, WA; bookings via the Long Summer Table website. MAX VEENHUYZEN

ADELAIDE
2KW
The rooftop view from the ocean to the Adelaide Hills provides an instant wow-factor at 2KW, but the big bar-restaurant complex also has a fit-out worthy of its commanding position atop a central CBD tower. Outside, a large timber deck and bar are flanked by plump banquettes, and a row of private cabanas. Inside, diners sit at blond timber tables or on an elevated central bench, while executive chef Nick Finn delivers fresh contemporary flavours in dishes designed to share. Try a zesty falafel salad and baba ghanoush with labne and cranberry, or roasted spatchcock on a fennel, radicchio, citrus and feta salad, or even a 40-day dry-aged Hereford rib-eye. The bar has a strong, eclectic list of craft beers, cocktails and wines, including five from SA producers poured direct from the barrel. 2KW, 2 King William St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8212 5511. DAVID SLY

Got a hot tip for our Hot Plates team? Let us know on Facebook or tag your Instagram photos with #GThotplates.


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