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Ah, January. The month where the reality of the new working year really sinks in, the carefree summer tans start to fade, and the corporate workforce slides back into the daily grind. This, of course, means at least one good thing: the return of the business lunch. For those taking part in a midweek power meal or two, here's a few deals from across the country that'll help soften the back-to-work blow.
Pei Modern Sydney
The popular "eat Pei quick" offer from Mark Best's modern bistro offshoot has travelled north of the border. Just like at the Melbourne flagship, the deal offers two courses and a coffee for $39 - a steal when you're talking cecina and fried egg with horseradish and basil, peas and fermented corn, and wood-grilled wagyu rump cap with beetroot and radicchio; $49 for three courses. Available Monday-Friday, Pei Modern, The Four Seasons, 199 George St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9250 3160
There's no place to settle business like the grand, two-tiered dining room at Rockpool, and their killer $49 two-course prix fixe menu makes the experience all the more approachable. The highlights? A confit chicken thigh club sandwich to end all club sandwiches, pan-fried snapper and prawns with sauce vierge, and a superb passionfruit soufflé - all matched with wines from their standout list. Available Monday-Friday until the end of January (possibly into February). Rockpool, 11 Bridge St, Sydney, (02) 9252 1888
At the home of "eat Pei quick" you'll choose from the likes of prosciutto with rockmelon, casarecce with zucchini and goat's curd, and skate wing with fermented corn and broccoli. Want to finish on a sweeter note? Try a dessert option (mango sorbet with caramelised milk and oats, perhaps); $39 for two courses, $49 for three, plus coffee. Available Monday-Friday, Pei Modern, Collins Place, 45 Collins St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9654 8545
The sunny waterside digs at The Point have been the backdrop for many a power meal. What's even more appealing is that the restaurant offers an express lunch menu spanning pumpkin risotto, lemon gnocchi with zucchini and goat's curd and Ranger Valley chuck rib with celeriac rémoulade and hand-cut chips; two courses for $39 or three for $49, both of which include a glass of wine. Available Monday-Saturday from January to November. The Point, Aquatic Dr, Albert Park, (03) 9682 5566
For midday fun of the Italian variety, head to Café Di Stasio where the $35 two-course seasonal deal offers unbeatable lunchtime value. On any given day, the eats could span tomato carpaccio with basil, parmesan and anchovy, pork and chicken skewers with cabbage salad, and grilled peaches with amaretto and vanilla, with a glass of wine and a Lavazza coffee to boot. Bravo. Available daily. Café Di Stasio, 31 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9525 3999
On the more laid-back, but nonetheless tasty, end of the spectrum you've got Tonka's $20 thali deal. Pull up a seat at the bar and get stuck into the curry of the day, accompanied by basmati rice, yellow dhal, salad and folds of buttery naan, served on a traditional steel platter for extra fun. Available Monday to Friday. Tonka, 20 Duckboard Pl, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9650 3155
Lunch at Print Hall is a fresh affair and their $50 two-course special (or $65 for three) makes it all the more delicious. Raw scampi with jellyfish, bonito and furikake? Win. Toasted buckwheat with shiitake, chèvre and macadamia? Bring it on. Available Monday to Friday, Print Hall, Brookfield Pl, 125 St Georges Tce, Perth, WA, (08) 6282 0000
The five- to seven-course prix fixe lunch special at Esquire changes daily, based on what's fresh at the morning's seafood auctions. That could mean anything from Northern Rivers blue mackerel roasted over coals with Meyer lemon mayonnaise, to Clarence River Co-Op octopus with Barbers cheddar, calamansi lime and almond. Cost ranges from $55 to $85, depending on the produce of the day. Available Tuesday to Friday. Esquire, 145 Eagle St, Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3220 2123
One to look forward to: Aria's Spanish-accented lunch special spans whipped goat's cheese with roast peppers and capers, braised veal cheek with Pedro Ximénez, grilled chorizo and pickled cabbage, grilled swordfish with Portobello mushrooms, Sherry vinegar and jamón crumbs, and a dangerous dessert of churros with orange ice-cream and spiced syrup; $59 for two courses and $75 for three, matching wines included. Kicks off in February. Available Monday to Friday during February and March. Aria Brisbane, 1 Eagle St, Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3233 2555
Fancy top-value French eats? Bistro Dom's $55 two-course lunch special is right up your alley. The cost includes the choice of an entrée and a main, or a main and dessert (because, really, who wants to bypass apricot, fig leaf and coriander ice-cream?), plus a glass of pinot or sauvignon blanc from Innocent Bystander. C'est super. Available Tuesday to Friday. Bistro Dom, Shop 1, 24 Waymouth St, Adelaide, SA, (08) 8231 7000
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