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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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

Ben Greeno at The Paddington: a preview

Ben Greeno

Ben Greeno

Pub dining in Paddington hasn't historically been what you might call a slouch. The well-heeled Sydney suburb, along with neighbouring Woollahra, has been home to some of the best-regarded pub eats in the country going back decades. But the meeting at The Paddington of an agile mind, in the form of former Momofuku Seiobo head chef Ben Greeno, and serious hospitality muscle, in the form of Justin Hemmes and his Merivale Group, seems set to raise the stakes. British-born Greeno, a graduate of the kitchens at Sat Bains in the UK and Noma in Copenhagen, led Momofuku Seiobo to win three stars and take out Restaurant of the Year at the Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Awards in 2013, so expectations about his next chapter are not low, despite the very different character of the venue. The 240-seat pub that's his new home is set to open its doors on 24 November, and Greeno is keen to talk us through it.

He has written a menu that walks the line between comfort and adventure with unusual elegance. It's a document that ought to cater to the leafy East's lovers of clean eating (they'll be having the spelt, roast cabbage, kombu and prawns, followed by the whole fish stuffed with olives, lemon and thyme, then the elderflower jelly with raspberry sorbet) just as readily as it pleases the flavour-raiders and drinkers in search of classy ballast (smoked trout and duck egg on an English muffin, perhaps, or the crab on toast).

Or - and this is the really good bit - just what could well be the best chicken and chips in town. Greeno has brought in three Rotisol rôtisseries from France, and is set up to do birds (brined free-range Bannockburn number 11s) by the score. "It's a nice-sized chicken to eat. You want to eat it and you want to finish it."

The brief changed as it went along, Greeno says. Initially it was very pub-focused, if not quite actually ploughman's lunch territory ("though we did have devilled eggs at one stage"). Now it's more "do what you like, and just make it nice and have some fun".

Press him for his picks of the menu, and Greeno says the chicken is a must, naturally. "And the parmesan custard [with sprouted pulses, peas and Basque pepper] is a really nice one. And the spelt with the roasted kombu [and roast cabbage and prawns]." And for dessert? "The elderflower jelly is quite surprising, I think. When do you get a bowl of jelly in Sydney?" he says. "And it's gotta have just the right wobble, if you read the St John cookbook, so we've been working on the wobble."

It's the sort of set-up where a person could eat more than once in the same month. "Hopefully more than once a week," says Greeno. "It's not formal in any way. It's very much like somewhere you can go, have some drinks, have some food and have a good time." It's arranged so that it works as well just for drinks as it does dinner. "You can grab the menu, order some artichokes, some chicken croquettes, sit here and have two pints and leave happy. There's a good mix."

And why a chicken shop on the side? "Justin gave us four metres and said, 'what do you want to do with this?' and it just made sense to do a chicken shop. We'd already committed to the idea of doing rôtisserie chicken. That was part of it from right at the beginning - everybody's dream final meal is a roast chicken, isn't it?" Half or a whole chicken, fries and a classic green salad - no fuss, no muss. "And lots of sh-- cooking in chicken fat."

This being a pub, there's also booze and plenty of it. Beer-wise, it's very tame by 2015 standards, with the likes of Heineken, Stella and Hahn Super Dry on tap alongside Coopers Pale, James Squire the Swindler Summer Ale and Little Creatures. You'll pay $7.80 for a draft New and $9 for Coronas.

The wine side of things, though, very clearly bears the imprimatur of Merivale Master Sommelier Franck Moreau. "Franck has done a really good list," says Greeno. "When I saw it, I said to myself, this is a really f--king good list. He's all right, Franck."

Rosé by the glass, a Domaine Viret southern Rhône, will be poured from magnums, and there's more than a sprinkling of the cool and unusual among the quaffers and crowd-pleasers of the larger list. You want Dard & Ribo Crozes-Hermitage, Frederick Stevenson grenache and Austrian sauv blanc, you got it.

"We had a meeting just two weeks after I'd started and he asked what the food was going to be like. I said light and flavourful, with plenty of roasted flavours. He said, 'right, okay', and came back with a list that just nailed it. Really, really good. Adrian [Filiuta], who's at Felix now, will be looking after it."

Greeno says there's potential, too, for the menu to grow and evolve rapidly. "There were those stories about how Momofuku Ssäm Bar [in Manhattan], back when they first started, would turn into this incredible restaurant after hours where they were doing sweetbreads and brain and tongue and big steaks, so I'm thinking, why can't we do something like that? We're licensed late, so at one o'clock in the morning, instead of going to Golden Century, come here now and eat an amazing big steak or whatever we feel like cooking."

For a chef known for the sort of glass-half-empty outlook that made his dourest fellow northerners seem like Pollyannas by comparison, Greeno seems genuinely fired up by this new chapter in his Australian cooking career.

"My job has moved from being the head chef in a 40-seat restaurant to being executive chef for three restaurants and a bar. I needed a new challenge, and I'm really excited about it. A bit nervous, but if you weren't nervous you'd be a f--king idiot. But mostly excited. It's going to be a nice and relaxed and fun restaurant. Come down and have a good time."

The Paddington menu
Baguette, whipped butter, nasturtium
Grilled cucumber, black pepper
Roast chicken croquette
Kingfish, redcurrant, witlof
Goat curd, herb oil, sourdough
Sprouted pulses, peas, parmesan custard, Basque pepper
Octopus, potato, confit tomato, black olives
Chicken offal, manoush, eggplant
Crab on toast, herb salad
Leeks, brown butter, clams, watercress
Grilled bottle squid, XO
Spelt, roast cabbage, kombu, prawns
Smoked trout, English muffin, duck egg

Rôtisserie
Roast chicken (half or whole), French fries
Lamb rump, red pepper, almonds
Beef rump, artichokes, pickled mustard seeds, watercress
Whose fish stuffed with olives, lemon and thyme
Celeriac, pickled walnut, chicken juices

Sides
Cos, radish, buttermilk, poppy seeds
Shoestring fries
Rôtisserie carrots, pumpkin seeds,
Roasted Otway Gold potato
Jerusalem artichoke, Greek yoghurt

Dessert
Elderflower jelly, raspberry sorbet
Salted-caramel chocolate mousse
Pistachio cake, cherries
Cheese, oatcakes

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