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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

First look: Aløft, Hobart

Wood ear and shiitake mushroom dumplings

Wood ear and shiitake mushroom dumplings

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country right now: Aløft, Hobart.

It's difficult to believe when you arrive at Aløft that the food could distract from its up-close, attention-demanding water views, but it does happen. What absolutely makes you forget the boats, dolphins and other nautical moments is the kunzea custard paired with roast pork. Kunzea, an Australian native plant, imparts a seductive flavour, at once fragile and strong, savoury and sweet, and it's used brilliantly in this dish. It's a good example of the type of food you'll find on the on-trend menu divided into small, medium and large plates, best shared. Chefs Christian Ryan and Glenn Byrnes work with some of Tasmania's best small growers, including regular Gourmet Traveller contributor Paulette Whitney, who supplies the kunzea.

Many of the complex and interesting flavours they create are inspired by Asian tastes and ingredients but, in the end, the dishes are always unique. The fig-leaf cream with prawns on a turmeric-flavoured wafer almost tastes like something you may have eaten in South East Asia, but it isn't. It's much the same with coffee and condensed milk ice-cream, which channels a Malaysian kopi-tiam yet, at the same time, is a thoroughly modern dessert.

And Aløft has the most Instagram-friendly cutlery we've ever seen (black titanium designed in Copenhagen). They're a one-off - ask the staff for the story - they don't reflect light, so they're perfect in photos, and they, like local potter Ben Richardson's plates, are as beautiful as the rest of the elegant, understated room, which happily plays second fiddle to the Derwent River and Hobart's harbour.

Aløft, Brooke St Pier, Hobart, Tas, (03) 6223 1619. Open  Tues-Sat 6pm-11pm.

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