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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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

Boon Café at Jarern Chai Grocer

A mighty tasty mash-up of Sydney's obsession with café culture and authentic Thai eats.

Asian sandwiches - an oxymoron? Far from it. But there's a new sheriff in town, and it's an Australian exclusive.

Pioneering Sydney group Chat Thai has expanded into the grocery market, taking over a large tenancy around the corner from its Haymarket HQ. The unique selling point at its in-house eatery, Boon Café, is Thai sandwiches.

Picture fried crab and prawn cake with smoked chilli relish on a milk bun, or the seriously spicy likes of soft-boiled eggs, northern-style smoked eggplant nahm prik relish or northern-style pork larb with grilled chicken liver between slices of Brickfields bread, teamed with Single Origin coffee, fresh herbal teas and pastries from Penny Fours.

"Basically, you've got all the classics from a nam-prik meal rolled into one tasty handful," says Chat Thai director Palisa Anderson. A passion project for Chat founder Amy Chanta, Jarern Chai also stocks Thai homewares, drygoods, an impressive range of fruit and veg, and soon, for time-poor Thai cooks, fresh coconut milk and coconut cream extracted in-house.

All the sandwiches are available as rice bowls at lunch, alongside equally unorthodox offers such as a Thai take on spaghettini with crab and tomato amped up with smoked chilli. At breakfast (served till 11), the options run from pasture-raised bacon to house-made chicken liver pâté with your eggs, and from jam or peanut butter to red-tea custard with your toast. Dinner is served till midnight, taking in Isaan-style grills, sour-spicy chicken-foot broth, a nam tok made with skirt steak and a salad of ant eggs, shallots and roasted rice.

"We're trying to find a middle ground that complements the lifestyle we like - eating well, eating organic, eating fresh - with stuff that the Thai populace in the area expects," says Anderson.

Boon Café at Jarern Chai Grocer, 1/425 Pitt St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9281 2114.


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