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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.

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.

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.

Dainty Sichuan branches out in Melbourne

Dainty Sichuan has come a long way since it first opened in 2003 as a tiny eight-table affair on then-unfashionable Smith Street in Collingwood. Back then, chef Tina Li would lug her trolley to and from the Queen Victoria Markets on the tram; she and husband, Ye Shao, had no cash reserves and an uphill battle converting the palates of Melbourne to the challenging fire and gutsy flavours of real Sichuan food.

Fast-forward 12 years and not only is the pair about to open their latest Dainty Sichuan restaurant - on Lonsdale Street in the CBD - they're also planning a Chadstone version of their Dainty Sichuan Noodle Express, which débuted to accolades at the launch of the upmarket Emporium food court. And then there's Tina's Noodle Kitchen, the student-friendly shops focusing on the rice-noodle soups so popular in China's south-west. Currently in the city and Box Hill, another two are being fitted out at Highpoint Shopping Centre and High Street, Preston.

"Yes, it's very busy for us," says Shao, a former Chinese traditional medical practitioner turned full-time restaurateur.

Set to open at the end of July, the new Dainty Sichuan is a 250-seat affair in the former home of Dragon Boat Palace. Shao says it will take the format of their popular Box Hill restaurant, with individual hot pots instead of the central cauldron, which is now seen as old-fashioned by China's young urban élite.

The rags-to-riches Dainty story hasn't been without its bumps in the road. Li and Shao closed their smartly fitted-out city Dainty Sichuan at the revamped 206 Bourke Street centre last year due to "high rent and other difficulties on the site". Initially a joint venture with the group behind the HuTong restaurants, it has now been reinvented as Lost Heaven, also a Sichuanese restaurant.

Dainty Sichuan opens at 149 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, at the end of July.


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