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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.

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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

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.

Philippe Mouchel is back

Philippe's pâté en croûte

Philippe's pâté en croûte

A French bistro with a modern spin opens this week on Melbourne's Collins Street.

Lovers of fine rôtisserie chicken, rejoice: Philippe Mouchel is back. The revered French chef who arrived in Melbourne 25 years ago for Restaurant Paul Bocuse and liked the city so much he stayed has finally thrown open the doors on his new city digs - and, yes, the chicken rôtissoire is along for the ride.

Mouchel has had a peripatetic career since the closure of his Crown casino restaurant, The Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel, in 2010. There was the maddeningly short-lived PM24, under the umbrella of the Made Establishment, followed by his deliberately short-lived St Kilda Road pop-up, Déjà Vue. Now he returns with a permanent address, at the Paris end, appropriately enough, of Collins Street.

Philippe, as it's called - perhaps an indication he's reached one-name-only status - takes over a basement space with history of its own. First it was Greg Malouf's Momo, then Jamie Oliver's Fifteen, followed by Tobie Puttock's The Kitchen Cat and most recently Brooks, which went into voluntary liquidation in September last year.

The good bones of Brooks didn't call for too dramatic a makeover from architects Crosier Scott, who've gone a route best described as French industrial chic. "The feel of the place is bistro with modern ambience," says Mouchel. "It was a little dark for me so we've done a lot of work on the lighting, and we put in a vertical garden in the bar area for a little bit of freshness to the room." The addition of a handsome zinc bar mounts a case that this is the city's premier place to slurp freshly shucked oysters au naturel or anointed with seawater jelly and watercress cream.

"A good French bistro" is what Mouchel calls it, backed by a menu in violent agreement. The cooking remains indebted to the alchemy of elegant sauces that don't encumber his personal brand of simple but elegant dishes. "The food has a lot of modern touches, like the cured salmon with walnut mayonnaise, and there are a lot of things I had to do, like the roast lamb on the rôtissoire for two."

Expect familiar names: chestnut velouté (with king brown mushroom crisps), escargots in parsley and garlic butter, and braised beef cheek (with carrots, cumin and bacon emulsion). The haute rôtisserie chicken is the same that wowed the city at PM24: buttery, herby, lemony, served with potatoes cooked in the bird's juices.

Mouchel has something of a dream team. His head chef is Aurelien Gransagne from two-Michelin-starred L'Espérance, and Tim Sawyer, of the Yarra Valley's Bella Vedere, is in charge of the floor. Add linen tablecloths and a cheese trolley doing the rounds of the dining room and the world is put back on its axis.

Philippe, 115 Collins St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 8394 6625, philipperestaurant.com.au

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