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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.

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.

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.

Hot Plates: The Loj, Sydney

The Loj's broccoli sandwich

The Loj's broccoli sandwich

This Forest Lodge cafe might be at the forefront of a new breakfast trend: the broccoli sandwich.

Congee was looking promising, but in the Game of Thrones-esque battle for breakfast supremacy, maybe it isn't destined to be the true heir to the mighty avocado toast. But what of the broccoli sandwich? Sure, it sounds unlikely, but if George RR Martin has taught us anything about breakfast foods, it's to not underestimate the outsiders.

The case being made at Sydney breakfast go-to Brickfields is strong - the broccoli is roasted and packed between thick slices of untoasted sourdough with coarsely grated parmo, chilli, mayo and curls of endive. Winner. 

But the entry from Forest Lodge newcomer, The Loj, is also worth paying attention to. It sits in the sandwiches section of the all-day menu, between the Reuben Hood (silverside, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, mustard and red-eye mayo) and the Waldorf chicken (with apple, celery, pickled grapes and caramelised walnut mayo). It's toasted, with avocado and kale in the mix along with the broccoli, cheddar and mustard. The key to its magnificence, though, is the pickled jalapeños. Peppers and breakfast go together like Targaryens and destiny.

The coffee is good, and there are plans to switch to single-origin beans they roast themselves. And though aspects of The Loj feel a bit paint-by-numbers (the warm light of the Edison bulbs glinting off the subway tiles), sweet touches such as maple bacon in the apple muffins, interesting house-made fizzy-drinks, black pudding offered as a side, and the general friendliness of the place make it worth a detour.

We'll be monitoring the broccoli sandwich situation closely in the meantime.  To paraphrase Cersei Lannister, when you play the game of breakfast foods, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.    

The Loj, 35E Ross St, Forest Lodge, NSW, 0432 982 893; open 7am-3.30pm Mon, Wed-Fri, 7.30am-3.30pm Sat and Sun

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