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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.

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.

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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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.

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.

Pea and ham soup

What’s happening in South Yarra?

Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson

The Melbourne suburb lost some of its lustre in recent years, but is now bouncing back.

Paul Wilson is about to open here, the Sarti crew is moving in by Easter and Scott Pickett is going for his first bite of postcode 3141 later this year. Even more significantly, some up-and-coming young guns are also planting their flags in the 'hood.

Melbourne's South Yarra hasn't been this popular since the 1980s when Kylie Minogue and her squeeze Jason Donovan had a favourite table at Caffé e Cucina.

The tail end of 2016 saw a number of openings, including Nick Stanton's mod-Euro Ramblr, at what has commonly been held to be the wrong end of Chapel Street, Charlie Carrington's menu-shifting Atlas Dining on unloved Commercial Road, Gilson, from the café brains who opened Touchwood, Mammoth and Barry, on Domain Road, and Shadowboxer Bar & Kitchen, whose pedigree includes Naked for Satan and Borsch, Vodka & Tears, on Toorak Road.

Gilson.

The winds of change are blowing south of the river. For too long a culinary punchline, South Yarra is going through a renaissance. Listen hard enough and you might hear the locals mutter hopefully about the golden era of the late 1990s and early 2000s when the triple act of Chris Lucas, Erez Gordon and Paul Wilson at the Botanical made Domain Road the place to be.

Tim Martin reckons he has the lowdown on the suburb. The 30-year-old, who was gonged as one to watch after his stint as head chef at The European, is opening Harvest, his first solo venture, on Claremont Street at the end of March.

Harvest, which consists of a 40-seat, all-day restaurant and two private dining spaces called Privi, occupies the ground floor of a new apartment tower. Martin lives in the area and predicts that an influx of up to 20,000 new residents in the next couple of years will have a big impact on the dining demographic. Harvest is therefore aimed at the younger set, while Privi will offer a tailored set menu and an august wine cellar for more traditional South Yarra residents.

Atlas Dining's octopus with sweet potato and pink pomelo.

"It was [all about] Windsor, now it's picking up down this end [of Chapel Street]," says Martin. "With all the property development popping up in the area there are a lot of 25- to 35-year-olds moving in, and they're changing the area ­- but there's still a lot of the old guard here as well."

For Paul Wilson, whose Mr Wilson's Tuckshop is opening at the Prahran market (yes, it's in South Yarra) in March, followed by a restaurant called Wilson & Market in May, the story of South Yarra is less about demographics, more about a certain blandness that killed the suburb's culinary scene. 

"The whole bayside scene dropped off five years ago when the Melbourne Pub Group started to struggle," he says. "Everyone left, and what remained went back to basics. It was all very homogenised pub food and the trade went to cafés, sparking the whole café boom."

Ramblr's calamari noodles with smoked bone marrow and kimchi.

But Wilson only sees sunshine ahead. "Everyone's sick of fried chicken and burritos," he says. "There's a lot of good real estate available now, and good operators can jump in and get a great deal. The whole landscape is changing." 

Wilson points out that Starwood Hotels and Resorts is opening its younger-pitched Aloft Hotel on Chapel Street in 2019. "People are coming to Melbourne not just to shop but to eat," he says. "Where we are on Commercial Road is a bit of a sleeping giant."

Since Joe Mammone took hold of the keys to what is due to become Toorak Road's Bar Carolina by Easter, the proprietor of Sarti and Il Bacaro has been beseeched by locals to go a few notches up from the original casual Italian brief. "They drop by and go 'please can you do something that's a bit special,'" he says. "They don't want anything too casual."

Shadowboxer Bar & Kitchen's Southside.

Mammone has listened to the audience. Bar Carolina is going to be the home of meats from the Josper oven and house-made pasta, backed by hard-to-source Italian ingredients, while designer Chris Connell is going to work his magic with brass mirrors, terrazzo, chevron floors and blackened steel.

"We've been in this industry for 25 years and we decided, 'let's just go for it.' We want to bring a bit of sophistication to South Yarra," he says. "There's been a really good energy about the place over the last six months. I think Bar Carolina and South Yarra are really going to complement each other."

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