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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.

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.

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.

A festival of cheese hits Sydney

Kick off winter with a week of cheese tasting.

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. 

Chorizo recipes

Where would Spanish cuisine be without the chorizo? This versatile smallgood lends its big flavours to South American stews, soups, and salads, not to mention the ultimate hot dog. Let the sizzling begin.

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.

Hunter Valley NSW travel guide

Our guide to the best of the region.

Popolo, Sydney restaurant review

Sydney’s hottest new diner, Popolo, in Rushcutters Bay, is Italian food by and for the people – and the people are loving it, writes Pat Nourse.

Flavio Carnevale and Fabio Dore can't help it. They want nothing more than to sit you down, pour you a drink, feed you up and let you in on a little glimpse of their vision of how things should be done. It's an image drawn in large part from Basilicata and Sardinia, the respective regions of Italy they sprang from, but some of the postcards stuck around the edges of the frame are postmarked Sicily, Campania and Puglia. It's a picture of a world where hospitality is second nature, and good things to eat and drink provide the glow around which friends and family gladly commune. It's la dolce vita, in short, and then some.

The pair met working at Fratelli Paradiso, but it was a bottle of wine, Parallelo 41, that got them talking seriously about opening a restaurant of their own, and they've picked the 41st parallel north as the notional cut-off for their theme. It's a line which connects the dots of their places of birth, and keeping the emphasis of the restaurant on the food and drink of Italy south of that line gives it crisp focus.

You can forget the red-sauce clichés now. Sure, there's a bit of tomato on the menu, and an excellent pizza section, but the idea that there's not much more than that to southern Italian cooking is quickly blown to smithereens by a succession of dishes distinguished as much by their unfamiliarity as by how well they're cooked.

Frittelle di alghe should, by rights, become one of Campania's most famous culinary exports. In the Popolo rendering, taken from the drinks menu, they're fat little dumplings made by frying a dough that's shot through with seaweed, and, along with a few hand-cut slices from the leg of aged ham on the bar, they're God's gift to white wine, as copasetic with a startlingly dry sparkling from the slopes of Mount Etna as they are with a glass of salty, minerally something from Sardinia. There's a primal quality to the sausages and cime di rapa, meanwhile, something almost magical about the meaty snags, the slightly spicy greens and the smoke of a little scamorza cheese meeting in a heavy iron saucepan. It's sausage, too, that enriches gnocchetti Sardi, little pasta curls mingled with tomato, the surprise whisper of saffron, rocket and a sheaf of pecorino shavings. So far, so squisito.

Beyond saying it's great stuff and not exactly like anything else in Sydney right now, it's hard to pigeonhole the cooking. You could read the relatively spare plating and the fact that most dishes are edited right down to their essentials as rustic, modern or both. Quail, split, salted, skewered and grilled for maximum golden-browning, set on a warm plate with just-tender, barely oiled chicory and a slice of lemon, for instance. Rather than a pile of shredded meat, slow-cooked lamb shoulder comes out as slices of a larger piece that's been stuffed with pecorino and mint and topped with braised artichokes. With a side of silverbeet, and maybe some baby endive tossed with pine nuts and slightly sweet dressing made with fig must, it's Sunday lunch made splendid. The lines are clean, but the flavours are full.

What's truly distinctive at Popolo is the consistent hitting of marks: the hot things are hot, the cold things are cold, and things crunch and squish where they're supposed to. Dried pasta is al dente, fresh pasta sighs on the plate. Small, neat gnocchi, clearly the work of a practised hand, are light in their tomato and cheese bath. Schiaffoni are described on the menu as large penne from Basilicata, but, as the vehicle for a rabbit and white wine ragù, they're more like short, wide ribbons, almost like ravioli without their filling. It's finger-lickin' good, and an unmistakably deft pairing.

Chef Orazio D'Elia hails from Naples, so perhaps it's not so surprising that his talents seem particularly incandescent when he's dealing with dough. The pizza section of the menu, certainly, is far from an afterthought. The Principessa deploys basil, buffalo mozzarella and tomato to correct effect, while sweet house-made ricotta and fior di latte brighten the Donzelletta, a winning potato-and-sausage combo.

There's something generous about Popolo. "The chef is making something my family used to eat on Sundays - would you like to try it?" says Dore one afternoon. Out comes a zuppa Gallurese, a dish from Gallura in Sardinia of bread, mint and peretta cheese moistened with lamb broth and browned in the oven. It's really only soup in the sense that it's served in a bowl, but eaten with a knife and fork rather than a spoon or not, it's a profoundly steadying and reassuring dish.

What of the room? The design is clean without being cold, polished without being showy. All in all it fits with the Fergus Henderson theory that a good restaurant is like a stage and the best ornamentation is a room full of happy people eating and drinking and having a good time. The bi-fold glass will, in warmer days, throw the whole restaurant open to the leafy courtyard, but for now it serves to keep out the chill. There's buzz here, but the more lasting impression is of warmth, not attitude. Everything, from the way the staff move through the room to the way the food is plated to the way it's placed on the table, speaks of assurance. Almost everyone who works here, it seems, is Italian. Maybe it really is in the blood.

Wine is a large but seamlessly integrated part of the equation. The drinks list is elegant but approachable, and completely Italian, from the thoughtful apéritivi to the Gaudianello acqua minerale to the beers. Bottlings from below the 41st parallel (including some particularly interesting stuff from Sicily, Puglia and Campania) make up the bulk of the list, but they're not rigid about it, listing Ospiti (or "visitors") from all over the north. And if all this sounds like so much cork-dork talk, don't fret: the wine guys speak English as well as Oenglish.

Desserts at Popolo, for me, are a pretext for staying that little bit longer as much as anything else. If you're thinking about delving into the excellent collection of Marsalas offered by the glass, the flourless chocolate tart is a fine table-mate; if you'd prefer to explore the shared culinary history of Basilicata and Sardinia, go the seadas, cheese-filled pastries, fried and served drizzled with abbamele, a reduction of honey and pollen.

What's impressed me most about Popolo is the way that each time you peel back a layer of quality, there's another one beneath. This is one of those rare restaurants you can recommend to friends safe in the knowledge that whichever direction they take - a boozy lunch with family, a book and a glass of wine at the bar on a Tuesday night, a hot date - the front and back of house teams won't drop a stitch. They're on it without being in your face, they're informed and observant without being overbearing. It's an unshowy confidence that's quietly seductive and easy to love. It all adds up to a neighbourhood restaurant worth going out of your way for.


POPOLO

50 McLachlan Ave, Rushcutters Bay, (02) 9361 6641, popolo.com.au.
Licensed.
Cards AE D MC V EFT.
Open Lunch and dinner Fri-Sat noon-10.30pm, Sun noon-9.30pm; dinner Mon-Thu 5pm-10.30pm.
Prices Entrées $16-$22; mains $27-$39; desserts $12.
Vegetarian Two entrées, two paste, two pizze.
Noise Vox popolo.
Wheelchair access Yes.
Plus A warm welcome, impressive food and wine, sound value.
Minus The views are of car dealerships.

POPOLO

50 McLachlan Ave, Rushcutters Bay, (02) 9361 6641, popolo.com.au.
Licensed.
Cards AE D MC V EFT.
Open Lunch and dinner Fri-Sat noon-10.30pm, Sun noon-9.30pm; dinner Mon-Thu 5pm-10.30pm.
Prices Entrées $16-$22; mains $27-$39; desserts $12.
Vegetarian Two entrées, two paste, two pizze.
Noise Vox popolo.
Wheelchair access Yes.
Plus A warm welcome, impressive food and wine, sound value.
Minus The views are of car dealerships.

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2017 Restaurant Guide

Our 2017 Restaurant Guide is online, covering over 400 restaurants Australia wide. Never wonder where to dine again.

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