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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.

Mercado, Sydney

Ortiz anchovy tart with bullhorn peppers

Ortiz anchovy tart with bullhorn peppers

Nathan Sasi's Mercado has opened in Sydney's CBD, packed with the flavours of the Mediterranean.

You're going to have to order the sandwich. There's some pretty exciting stuff going on between sliced white at the moment, but the golden soldiers of pan-fried brioche holding thin layers of smoked wagyu tongue and pickled green tomato at Mercado are hard to beat. Bring a glass of lightly oxidative chardonnay from Jura producer Jean Bourdy into the mix and it's basically unstoppable. On the strength of this combination alone it's easy to see this place being a hit.

Mercado's menu will be pleasantly familiar to anyone who enjoyed chef Nathan Sasi's cooking at Nomad in Surry Hills. There's the same commitment to making as much as possible from scratch - the bread, the charcuterie, the "everything" vinegar that dresses the impeccable leaf salad - and he's still working with the flavours of the Mediterranean. The presence of piquillo peppers, romesco sauce and sobrasada signal that Moorish flavours and culture, too, remain a passion. Ortiz anchovies laid across roasted bullhorn peppers on crisps of pastry almost rival the tongue sandwich for the title of most essential bar snack. But they and the likes of the salt fish croquettes with lemon mayonnaise and morcilla with smoked white beans are joined on the menu by less Spanish things such as wood-fired prawns with bottarga and shellfish butter, and a lush plate of Turkish ravioli stuffed with gooey wood-roasted pumpkin and dressed with yoghurt and isot pepper.

Most of the main courses come with a lick of smoke from the rôtisserie or the wood-fired oven: chickens, lambs, suckling pigs, Blackmore wagyu blade. Snapper fillet makes a great case for the kitchen's facility with flame, juicy and sweet against a backdrop of spiced eggplant and pomegranate.

Sitting in a glammed-up room just below street level on the corner between Ash Street and China Lane, Mercado seems very well placed to make a killing as part of the new Martin Place push, opening ahead of new projects still to come nearby from Icebergs' Maurice Terzini and Andrew Cibej, the restaurateur behind Vini, Ester and Berta. And that's just on the strength of the sandwich alone.

Mercado, 4 Ash St, Sydney, NSW, (02) 9221 6444; open lunch Mon-Fri noon-3pm, dinner Mon-Thu 5.30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm.

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