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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.

Australian cruising numbers hit record high

Oceania's Sirena

Oceania's Sirena

More Australians than ever are choosing to cruise, with record numbers embarking on floating holidays in Australia.

There's been a 42 per cent hike in the number of people taking ocean cruises in Australian waters in the past year - from 189,796 to 269,915 - according to figures released today by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). And a record 1,058,781 Australians took an ocean cruise last year, up 15 per cent on 2014.

Why Australians are choosing cruising.

According to the 2015 Australian Cruise Industry Source Market report, Australia is once again leading the global cruise industry in terms of market penetration (the number of cruise passengers divided by the country's population), with 4.5 per cent of the population taking a cruise.

CLIA Australasia commercial director Brett Jardine said domestic cruising continues to capture the imagination of Australians because it offers great value, and allows travellers to "dip a toe" at home first, before venturing further afield.

"It's something very different to the kind of holidays we've been used to in the past," he says. "Domestic cruises give people an opportunity to sample cruising for the first time and find out what it's all about. Once people experience it for the first time they tend to come back for longer cruises to different destinations."

The growth of Australian cruising is impressive. Ocean-cruise passenger numbers have increased on average 19.2 per cent per year since 2006, and in 2015 Australia was the fourth largest market in the world, accounting for 4.6 per cent of global cruise passengers.

Other findings from the report reveal that cruises of four days or less have grown in popularity by 25 per cent and Asian itineraries surged in popularity from 55,000 in 2014 to 95,000 in 2015, a dramatic increase of 71.5 per cent.

"Cruising really does deliver extraordinary value," says Jardine. "People can fly into a region and then sample a really diverse range of cultures within one cruise itinerary."

His predictions for the future of Australian cruising are bullish. "Many years ago we slated 2020 as [the year] we would hit a million Australians cruising, and we achieved that result six years early," he says. "Now, 2020 is the next benchmark, and we think we can hit two million cruise passengers by then." 

The top 10 cruises to take this year.

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