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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.

A Greek tragedy

Fergus Henderson condemns anglicised Greek food, and saves his applause for the feta and raki of Athens.

Just north of London's Oxford St there used to be the Greek strip, famously frequented by the Bloomsbury group, where tavernas rubbed shoulders. But everything runs its course and this street no longer runs with retsina, one's Geiger counter no longer goes off the scale when waved over bright-pink taramasalata, and no longer can the sound of merry revellers breaking plates be heard late into the night.

If I've started this thought with a far from upbeat tone, more of a Greek tragedy than a legend, the memory of a visit to Athens quite a few years ago adds to my gloomy outlook. Every time I got into a taxi, I would tell the driver where to go and he would turn around and say, "No good. That part of Athens is shut," and so lively discussions would ensue: not the best apéritif.

But please don't cry into your pita bread just yet. If it seems I'm somewhat down on Greek food, then I have misled you; when treated properly, Greek food is truly Olympian.

Let's take a Herculean leap to a more recent trip to Athens and a whole new culinary myth and epic of deliciousness. The artist Angus Fairhurst was having a show and Sarah Lucas was placing a mechanical masturbating arm on a rooftop. Things were looking chirpy already.

Lunch was in a vault under the central market. All through lunch I observed legs arriving into this vault down the stairs from the street - a strange thing when we're used to meeting people face- rather than feet-first. The vault housed a restaurant feeding about 100 diners and was staffed by an old man and a very young boy. Not speaking Greek myself, I was a little thrown when our young host said something to the old man with a force that sounded like "Go and suck crap in hell." Well, a fantastic platter of grilled sardines appeared. Then another exchange of a similar nature took place: this time it sounded like "I pissed in your coffee this morning." And the most sublime bowl of chickpeas arrived, cooked in stock, olive oil, and my Greek was not up to finding out what else, but chickpeas have never tasted so good. A final conversation between our host and the old chef - which sounded, incidentally, as though they were threatening to disembowel each other and use their giblets to beat each other around the head - actually meant "If you go up to the market and pick up some halva, you can have that with your coffee."

My next lunch was again simple but perfect: a platter of small red mullet salted and deep-fried, eaten with fingers, and washed down with something you should not try at home, as it will never work outside Greece: retsina, served not very cold in a coloured aluminium jug. You couldn't help but think that there was a certain musk of Alzheimer's about it.

The night fell and I drove out of Athens to a little taverna between a concrete factory and a truck garage. It looked very promising. But that may have been because of the baby lamb cooking on a spit over a fire just outside the front door. My Alzheimer's was fuelled by the homemade raki with which we washed down our splendid dinner, but I can still recall something with Greek feta sprinkled with fresh chillies, the grilled offal of the lamb and the beast itself, served with potatoes that were boiled and then grilled thoroughly with butter and lemon squidged (a technical term) on them.

The strange anglicised Greek food has had its day; once again you've got to go there to see the real deal.

I just wish I could remember where "there" was.


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Signature Collection

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Recipe collections

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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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