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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.

On Byron time

An inspired makeover has turned three cottages into a retreat of relaxed style and old-school charm. Describing a place as central and tucked away might seem like an oxymoron, but Atlantic Byron Bay manages to be just that. The Caribbean plantation-inspired property is a relaxed stroll from Main Beach via a raft of boutiques (and what we think is some of Byron's best coffee, at Bayleaf). Yet step beyond the palm-fringed boundary and the bustle of Byron seems miles away. The feeling of escape begins along paths winding through lush gardens, past daybeds, hanging chairs and old-school Adirondacks.

Eight years ago Kimberly Amos, Stephen Eakin and their three sons moved from Sydney's northern beaches to Byron and began transforming the Atlantic's three original beach cottages into a breezy collection of communal living and kitchen spaces, with 15 guestrooms, all with decks. Driftwood cottage has charcoal exteriors, striped awnings and decks off ensuite rooms in chalky colours. Deep in the gardens surrounding Driftwood is an American Airstream popular for chic "camping" in the heart of Byron; a self-contained studio near Driftwood is ideal for a small group or family. Coconut Cottage is all pastels, palms and original artworks, and The Lodge is a relaxed blend of mid-century modern and coastal cool. While helpful staff are on hand, their discretion creates a feeling of well-serviced retreat. There are some decisions they can't help with: swim, surf or nap? 13 Marvell St, Byron Bay, NSW, (02) 6685 5118. Rooms from $285.

Related: Byron Bay travel guide.


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