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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.

Top Australian lodges and resorts

Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania

Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania

Set high on a scrubby ridge above Hansons Bay, Southern Ocean Lodge offers arguably the most stunning arrival of any Australian property. Guests have been known to cry on first sight of the Kangaroo Island lodge's aptly named Great Room, but their smiles return when they check in to one of Southern Ocean's 21 wilderness suites. Intrepid outdoor activities only add to the sense of privilege. Fellow super-lodge Saffire has an equally commanding aspect, over Coles Bay on Tasmania's Freycinet Peninsula. There's a sense of glorious isolation here, though there's nothing rustic about Hugh Whitehouse's refined food or the creature comforts that await guests at this 20-suite resort.

It might be tucked out in the wild west of the Blue Mountains but the Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, a $125-million, 40-cabin retreat, does not skimp on luxury. Hence the personal swimming pools, the helipad, fireplaces and refined regional fare.

In Queensland, the adults-only Qualia set new standards in beachside luxury when it opened in 2007. Its 60 pavilions are modernist eyries in timber, slate and glass, some with plunge pools above the Coral Sea, others with sunny decks. Inspired special events featuring top chefs and the Australian Ballet ensure Qualia never goes out of style. Australia's most northerly Great Barrier Reef resort, Lizard Island, is also one of its most remarkable (not least for the light-plane trip from Cairns). Its 42 suites, airy and contemporary after a recent renovation, open to World Heritage-listed gardens of soft corals, giant clams and kaleidoscopic fish.

Marooned in the Pacific, 600 kilometres off the northern NSW coast, Capella Lodge is the smaller sister property to Southern Ocean Lodge - a civilised hideaway so far from civilisation. The pace of life is slow on Lord Howe Island, all the better to appreciate its rare beauty and the signature attractions of Capella. Among them, smart suites, terrific dining (love those nightly canapés and cocktails) and a dramatic location at the base of twin volcanic peaks.

Honourable mentions, too, to El Questro Homestead in the Kimberley, now even more impressive with the addition of three cliffside retreats above the Chamberlain Gorge. And to Spicers Peak Lodge, an outpost of Queensland high country luxury that brings dégustation dining to the Great Dividing Range. Like all our favourite lodges, it offers a quintessentially Australian experience.

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