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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. 

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.

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.

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.

Sydney's Art Deco makeover: Primus Hotel Sydney opens for business

The lobby at Primus Hotel Sydney

The lobby at Primus Hotel Sydney

From drainage headquarters to Art Deco luxury hotel - the transformation of one of Sydney's most impressive heritage buildings will be complete this week when the five-star Primus Hotel Sydney opens for business tomorrow.

Built in 1939, the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board building on Pitt Street was bought in 2008 by the Shanghai-based Greenland International Hotels Group for a reported $110 million, and restoration and construction has taken two years. "There is simply no other space like it in Sydney - and there never can be," says Jonathan Bryant, associate director of GBA Heritage, which oversaw the project with design architect Woods Bagot.

The hotel lobby is a show-stopper. It's flanked by eight scarlet scagliola columns, a rarely seen plaster technique that imitates marble, which required restoration by a team of a dozen craftsmen from Italy. The eight-metre columns are crowned by a mezzanine level and massive panelled skylight, minus a layer of tar and a roof installed in 1960. The newly illuminated space beneath houses a bar and 120-seat fine-diner The Wilmot, with an open kitchen overseen by Korean chef Ryan Hong, ex Rockpool Bar & Grill and Black by Ezard, and focused on an Asian-influenced, modern Australian menu.

The hotel's 172 guestrooms occupy six floors of former offices, transformed with custom-made navy carpet, oak joinery, marble bathrooms and Deco-inspired details.

A treat for guests only is the chic rooftop terrace, once a war-time rifle range, with a long marble bar, 20-metre pool, water features and cabanas. Eventually this terrace will be overlooked by Sydney's tallest residential tower, a 240-metre project being developed next door by the hotel's parent company.

"It was important for us to bring the building back to life and celebrate Sydney's history at a time when new developments are in full force," says Primus Hotel Sydney's general manager, Daniel Muhor.

It's the Chinese company's second Primus; the other is in the city of Shenyang in north-east China.

Rooms from $290. Primus Hotel Sydney, 339 Pitt St, Sydney, NSW; (02) 8027 8000

Pick up our February issue, out 25 January, for our feature on Sydney's six new boutique hotels.

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