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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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas

Sky-diving on the high seas? Looks like cruising doesn't have to be all high tea and bridge, after all.

It's no secret that serious cash is being pumped into the cruise industry and Royal Caribbean International has upped the ante. Its Ovation of the Seas, currently being built in Germany, will be the single largest investment in Australia by any cruise company, at more than a billion US dollars.

Ovation is the latest Quantum class vessel in Royal Caribbean's 23-ship fleet, and when it arrives here via Shanghai in December 2016, it will be the largest, newest and most technologically advanced ship to visit Australia.

It's 23 per cent bigger than its sister ship, Voyager of the Seas, currently the biggest cruise ship in Australia.

The 348-metre ship will carry 4,905 passengers and 1,500 crew for a five-cruise program covering Australia and New Zealand.

"The vast bulk of Australians have never been on a cruise," says Gavin Smith, the company's regional vice president, Asia Pacific. "Ovation reimagines the way that an Australian family might cruise. "

Along with the usual buffet, bridge and Broadway entertainment, a holiday on Ovation might include cocktails at the Bionic Bar, where robots make the drinks, or a surf-simulation lesson. The SmartShip, as it's called, will also offer WiFi, radio-frequency wristbands (rather than keys), and an iQ-style app for guests to manage their activities.

Other world firsts include skydiving at sea, and the North Star aerial observatory experience, where guests will be lifted by a robotic arm more than 90 metres above sea level, then out to sea for a 360-degree view. Dining won't take a back seat, with 18 restaurants including a Jamie's Italian and eateries by Americans Michael Schwartz and Devin Alexander.

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