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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.

Ovolo Hotels open in Woolloomooloo and Darling Harbour

Ovolo Hotels brings its quirky vision to Sydney.

No detail was too small, no idea too outlandish when Girish Jhunjhnuwala opened his first hotel in 2002.

"I thought about all the things that irked me about hotels I've stayed in, about the unfriendliness once you get to your room," says the Hong Kong entrepreneur, "and I used those experiences to model what became Ovolo."

Among his family-owned company's nine hotels are two new Sydney acquisitions, in landmark heritage buildings: a former wool store in Pyrmont, refurbished and rebranded Ovolo 1888 Darling Harbour, and the wharf-front Blue Sydney, reopened last month as Ovolo Woolloomooloo after extensive renovation. Other properties are in Hong Kong and one is in Melbourne's Little Bourke Street.

Though the look of each hotel is different, they share features that Jhunjhnuwala says are designed to make the hotel experience "effortless and connected", offering all-inclusive services and carefully designed communal spaces. Ovolo hospitality extends to nightly happy hours, free minibar and breakfast, 24-hour gyms, Apple TV and self-service laundries. "The number-one requirement of travellers - business and leisure - is to stay connected," says Jhunjhnuwala, so Ovolo hotels have always had free, high-speed WiFi with no limits on data or devices and an oversupply of USB charging points.

Both Sydney hotels showcase contemporary Australian art - the walls in the 90-room Ovolo 1888 are hung with bold murals by Jasper Knight. The most striking transformation is in the cavernous entrance to the 100-room Woolloomooloo hotel, which has become a tree-lined laneway of lounges, bars and dining areas - a kind of grown-up playground, with three retro video-game tables, featuring Space Invaders, too.

Ovolo 1888, rooms from $208, Darling Harbour, 139 Murray St, Pyrmont, NSW; Ovolo Woolloomooloo, rooms from $254, 6 Cowper Wharf Rd, Woolloomooloo, NSW

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