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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Australia's finest hotel spas

Quailia, QLD

Quailia, QLD

Relax and rewind across the country in style.

Victoria's Central Highlands are the heartland of Australia's spa country, with more than 100 natural mineral springs bubbling forth from the bedrock and a host of properties that encourage restorative stays. The new Hepburn Spa Retreat (20-22 Mineral Springs Crescent, Hepburn Springs, Vic, hepburnsparetreat.com.au) has opened across the road from therapy central, the Hepburn Bathhouse & Spa (Mineral Springs Cresent, Hepburn Springs, Vic, hepburnbathhouse.com). The retreat's 10 villas combine raw materials and natural light to stylish effect.

See all the winners from our 2016 Australian Hotel Awards here. 

A few kilometres away in downtown Daylesford, Lake House (4 King Street, Daylesford, Vic, lakehouse.com.au) is a magnet for pleasure-seeking travellers drawn to Salus Day Spa with its treehouse hot tubs, and also to the inspired regional excellence of the house's celebrated restaurant and the indulgent trappings of its 33 waterside rooms and villas.

Waldheim Alpine Spa spans pretty Pencil Pine Creek at Cradle Mountain Lodge (4038 Cradle Mountain Road, Cradle Mountain, Tas, cradlemountainlodge.com.au) in the heart of Tasmania's World Heritage-listed wilderness. Expect all the usual skincare and massage options, set against the backdrop of a pristine, ancient landscape. And on the north-east Tasmanian coast, accessible only to walkers who've paid top dollar to do the multi-day Bay of Fires (bayoffires.com.au) trek, is a one-room spa set in a Tasmanian oak box, with a blazing fire, glass walls framing the very beaches you must trudge along to get here, and the promise of some well-earned pummelling .

Experience equally memorable massages at Southern Ocean Lodge's (Hanson Bay Road, Kingscote SA, southernoceanlodge.com.au) spa pavilion, perched on a cliff above the untamed seas pounding Kangaroo Island's shoreline.

Queensland's climate lends itself to languid indulgence, inspiring such élite spa properties as Qualia (Hamilton Island, Mackay, QLD, qualia.com.au) on Hamilton Island and Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat in the Gold Coast hinterland (192 Syndicate Road, Tallebudgera, QLD, gwinganna.com).

For more immediate relief from modern stresses, Australia's urban sanctuaries are second to none. On the mezzanine level of boutique hotel QT Sydney, Spa Q (49 Market Street, Sydney, NSW, spa-q.com.au) offers harried city types a retreat from reality into a parallel world of caviar facials, coffee and sea-kelp wraps, bamboo and ginseng polishes. For the gentlemen, it's sharp cuts, wet shaves and "supernatural" facials combining the sensory delights of liquorice and sandalwood.

As a bonus at Park Hyatt Sydney's (7 Hickson Road, The Rocks, NSW, sydney.park.hyatt.com) small, tranquil spa, guests have access to the hotel's rock-star rooftop pool. And The Langham Sydney (89-113 Kent Street, Millers Point, Sydney, NSW, langhamhotels.com) emerged from a recent $30 million makeover with its subterranean spa enhanced and Roman-inspired pool intact.

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