Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Vesta, Bellota, Lefty's Old Time Music Hall, and Salopian Inn.
Porcini pappardelle with caramelised Brussels sprouts, chestnuts and ricotta. Roast chicken with truffle butter. Slow-cooked shoulder of lamb. Orecchiette with broccolini and baby turnips in broth (pictured). These are the things that winter lunching are made of, and they're rarely more welcome than in the Blue Mountains. Blackheath newcomer Vesta has big shoes to fill, taking over the former Vulcans space on Govetts Leap Road, but they're off to a good start putting the old bakery oven to use. With former Ten Buck Alley owner David Harris running the show, you're sure of a warm greeting, not to mention a real coffee to close proceedings if you need it. Offering Canoblas-Smith wines with a bit of age on them by the glass, too, doesn't hurt. Vesta, 33 Govetts Leap Rd, Blackheath, NSW, (02) 4787 6899. PAT NOURSE
The new wine bar next to the Prince Wine Store in South Melbourne has a few distinct advantages. You can drink any bottle from one of the best bottle shops in Melbourne in the bar for a small surcharge. Gerald Diffey of Gerald's Bar fame helped design the place, and has given it a quirky warmth. Last but not least, chef (and GT regular) Brigitte Hafner is overseeing the menu, which ranges from great charcuterie and potted eel to outstanding paprika-dusted calamari, a salty, fishy vitello tonnato and the kind of expertly cooked minute steak every bar should strive for. Word is getting out so it's wise to book ahead. Bellota, 181 Bank St, South Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9078 8381. MICHAEL HARDEN
Lefty's Old Time Music Hall
Tremble, o ye mortals: Shady Pines has arrived in Brisbane. Or at least sort of. Half the partnership behind the Pines, Baxter Inn and Frankie's Pizza axis-of-awesome, Jason Scott (that is, the Brisbane-born half), has teamed up with Jamie Webb of Peasant and Cabiria fame to open the best beer hall the city has ever seen. Easy-going good times are the focus, and they're rendered in lush curtains, flickering candles, handsome taxidermy, a rollicking-yet-finely tuned country soundtrack, and the kind of beer-and-a-shot drinks focus that has made the Swillhouse Group what it is today. Unlike most of its Sydney cousins, it also does food (of the burgers, popcorn shrimp and po' boy ilk) late into the night. Of particular note, too, is Candy's Cash-Only Can Bar, a mini-dispensary on the mezzanine equipped with an Esky and not much else. It specialises in, yes, cans of beer dispensed on a cash-only basis by bar talent name-tagged "Candy". If the thought of chilled beats or drinks with lychee liqueur in them gives you hives, welcome to your new local. Essential drinking. Lefty's Old Time Music Hall, 15-17 Caxton St, Paddington, Qld. PAT NOURSE
The new Salopian Inn is finding its feet quickly under the direction of Michael and Karena Armstrong. Only a few weeks into trading, it still has a way to go, but the casual menu has star attractions - steamed pork buns have dough with a light, almost ethereal quality to contrast their juicy, meaty pork, and crisp-skin tofu with candied beetroot and ginger/spring onion dressing - and the long list of rare and exotic gins at the bar tempt you to stay for one more tipple. Salopian Inn, cnr Main and McMurtrie rds, McLaren Vale, SA, 08 8323 8769. DAVID SLY
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