Our re­view­ers re­veal their favourite al­fresco ta­bles for sub­lime sum­mer din­ing

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

Sassi at Pep­pers Bale, Port Dou­glas, Queens­land: There’s no salty view of the sea at Tony and Di Sassi’s restau­rant but the out­look of glis­ten­ing re­sort in­fin­ity pool and trop­i­cal green­ery splashed with red-flow­er­ing gin­ger is salve for the ur­ban-bat­tered soul. In a gar­den­side lo­ca­tion, with ter­race ta­bles and walls of bi-fold doors, vet­eran chef Tony serves sunny fare rich with lo­cal limes and pep­pery herbs: it’s the Adri­atic meets the Ather­ton Tablelands in the as­sured hands of this Abruzzo-born mas­ter. Try just-shucked oys­ters with a fin­ger lime and chilli dip­ping sauce, pasta of the ilk of seafood tossed through squid-ink lin­guini or Sassi’s sig­na­ture carpac­cio of At­lantic sal­mon mar­i­nated in cit­rus soy and olive oil.

There are geckos click­ing, chilled hand­tow­els scented with jas­mine and frangipani and myr­iad Asian de­signer de­tails. The im­mac­u­late Di could well be Aus­tralia’s most pol­ished host­ess: she makes you feel ut­terly at home but firmly in­sists you ac­tu­ally will have to leave af­ter lights out. www.pep­pers.com.au/bale-re­sort. Su­san Kuro­sawa The Lane Vine­yard, Ade­laide Hills, South Aus­tralia: The Ade­laide Hills district prom­ises chocolate-box views at al­most ev­ery turn but it’s hard to beat the out­look from the broad deck of The Lane Vine­yard cel­lar door and bistro, five min­utes from down­town Hahndorf and a mere grape’s toss from fel­low vignerons Shaw & Smith and Ne­penthe.

Af­ford­ing an al­most 300-de­gree panorama from Mt Lofty along the ranges, over golden pad­docks and rows of vines, The Lane also has great food cour­tesy of chef Glen Carr, and friendly, pro­fes­sional ser­vice. Pull up a stall on the large ter­race to taste John and He­len Ed­wards’ sin­gle-vine­yard wines while watch­ing farm­ers make hay or clouds scud over the blue hills. Or­der a tast­ing plate or two (the duck ril­lette with home-made or­ange mar­malade is a favourite). Or set­tle in for the long haul, work­ing your way through Carr’s sea­sonal menu that might in­clude braised veal shin and pro­sciutto bal­lo­tine or tem­pura zuc­chini flow­ers. www.the­lane.com.au. Chris­tine McCabe The Baths, Sor­rento, Vic­to­ria: Sit­ting on the ve­randa at The Baths restau­rant on Vic­to­ria’s Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula is al­most like be­ing in an Arthur Stree­ton paint­ing. It’s easy to feel the urge to don striped neck-to-knee bathers and plunge into the crisp wa­ters of Port Phillip Bay just me­tres away. Wooden couta boats ply the wa­ter, fam­i­lies stroll along old wooden piers, chil­dren squeal in the shal­low wa­ter. For lunch try the seared sea scal­lops with yel­low curry sauce and Asian herbs to start. Or a dozen Pa­cific oys­ters. Fol­low with miso-cured ocean trout with soba noo­dles and wasabi soy dress­ing. And a nice bot­tle of lo­cal Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula white. www.the­baths.com.au. Stephen Lunn Hugo’s Manly, Syd­ney: Nes­tled on Manly wharf, Hugo’s is the per­fect ca­sual open-air venue, with sparkling views of the har­bour and the emer­ald wa­ters of Manly Cove. On a sunny af­ter­noon, it is hard to think of a love­lier place to idle with a glass of crisp white wine. The menu of­fers quintessen­tially Syd­ney fare, with its fo­cus on seafood with an Ital­ian bent, and piz­zas thrown in for good mea­sure. Start with the tast­ing plate for two fea­tur­ing meat­balls, bar­be­cued king prawns, fried cala­mari and sal­mon carpac­cio. And while the piz­zas are ever pop­u­lar, the mains are the stars: whole grilled floun­der with a warm dress­ing of red-wine vine­gar, pars­ley and gar­lic or gnoc­chi with flaked snap­per, cherry toma­toes, basil and toasted bread­crumbs. De­li­cious din­ing in stylish sur­rounds. www.hu­gos.com.au. El­iz­a­beth Mery­ment

Soul food: Sassi at Pep­pers Bale, Port Dou­glas

Sea breezes: Pa­cific Din­ing Room, By­ron Bay Manta, Syd­ney: Ev­ery­body has their favourite among the pa­rade of restau­rants on the Wharf at Wool­loomooloo and Manta is mine. Now home to luxe liv­ing and moored plea­sure craft, Wool­loomooloo still has the fain­test whiff of the old wharves as, even though they’re taste­ful rather than tough, the build­ings re­main. With the cityscape ris­ing in an arc on the Wharf’s land side, Manta serves pris­tine seafood with city so­phis­ti­ca­tion (prime beef, in­clud­ing wagyu, is also on the menu).

Fish and shell­fish are sourced daily and come with el­e­gant com­bi­na­tions; crabs and lob­sters are kept alive in tanks be­side the kitchens, and oys­ters are a spe­cial­ity. My choice is the Claire de Lune bou­ton from Bate­man’s Bay in NSW. www.mantarestau­rant.com.au. Ju­dith Elen Pa­cific Din­ing Room, By­ron Bay, NSW: With its beach-house vibe, light Mediter­ranean-in­flu­enced menu and cool, young staff, Pa­cific Din­ing Room is the per­fect spot for sum­mer din­ing. Whether you park your­self in the palm-filled court­yard gar­den or in­side, where a gi­ant jel­ly­fish-shaped chan­de­lier is a fo­cal point and bi-fold doors can be thrown open to let in the gen­tle sea breeze, this new­est ad­di­tion to By­ron Bay’s Beach Ho­tel is a ca­sual yet so­phis­ti­cated af­fair.

Chef David Moyle, pre­vi­ously of Mel­bourne’s Circa The Prince, has put to­gether a menu of plates de­signed to share, in­clud­ing Or­tiz an­chovies with a sour­dough crou­ton and slow-cooked tomato, or grilled lo­cal prawns with aioli and smoked pa­prika. My picks are an ex­quis­ite reef fish curry with shaved cut­tle­fish, cu­cum­ber and sor­rel salad, and spaghet­tini with span­ner crab, gar­lic, chilli, white wine and bread­crumbs. There’s also an ex­ten­sive cock­tail list. www.paci­fic­din­ingroom.com.au. Michelle Rowe Mal­dini Cafe Restau­rant, Ho­bart, Tas­ma­nia: Mal­dini’s lo­ca­tion at the north­ern en­trance to Ho­bart’s Sala­manca Square makes it an ex­cel­lent (and sunny) van­tage point for sum­mer lunch or din­ner. The ex­ten­sive menu cov­ers most of Italy’s 20 re­gions and in­cor­po­rates the fresh­est Tas­ma­nian in­gre­di­ents, in­clud­ing seafood from the fish­ing fleet moored a short walk away. Once an­chored un­der an um­brella at Mal­dini, the hus­tle and bus­tle that is Sala­manca Square comes to you in a pass­ing pa­rade; this is a peo­ple-watch­ing par­adise. Head chef Vic­to­ria Hard­wick-Tiberio’s fare is sim­ple and well-crafted, the wine list var­ied and the ser­vice friendly and un­hur­ried. www.sala­manca.com.au/mal­dini/. Matthew Denholm Sit­tella Win­ery, Swan Val­ley, West­ern Aus­tralia: Sit­tella Win­ery restau­rant, at the end of a gen­tly wind­ing road in the Swan Val­ley, half an hour’s drive east of Perth, is perched on a grassy knoll over­look­ing a lake and vine­yards.

The hearty food — in­clud­ing the likes of chicken breast filled with spinach and cheese, served on creamy chilli po­lenta, or porter­house steak served with mash and roast parsnip and onion — is ex­pertly pre­pared by chef Mike Price. Those who pre­fer to graze can sip a glass of Sit­tella’s 2007 crisp dry white wine and share a Wine­tasters’ plate of home-made dips, or­ange and fen­nel olives, pick­led cap­sicum, lo­cally made sausage and Swan Val­ley cheeses while sit­ting on the wide ve­randa.

Like the na­tive sit­tella bird that hops in and out of the rows of vines, vis­i­tors to Sit­tella win­ery tend to re­turn again and again for its cheer­ful, re­laxed am­bi­ence. www.sit­tella.com.au. Vic­to­ria Lau­rie

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