Aria, Du Nord, Shouk, The Publishers Hotel, The Daniel O'Connell

Photography: Courtesy Aria

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Aria, Du Nord, Shouk, The Publishers Hotel, and The Daniel O'Connell.

SYDNEY
Aria
Matt Moran says his new-look menu is all about "simple, produce-led food" and there's no doubt the paddock-to-plate mantra the chef has been spouting on his television series has been taken up in the kitchen of his flagship restaurant, Aria. The refreshed carte gives producers top billing (literally, on the first page) and a pared-back, hands-off approach to the food keeps the spotlight on hero produce: spanner crab mayonnaise with pine nuts comes draped with thinly sliced persimmon and nasturtium flowers as a garnish, duck breast is glazed and roasted to a sweet and smoky finish and served with black figs and macadamia nuts, while black sesame parfait is artfully plated with passionfruit jellies, a yuzu sorbet and candied almonds (pictured above). It's impressive stuff - refined but also playful. Add the keenly priced lunch menu (two courses for $74, three for $89) and Matt Dunne's always intriguing wine list and the proposition to revisit this harbourside classic becomes even more compelling. Aria, 1 Macquarie St, Sydney, (02) 9252 2555. ANTHEA LOUCAS

MELBOURNE
Du Nord
With its pale timber floors, white tiles, exposed-brick feature-walls, heavy timber beams and clean-lined good looks, Du Nord is certainly not underplaying its Scandinavian proclivities. The good news is that this self-proclaimed New Nordic outpost is about more than just woodsy window-dressing. There are Scandi-themed cocktails and Danish, Swedish and Norwegian beer, but chef Matti Fallon has also embraced the brief with a menu full of local ingredients that speak Nordic admirably. A brilliant beetroot- and gin-cured gravlax comes with coils of salty cucumber and carrot pickles; venison tartare is flavoured with juniper and black radish; and full-flavoured dry-aged mutton comes with a blackberry glaze, pea purée and bergamot. At times it might seem that there can be too much beetroot, but mostly Du Nord gets the balance right and looks good doing it. Du Nord, 367 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, (03) 9642 0052. MICHAEL HARDEN

BRISBANE
Shouk
Egg-washed challah is soft and lightly sweet, offsetting the spiciness and acidity of a bowl of merguez-studded eggs shakshouka. Crisp-edged latkes stack up nicely, topped with a soft fold of smoked salmon and petals of pickled onion. Add crème fraîche, two poached eggs, and a scatter of dill tips, and you may want to retire to bed for the morning. Well-made Veneziano coffee with creamy Maleny Dairies milk will pick you up, and if crisp tahini cookies are sitting fragrant, warm and sugar-dusted on the counter, don't resist. Shouk's fit-out is simple, all creams and dark blues with colourful Middle Eastern feature tiles. A licence transfer application has been lodged and plans are afoot to open for dinner weekends, but in the meantime raise your iced limonana (aka Israeli lemonade mixed with mint) and toast l'chaim. Shouk Café, 14 Collingwood St, Paddington, Qld, (07) 3172 1655. FIONA DONNELLY

ADELAIDE
The Publishers Hotel
Smartly styled from the former offices of the Stock Journal newspaper, The Publishers Hotel is a new restaurant and wine bar with an all-star cast on deck: Salvatore Pepe (ex-Cibo) is consulting, Daniel Brooks mans the stoves, and sommelier Patrick White has returned home to Adelaide after stints working for Neil Perry and Luke Mangan. While the small restaurant area is a big drawcard - scallops with black pudding, smoked venison carpaccio, grilled spatchcock, serious steaks - it's hard to tear yourself away from the large entrance lounge and bar, not only because of White's strong selection of wines (including mature museum stock) and craft beers, but because the bar menu is so good. There's substance and balance in robust serves of bratwurst and braised red cabbage, Italian-style pork sausages and peperonata, or beef short ribs braised in porter and cola. Or you could just enjoy grazing on the likes of confit duck poppers and smoked olives. The Publishers Hotel, 110 Franklin St, Adelaide, (08) 8212 7969. DAVID SLY

ADELAIDE BONUS
The Daniel O'Connell
Nose-to-tail temple The Daniel O'Connell will host one of the more boisterous events of the Adelaide Food & Wine Festival when food writers settle in to discuss restaurant reviewing over dinner on Tuesday 8 April. While the audience enjoys a four-course dinner, including shared platters of saltbush mutton with heart, and black pudding and pork chops with apple, pumpkin and celeriac, GT's South Australia editor David Sly and food blogger Christina Soong-Kroeger (The Hungry Australian) will engage in a spirited debate about the ethics, responsibilities and pitfalls of writing about food. Daniel O'Connell chef Phil Whitmarsh will join in to discuss everything from the repercussions of an ill-timed tweet to how to deal with bad reviews. Eating Their Words at The Daniel O'Connell, 165 Tynte St, North Adelaide, (08) 8267 4032. Book via https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/eating-their-words-tickets-10872077677. DAVID SLY

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