Some great promotion for Tasmania in The Age (Melbourne paper) based on Tasmania becoming a cultural and social centre. Tasmania has really progressed and makes moving to Tasmania or relocating to Tasmania much more enjoyable. Of course those of us already living in Tasmania know the benefits of the Tasmanian lifestyle.
Tasmania has become a serious cultural and culinary destination.
HOBART has long been the first port of call for tourists keen to immerse themselves in Tasmania’s pristine wilderness and stunning coastal areas. But there is a new breed of tourist arriving in the city in search of an altogether different type of adventure – an escapade of the cultural and epicurean kind.
Five years ago, few would have thought Hobart would become a hot spot of some of the most vaunted restaurants in Australia.
Sure, the quality of Tasmanian produce – notably its cheese, salmon and oysters – has long been revered. But in the past year, the emergence of hip new wine bars and restaurants has immeasurably raised Hobart’s estimation in the eyes of food lovers and critics.
The newcomers include Garagistes, which opened in September last year and whose head chef, Luke Burgess – an acolyte of Sydney’s Tetsuya Wakuda – was named best new talent by Gourmet Traveller in August.
Housed in a former mechanic’s warehouse in Murray Street, North Hobart, with exposed beams, distressed brick walls, sleek communal tables and a long, wooden sweep of a bar, Garagistes would not look out of place in Flinders Lane or Gertrude Street. It has even borrowed the no-bookings policy that is the mainstay of Melbourne’s most fashionable restaurants (although bookings are essential for Garagistes’ four-course Sunday lunch).
In short, it’s the kind of place that would rile food critic and part-time Hobart resident Leo Schofield, who has complained that Tasmania suffers from too much Melbourne influence.
The great thing about Garagistes, though, is that even with its no-bookings policy, it’s still possible to be seated almost immediately on a Thursday evening if you arrive for the second sitting, at 8.30pm, as we did. Try that at a ”no-bookings” Melbourne restaurant.
Saturdays are a trickier affair, however, and a wait at the bar is inevitable. The good news is that the organic, preservative-free wines served here can be drunk in greater quantities with fewer debilitating after-effects.
The food is worth the wait: surprising, inventive and delicately sensational, such as the steamed Bruny Island oysters, gliding in a fabulously creamy emulsion of apple cider, hazelnut oil and chervil, or an astonishingly textured, marshmallow-like soft-boiled duck egg, served with broad beans and toasted grains of quinoa, spelt and buckwheat.
Hot on Garagistes’ heels was Ethos Eat Drink, which opened in March and quickly built a reputation and a following – not just for its innovative dishes, inspired by locally and ethically sourced ingredients, but also for its evocative location in a heritage-listed, 19th-century stable, reached via a promisingly mysterious, arched laneway off Elizabeth Street in the city.
The lane was a former carriageway, blocked off for 100 years, until Ethos’ executive chef and owner Iain Todd reopened it. He retained historic structures such as cobblestone floors and Hobart’s first plumbed toilet, which is displayed behind glass and must rate as one of the more unusual features to be found in a restaurant. Historic objects salvaged from the building site have been recycled and reused for the restaurant’s fittings, such as old chemist bottles refashioned into chandeliers.
Ethos describes its menu as ”tapas-style” but that doesn’t really do it justice. It’s much more beguiling, drawing on Asian, Spanish and Italian influences, to create an exuberantly contemporary menu.
Ingredients are organic, biodynamic and local where possible – and it shows. Even a simple dish of flathead served with chilli, coriander and lime sings. The humble carrot is not the sort of vegetable to induce ecstasy but the Ethos version of carrot salad is truly noteworthy: heirloom carrots dressed with black sesame paste, almonds and honey, an astonishing bouquet of flavours.
And while, in theory, a dessert of poached meringue, candied quinoa, custard and fruit doesn’t sound so tempting, it materialises as a superb combination of tastes and contrasting textures – crunchy, sweet quinoa, velvety stewed cumquats and poached meringue light as air. The Ethos wine list was named best of 2011 by Gourmet Traveller.
Meanwhile, David Moyle, a ”Melbourne born-and-bred” chef whose credits include stints at Circa and the Pacific Dining Room in Byron Bay, has been busy relaunching the Stackings restaurant in the idyllic Peppermint Bay venue, a 30-minute drive from Hobart in the rural village of Woodbridge, which has spectacular water views.
Moyle lives about 500 metres from the restaurant and forages for local ingredients ranging from sea lettuce to stinging nettle. He also sources produce from small-scale local growers, farmers and fishermen – which is why the Stackings seats only 35 people.
What’s common to all three restaurants is a meticulous, sustainable and innovative approach to food, with locations and buildings that are an intrinsic part of the experience.
The food at Garagistes, Ethos, and the Stackings defies categorisation – it is a postmodern melange of influences, characterised by a cosmopolitan, joyfully experimental approach – which sometimes strays a little too far, as in the case of a rather kooky-looking dessert we had at the Stackings, featuring a porridge-like base of oats and rye, with rhubarb, yoghurt, a thin coating of jelly made from rhubarb juice, pieces of meringue, garnished with liquorice root and fennel, and shaped like something that might be found in an anatomy museum.
”It’s a little bit weird,” Moyle agrees. What was he thinking? ”I don’t really think; it just happens.”
However, dishes such as Moyle’s risotto made with stinging nettles are worth the trip from Hobart – unlikely as it sounds. It’s a creamy, blissful concoction, served with house-smoked mackerel, sea parsley, dune spinach, wild garlic and a generous amount of olive oil from local producer Elmside Estate.
Speaking about Hobart is impossible these days without mentioning David Walsh and his Museum of Old and New Art, an $80 million, river-hugging fortress that has raised the city’s cultural cachet and tourism appeal.
MONA opened in January and has become Tasmania’s top tourist attraction, drawing to the capital the sort of visitor that tourism bodies define as urbane, sophisticated and culturally aware; in other words, the type who is happy to spend not only at the museum but also at the new-style eateries springing up in the city and surrounds.
Not that Walsh professes to care all that much about who eats where. Rumours about MONA’s mystifying, eccentric owner abound, so the story I’m about to tell may or may not be true. Reportedly, during MONA’s lavish opening at the start of the year, some starry-eyed, interstate Walsh fans eagerly approached the man to ask for tips on where to eat in his home town. They were blessed with a bona fide Walsh-ian reply: ”I don’t give a f—.”
In fact, Walsh has been known to frequent Garagistes, sometimes with an entourage of powerful gallery owners and international artists in tow. Of course, he is the owner of one of Hobart’s finest restaurants , the Source at Moorilla, where French-born chef Philippe Leban, who has three Michelin-starred restaurants on his resume, has been creating his magic since joining the MONA team in 2010.
The Source is a cosseting experience, an elevated, elegant room, overlooking the vast Derwent River. The tables are dressed in white linen, the carpet is a luxurious charcoal and the curtains are shimmering, silvery and diaphanous. The service strikes the right balance between playfulness and professionalism.
The food is contemporary and French-inspired, with exquisitely presented and unusual combinations such as an entree of spanner crab, with smoked oyster, pedro ximenez jelly and foie gras cubes.
Sometimes, though, a dish can seem a little too clever for its own good, such as a main course of iki jime (line-caught hapuka) served with vongole and oyster tartare, finely cooked but its appearance overwhelmed by huge dollops of parsley foam. All is forgiven when a lusciously moist rum baba with winter fruit and spiced bread ice-cream arrives for dessert.
A discussion of Hobart eateries cannot overlook one of the city’s institutions – the legendary Jackman & McRoss Bakery, in historic Hampden Road, Battery Point. It can be as difficult nailing a table at peak hour here as it is trying to get a spot at Garagistes on a Saturday night.
The bakery’s display cabinets are filled with baguettes, cakes, pies, tarts and other delights – all made on the premises.
There’s plenty on offer to cure a post art-opening hangover: for the truly daring, perhaps lamb shanks wrapped in pastry; for the more traditionally inclined, a precipitous mountain of poached egg on a thick slice of toasted sourdough with aioli, caramelised onions and spinach. After a hearty breakfast or lunch, a stroll around picturesque Battery Point, with its old colonial homes and invigorating water views, is recommended.
If Melbourne’s food scene ever starts to bore, Hobart is 55 minutes away by plane, with culinary offerings worth the flight. Just don’t ask Walsh which ones. And don’t tell Schofield your port of origin.
Gabriella Coslovich’s tips
- Coffee and croissant for breakfast at Jackman & McRoss, in Battery Point. Walk to Salamanca Place via Kelly’s Steps.
- Visit contemporary jewellers Handmark Gallery and The Art of Silver. Drool at display cabinets. Inevitably spend money.
- Visit A Common Ground, the Salamanca food store of “gourmet farmer” Matthew Evans and cheesemaker Nick Haddow. Drool at display cabinets again.
- Walk to the city, up Elizabeth Street, in time for lunch at Ethos Eat Drink.
- Drop into Chado: The Way of Tea, also in Elizabeth Street, run by vivacious scientist turned tea house host Varuni Kulasekera, wife of musician Brian Ritchie, director of music and art festival MONA FOMA.
- Head to MONA to see the Wim Delvoye exhibition, featuring a panoply of cloaca machines, which mimic the human digestive system, complete with, ah, regular movements.
- Head back to the surface and relax at the MONA wine bar with a pot of Moo Brew pilsner.
- In the evening go to Garagistes and enjoy a glass of organic Italian wine or two while waiting for a table.
- In the morning, drive down the coast to Woodbridge, for lunch at the Stackings. On the way drop into the Grandvewe sheep farm. Stock up on Grandvewe’s fabulous sheep-milk cheeses; among my favourites are Fleur, a manchego-style cheese coated with wild Tasmanian lavender, and the Ewe Bewety, an in-house adaptation of reblochon and camembert.
Note that the link to the original article is no longer available.