Jancis Robinson finds 'distinctive' food in Hobart

In Tasmania for the International Cool Climate Symposium

Contributed articles and stories

April 12th, 2012


Eminent English wine and food commentator Jancis Robinson found Hobart’s food scene under-stated, different, exciting and distinctive according to a blog published after her visit in February for the 8th International Cool Climate Symposium for Viticulture and Oenology.

She also found Australian dining to be relatively pricey and believes she knows why.

Ms Robinson, the Queen’s Adviser on Wine, wrote: ‘On the waterfront at Hobart, the capital of Tasmania and the home to what I was reliably informed is the best-preserved collection of Georgian buildings outside the U.K., is a large notice-board.

‘On it is a plethora of useful civic information such as the times of the church services and local taxi numbers as well as a number of business cards from local restaurants that gives the mistaken impression that the local cuisine is predominantly Indian.

‘In true understated Australian fashion, the tone of all this is also rather low-key because within immediate walking distance of this notice-board are four very different, exciting and distinctive places to eat.’

The Tricycle Café and Smolt, both in Salamanca Square, received tasty reviews.

‘The former, close to the entrance to the Peacock Theatre, is run by Adam Jones and Megan Quill with an obvious and heartfelt passion for top -quality ingredients,’ Ms Robinson blogged.

‘We had two excellent meals here, a lunch of chickpea fritters and salad and a toasted sourdough sandwich stuffed with ham and cheese, and a breakfast in the sunshine where the star of the show was Tricycle trifle, a tall glass layered with fresh local apricots, granola and yoghurt. Their coffee is excellent, too.’

She described Smolt as set in a modern building with a low ceiling. ‘Combined with an open kitchen and some obviously very happy customers when we walked in at 7.30pm, meant that the place was as noisy as anywhere in London or New York,’ she wrote.

‘But Smolt’s team, ably led by Kif Weber, are highly professional and handle not just their boisterous clientele with charm, but also a wideranging menu that takes in pizzas, pasta and a wide range of main courses.

‘Particularly impressive were a dish of grilled tuna; a creamy risotto topped with juicy scallops; and a series of vegetable small plates.

‘Both Smolt and Fish Frenzy, right on the waterfront and specialising in Tasmania’s popular foodand- wine combination of fish and chips with a glass of the local pinot noir, would be fun for anyone travelling in a group.’

The Mill on Morrison reminded Ms Robinson of a bustling restaurant in London’s Shoreditch.

‘The interior, once the ground floor of the city’s flour mill built in the 1850s, combines cast iron columns and thick wooden beams with an ultramodern menu: a large paper table mat that encompasses a whole range of small, medium and large plates all at different prices.

‘Excellent oysters from Bruny and Woody Islands; fried squid with lemon jam and octopus with celeriac remoulade ($10 each); plates of ham and a dish of crisp slices of Spring Bay abalone with vanilla fennel ($15); and for the more adventurous, a grilled wallaby porterhouse ($30).’

The next day, during a packed visit, Ms Robinson visited The Source at Moorilla Estate and received an insight into why local menu prices seemed so high to visitors with struggling sterling or euros in their pockets.

Joseph Burton, Manager of The Source told her restaurateurs were coping not only with the strong Australian dollar and rising costs, but also with Australia’s long-established practice of BYO.

Ms Robinson wrote that allowing customers to bring their own wine for free or only a minimal charge was depriving restaurateurs of their biggest source of profit.

‘At The Source, set in the Moorilla vineyard … Burton does not allow BYO and he and chef Philippe Leban run a restaurant of great distinction.,’ she wrote.

‘Their own, excellent beer-fermented bread and stunning first courses of a shrimp consommé with onion ravioli and warm jack mackerel with a wasabi cream were the culinary highlights.

‘But the most memorable moment came when a young Australian at the next table, wearing shorts, thongs and sunglasses perched on his head, took his first sip of the excellent Grosset Polish Hill Riesling that Burton had just poured, nodded his approval and then nonchalantly added: ‘Come back soon and we can talk about the red burgundies.’

‘Restaurateurs in the rest of the world would love lunchtime customers like this!'

The architecture of the restaurant at Meadowbank reminded Ms Robinson of the seminal design of the initial Robert Mondavi winery in Napa, California.

‘That aside, everything else is pure Tasmania: uninterrupted views of the bucolic countryside that are the lure for the rapidly growing number of visitors from Asia; crisp red and white wines; a tartare of ocean trout; plump Spring Bay mussels with cream and herbs; and, the shock for anyone from the Northern Hemisphere, fresh apricots in February,’ she wrote.

This article first published in Innovate, the e-newsletter from Brand Tasmania. Click here for more details »


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