Tasmania is renowned for its wonderful local food and wine and boasts a number of high end dining experiences.
I spent a few days eating and drinking at some fabulous – and would be fabulous – restaurants in Hobart and Launceston.
Smolt http://www.smolt.com.au/ and Garagistes http://www.garagistes.com.au/ in Hobart; Mud http://www.mudbar.com.au/, Stillwater http://www.stillwater.com.au/, Josef Cromy http://www.josefchromy.com.au/ and Black Cow http://blackcowbistro.com.au/ in Launceston.
Garagistes and Josef Cromy provided some “food” for thought on gastronomic pleasure, food ethics and hype versus substance.
There was a certain je ne sais quoi as we entered the converted garage in Hobart to dine at Garagistes. The minamlist decor, the open kitchen and the communal tables were inviting. The high tables with high chairs to match were not…
The je ne sais quoi for me was never resolved. I found it hard to get a handle on the raison d’etre behind the dining experience. While advocating locally sourced produce (food) the wines were predominantly European and American – fine in itself – but incongruous for me in terms of the restaurant’s vision.
The food was… intriguing. Not always to my taste.
The menu was in the form of a degustation. While the opportunity to slowly work your way through an evolving number of courses is sophisticated and has a certain mathematical satisfaction, timing, as in theatre and in life, is everything. Twenty minutes between courses was frustrating and made more so when late arrival diners were pushed through their dining experience with expediency.
The open kitchen looked well organized and the food service seemed very professional. The dishes, too were immaculately executed. But as a diner I felt the colour and display of the food lacked vibrancy. Some dishes were rewarding in terms of taste, while others lacked satisfaction.
The best dish was the vegetarian option given to me in place of scampi as I have a shellfish allergy. Home made curd – a kind of soft haloumi – was utterly delicious.
The wagyu bavette take on “steak diane” was also good, if a little difficult for me to associate with the flambeed steak of another era.
The most disappointing was the dessert – this quirky writer loves sweet things to which this blog attests. A poached quince with some honey cream was miniscule and indistinct in flavours.
Je ne sais quoi kind of sums up the experience. I still don’t really know what the impact of the meal was supposed to be.
The restaurant associated with the Josef Cromy winery in Launceston was another sensory experience altogether. A beautiful dining space, warm and inviting, a menu that ate as well as it read. No hype here – beautiful produce, well cooked, presented on the plate with colour and panache, and flavours that were distinct, well articulated and just made you want to eat more.
The presentation and cooking were sophisticated, with dishes with a simple but unifying integrity.
Here are two dishes that I loved:
Free Range Chicken Breast – Black pudding and almond crumble, grilled peach, petite garden leaves, apple and olive oil emulsion
Assiette Glacée – A selection of ice cream, sorbet or gelato. Crumble short bread, little meringues, Glendale olive oil, natural pop corn
Yum! The addition of olive oil was intriguing and really worked. The selection was mango sorbet, chocolate and tiramisu ice creams.
Of course these impressions of two very different dining experiences are highly subjective. Tasmania is a wonderful place to eat – I would suggest go eat and see what you think.
A final image – the mural at Black Cow in Launcseton. Best steak ever!