That little city way down under.
A majestic snow capped mountain as the backdrop in the neighbourhood, who'd thought it is actually part of Australia's landscape? Believe it or not, such picturesque scenery is actually right on your doorstep at the most southern part of Australia - no, not Victoria, I am talking about Tasmania.
I've been to Tasmania a couple of times and it actually is one of my favourite Australia cities to visit. And this is my third visit to Tasmania with the Pom, and I still find this "land way down under" fascinating and exciting. Tasmania is popular for its dramatic landscapes and you'll be surprised how different it is from the mainland. (Just don't refer Tasmania as a total different country, you really don't want to upset the locals. As the Pom learned it the hard way, HA! :D )
First thing you'd notice that there aren't that many gum trees here for a start but pine trees, which I think is a nice change. I find it boring to do long road trips on the mainland sometimes because every time I look out the window, all I could see is nothing but rows after rows of gum trees on a very flat, bleak landscape. You definitely won't find it here in Tasmania. No matter where you go in Tasmania, every corner is picture perfect like a postcard - snowy mountains, grassy green hills, waterfalls, gorges, you name it. You may not know this, but Tasmania's capital city - Hobart, has also been rated the world's third most photogenic city by the readers of Lonely Planet.
And for the food lovers, I would like to do a quick test with you:
Question: Blue Cheese, Salmon or Abalone, which part of Australia would you immediately think of?
If 2 out of 3 of your answers are Tasmania, then I don't think I really need to convince you that Tasmania is truly a paradise for food lovers. And if you have watched the current episode of MasterChef, you'd have learned that the Australia's first cookbook is actually written in Tasmania by Edward Abbott, published in 1864. As Matt Preston put it, Tasmania is the birthplace of Australian cuisine.
Hobart, is the first city we visited during our trip. It is actually Australia's second oldest city, after Sydney. Hobart is somewhat remind me of Melbourne on the mainland, or Wellington in New Zealand, it is a charming little city with population of about 205,000. This historical city that was once founded on convicts, whalers, merchants and seamen is now a colorful lively city known for its arts, maritime lifestyle, food culture and of course its forever bustling Salamanca Market.
We just landed and we were famished, so it's time to look for some food.
Jackman & McRoss - Battery Point Store
For breakfast, we hit Jackman & McRoss bakery at Battery Point. Jackman & McRoss (J&M) has been established for over 11 years and expanded to three locations around Hobart - Battery Point, New Town and also in the heart of Hobart CBD. The bakery store in Battery Point I believe is the biggest of them all, where most of the baked goods are freshly baked here everyday. It is an institution in Hobart where locals come for a lazy weekend brunch, even Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson dropped by here early this year for lunch and spotted Tim carrying some of the sweet treats in paper bag - good choice.
We walked into a warm, homely but spacious bakery, immediately welcomed and greeted by the friendly barista who was multitasking on the coffee machine to fulfill the takeaway orders. I couldn't take my eyes off the glass cabinet which was fully decorated with stacks and stacks of pastries and sweet treats. It was quite a sight to behold. We settled down in the cafe with a cup of coffee which was a little weak to my liking.
The breakfast menu is a short but sweet, mostly baked goods with eggs in many ways. But the chalkboard on the wall offers more hot cooked dishes for those who want something more substantial. The Pom had a simple chocolate brioche bun to go with jam and butter whilst I went for scrambled egg wrapped in smoked salmon on danish pastry which got a little soggy in the end because of the water residue from the steaming hot scrambled egg and cooked spinach. I also asked for a pain au chocolate, but a same-same-but-different chocolate croissant was delivered to us. It was as good as a croissant could get, flaky puff pastry shattered into million flecks on the table in one bite and there was just enough of chocolate filling inside to tease one's cravings.
Jackman and McRoss Bakery 57-59 Hampden Road
Battery Point TAS 7004
Opening hours: mon-fri 7.30am-6pm; sat-sun 7.30-5pm
As we were leaving the cafe, a man walked past me, saw me taking photos and started chatting to me. He told us a few doors down from J&R was where famous Hollywood actor Errol Flynn was born, and he also pointed to the cafe just across the road from J&R, that's where Mary Donaldson used to work as a waitress before becoming the Crown Princess Mary of Denmark. True or not, don't hold my words for it. But that cafe has long gone and now a new cafe named Environs claimed the spot.
No trip to Hobart is complete without a visit of the Salamanca Market. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Salamanca market continues to grow and now up to 300 stalls, it attracts up to 40,000 visitors every Saturday in summer, and 25,000 in winter. The sky was threatened to rain when we were there but it didn't stop the locals and tourists to come out and have a stroll along the market.
Fresh produce direct from the farms aplenty at the market, you'll find crisp organic vegetables from the nearby Huon Valley, cheeses and wines from Coal River Valley or even mead and whiskey derived from the Central Highlands. And apples, apples everywhere! Who'd have thought there are more than 10 different types of apples in one small little island?
Tasmanian arts and crafts are also highlights for me, many of them we actually couldn't get back in mainland. I bought myself a Huon pine rolling pin and also had a chat with Alice Hansen, children's book author who just published her sixth book 'Labels are gay' recently. She is in the process of talking to distributors to launch her book in mainland, so hopefully we will see her books on the shelf in the bookstores one day.
All you need to beat the winter chill is some deep fried food! The traditional Dutch dumpling Oliebollen is surprisingly popular here at the market. The big ball of doughnut was studded with raisin and apple chunks, and you'll have the choice of cinnamon-sugar dusting or icing sugar. However, I much preferred the deep fried tempura mushroom. For $7.00, you'll get a plate of piping hot mushrooms coated in crunchy tempura batter. A drizzle of soy sauce and a squeeze of sweet chilli sauce and off you go, best street food ever as you browse the stalls at the market.
Salamanca Market Salamanca Place
Hobart, Tasmania 7000
Opens every Saturday
Guess who I met?
It's the Gourmet Farmer, Matthew Evans.
A Common Ground
Since moving to Tasmania, Matthew Evans has started breeding his own Berkshire pigs and sold the pork at a stall at the Salamanca Market. Since then, Matthew has collaborated with Bruny Island Cheese Co's owner Nick Haddow and set up a new store A Common Ground inside Salamanca Arts Centre, as they called it "a cupboard under the stairs packed with Tasmanian artisan produce", and that's exactly what it is.
Matthew was happily cutting wedges of pungent cheeses and handled out to whoever walked into the shop. Matthew's wife, Sadie was also there stocking and mingling with the shoppers. If you want good local produce without having to drive there yourself, this is the place for you.
A Common Ground shop shop 3, Salamanca Arts Centre
77 Salamanca Place
Hobart, Tasmania 7004
P: 0429 370 192
One last quick stop at Wursthaus Kitchen before lunch. Wursthaus is one of the most well stocked gourmet food stores in Hobart. It was like walking into a traditional deli in Europe; I was overwhelmed by the huge selection of cured meat, sausages, preserves and everything else behind the glass cabinets. A butcher at the back offers a great selection cuts of meat, an open fridge is fully covered with local and imported cheeses, then the dry good section is stacked with hard to find imported ingredients and also premium wines.
Trust me, there are enough wurst to schinken your teeth into!
Wursthaus Kitchen 1 Montpelier Retreat,
Battery Point, Hobart
We had our lunch at Smolt restaurant which is conveniently located in Salamanca Square. Smolt restaurant is co owned by Tassal Salmon, the largest salmon producer and exporter in Tasmania who also has a retail shop right next door to the restaurant.
We arrived at Smolt just before lunch hour and within minutes, the restaurant was packed to the rafter. The menu offers a mix of Italian (including a separate pizza menu) and Spanish, that showcases Tasmania produce. We kicked start the meal with some freshly shucked Bruny Island oysters, those scrawny little suckers were not as plump as Sydney Rock oysters but quite meaty and briny nevertheless. However, their complimentary house baked ciabatta was satisfyingly delicious and light, was too good that even asked for second EVOO and candied balsamic vinegar dip to finishing up the bread.
We both shared an entree of duck liver parfait, which smooth and creamy - in fact, it was runny and unset. We found there was too much cream used in the parfait and very little liver flavour in existence. We were more excited about the pickled celery which tasted nothing like celery but an addictive flavour of sweet and sour.
For mains, the salmon dish sounded absurd with so many components on one plate, The Pom decided to order it just for curiosity sake. It was indeed a massive dish with way too many flavours and components that didn't seem to belong in one dish. A generous piece of Tassal salmon fillet was grilled perhaps a little on the overdone side, paired with chewy farro braised in orange and fennel sauce. On top of that, two chunks of caramelised braised pork belly were served with skordalia, the creamy garlic and potato puree was off set with a trail of zesty gremolata. But wait, don't forget the spring bay mussels hidden somewhere. It was a very heavy dish that we both couldn't finished.
My Italian classic of pork cheek ragu braised with silverbeet served with tagliatelle on the other hand, was a winner. It was unpretentious comforting food with a shave of pecorino over the top that all I needed now was a fireplace. Despite we both have sweet tooth, we decided to skip desserts as we are about to join a tour - a 'food' tour to be exact.
Smolt Restaurant 2 Salamanca Square
Hobard TAS 7000
P: 03 6224 2554
Opening hours: opens for Lunch and Dinner
Gourmania Food Tours Tasmania
After lunch, we caught up with Mary NcNeill, the founder of Gourmania Food Tours Tasmania who will take us on a food tour and show us the up and coming food scene in Hobart. Mary is actually a former pastry chef for over 20 years and last year she decided to bring her knowledge in food from the kitchen out onto the streets and set up Gourmania food tours. And, bring the 6th generation Tasmania, no one would argue with her in-depth knowledge of this city, its history and culture through food and wine.
Mary runs three different walking tours - a 4-hour City Tour that showcases Tasmanian produces from cheeses, wines, charcuterie to pastries and beyond; Tea to Tapas is an afternoon 3-hour walking tour that introduces you to the newest hot spots in Hobart; then there is also a Farmgate market tour on some Sundays that obviously you will get up close and personal with farmers and producers and learn more about their produce.
We start our 'Tea to Tapas' tour this afternoon from Jackman & McRoss.
Jackman & McRoss - City Store
Do not make mistake and head to the other Jackman & McRoss at Battery Point where we had our breakfast, this smaller J&M outlet is right bang in downtown Hobart. All the delicious beautiful breads, pastries and cakes behind glass cabinets are made from the main J&M kitchen and delivered here. It is a perfect spot for a lazy afternoon with a cup of coffee, a croissant and let the crumbs scatter over your shirt and your laps. A sip of Josef Chromy bubbly, a sample of their gorgeous strawberry tart, a quick chat with our friendly store keeper, Graziano di Martino (What a name!), who happens to be a fellow photographer; and on we go to our next food spot.
Jackman and McRoss Bakery 4 Victoria Street
Hobart, TAS 7000
P: 03 6231 0601
Opening Hours: Mon - Fri 7am - 4.30pm
They actually just celebrated its first birthday only few months back, by handling out free coffee all day long and had the whole street in gridlock. Funnily enough, Gridlock Coffee in Melbourne is where they have their own blend roasted.
Two friends, Scott Clements, a carpenter, and David Jolly, a cycling specialist created Yellow Bernard. It is a small, specialty café located in the city not far from the Fullers Bookstore, an institution of Hobard city. It is all about coffee here, they don't serve food except macarons, baked by a good friend which proven to be popular and usually sold out before noon. Occasionally, Scott's mum will also bake some brownies for those who like something sweet to go with their coffees. We tried the house blend, which is a sweeter blend with light acidity, dark chocolate bitterness and a butterscotch toffee like flavour.
Good coffee aside, what's the meaning behind "Yellow Bernard", I wonder?
Yellow Bernard 109 Collins Street,
Hobart, TAS 7000
P: (03) 6231 5207
Opening Hours: Mon - Fri 7am - 4pm
Cheese, glorious cheese! Next stop is at Bottega Rotolo, and the Hobart branch is only one year young. It is the one stop shop for all fine food, wine and cheese! Lots of cheese! And of course, the Bottega Rotolo in Hobart has the most extensive range of cheeses imported from overseas. The cheese room is not a cheese TV, is a cheese cineplex!
They also hold cooking classes in the spacious kitchen at the back of the store which tends to be very popular with the locals. But who needs cooking when I have cheeses? We tried three cheeses - Palais de Ducs, a triple cream cheese which has a stronger creamy flavour than a normal triple brie, Montboisse Morbier, a very interesting semi soft cheese by using milk milked in the morning, let it set with an ash layer then top it up with milk milked from the evening. We could definitely taste the different between the layers as we found the morning milk actually has stronger flavour than the other half. The last cheese is a Shropshire which is a Stilton bluecheese with yellow colouring. But funny thing is, the cheese is actually made in Nottinghamshire, Shropshire is just a name chosen to help marketing and increase its popularity, possibly also the reason why they added the yellow food colouring similar to cheddar.
Bottega Rotolo 141 Bathurst St
Hobart, TAS 7000
P: 03 6234 9978
F: 03 6234 9536
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9.30am-5.30pm Sat 9.30am-4pm
Chado - The way of Tea
You may not remember the band Violent Femmes, but I am sure you've heard of the song Blister in the Sun that goes,
Let me go on like I blister in the sun, Let me go on big hands I know you're the one
That's right, band founder and bassist, Brian Ritchie has put the guitar down and picked up teacup, along with his Sri Lankan wife, Varuni Kulasekara and set up Chado, a teahouse where you can sample up to 80 different kinds of teas from China, Taiwan, Japan, Sri Lankan, Africa, South America and India. If you would like to attend one of the tea classes, it will take 3 hours to go through up to 7 different types of tea. Varuni is a tea hobbyist and the most expensive tea in her collection is a rare old Chinese tea that costs $1200 per kilogram. The stash was hidden, just in case.
Chado - The way of tea 134 Elizabeth St
Hobart, TAS 7000
P: 03 6231 6411
Opening hours: Tue - Sat 10am - 4pm
Ethos Eat Drink
The tour brought us to a significant piece of history in Hobart. Ethos is a restaurant housed inside one of Hobart's oldest buildings. Once the space was served as the stable of The Old Hobart Hotel back in 1820s, and Ash Chemist and Druggist had been operated on the same sight from 1830s to 2000. This building had been through many demolishes and renovations and the stable has been blocked off for over 100 years and no one knew the space existed until they discovered it only four years ago. The space is listed a National Trust heritage sight so many features in the building has to be kept in its original state including an original wooden dunny! The only wall erected in the renovation is the one to separate the kitchen from the dining area as part of the food safety regulations. Many artifacts found on the sight are recycled and became art features in the restaurant, especially the chandeliers made from chemist bottles.
And, the philosophy behind Ethos is about making commitments to be more environment friendly and minimise the impact of operating; kitchen and bar utilise low consumption and emission equipment; sourcing ethical commodities from biodynamic vegetables to hand-reared and caught meat and fish.
We were introduced and sampled two of their entree dishes of roasted cauliflower, fennel with labneh and pickled baby vegetables with Tongola goat cheese. The simplicity and clean flavours emphasised the quality of the produce, particularly loved the roasted cauliflower with the tangy labneh. And of course, they also baked their own bread in house.
Ethos Eat Drink 100 Elizabeth St,
Hobart, TAS 7000
P: 03 6231 1165
Opening hours: Tues-Fri 10am-late; Sat 9am-late; Sun 9am-3pm
And our final stop for the tour is at the most raved about eatery, Garagistes (pron. geh-rah-jists). They called themselves a wine bar, but I'd say it is more of a modern bistro housed inside a spacious former car repair garage, hence the restaurant name. Long wooden communal tables is the new style of dining these days; and with no booking policy, so come exceptionally early or after 9pm will have better chances of getting a seat. If worse comes to worst, they will write down your name on the door list and send you off to their sister wine bar, Sidecar, just around the corner for a few wine while you wait.
We ordered two snack dishes from the menu, steamed Bruny Island oysters with 8yo cider vinegar emulsion was delightfully sweet and briny; whereas the smoked wagyu tongue yakiniku stole my heart away, tender shaves of beef tongue smothered in sweet shungiku glaze, a sprinkle of grated black radish lifted the flavours beautifully.
Shame we already had dinner booked elsewhere, if not I'd have stayed at Garagistes for a proper meal. Oh well, next time...
Garagistes 103 Murray Street
Hobart TAS 7000
P: 03 6231 0558
Opening Hours: Wed-Sat from 5pm til late
Piccolo Restaurant and Wine Bar
A quick freshen up back at the hotel and off we went again for more food at the well loved Piccolo restaurant and wine bar at the busy food hub in North Hobart. The restaurant is housed inside a cosy terrace, no more than 10 tables tight squeezed into every inches of the floor they could find. But there is a courtyard at the back for those who are brave enough to stay chilled in the wintery nights.
Piccolo is famous for its rustic Italian food just like how nonna used to make, but I found the menu was actually more than that, all the food we ordered were well executed with bold flavours, and presented elegantly with finesse. I didn't take a photo of the menu and stupidly thinking it will be available on internet, sadly Piccolo doesn't even have a website! So here I tried my best to remember the dishes we have devoured.
We shared a starter of baccala fritters, the fritter balls are made of salt cod mince coated in polenta crumbs that gave it a nice crispy texture once deep fried, I do find the salt cod inside is a little salty and in need of the paprika aioli to balance it out. The spanner crab ravioli was one of the highlights, silky smooth house made pasta parcels with chunks of sweet spanner crab meat inside; each mouthful was slippery smooth delight swimming in nutty burnt butter sauce, balanced by tiny little refreshing cucumber beads.
The Pom's Cape Grim scotch fillet was cooked to medium-rare perfection; caramelised smoky flavour from the grill with a juicy pink center; with a homely rustic pairing of earthy mushrooms, crispy pancetta and duck fat fried potatoes. Sadly, my pork belly didn't deserved a standing ovation; slow cooked pork belly was a tad dry on the meat side whilst the skin was still leathery and chewy.
Desserts were more promising, my poached quince with cinnamon yoghurt ice cream shouted out winter in a plate. But The Pom's went for chocolate mousse cake which turned out to be as fudgey as ganache; it was very rich and I obliged to help out if I must.
Sullivans Cove Apartment
We were being put up at the Sullivans Cove apartments, which is only a stone throw away from the Salamanca market. My apartment is actually inside the former Henry Jones IXL jam factory building which has been tastefully renovated into luxury modern apartments. We would sleep well tonight me reckon.
The very next morning, I think I had a MaCaulay Culkin moment in Home Alone...
Well, not really Christmas in mid year but I always dreamt about having a white snowy Christmas. As we were driving Mount Wellington, the temperature suddenly dropped and white powdery snowflakes started falling from the sky. Despite it caused havoc at the top of Mount Wellington with road closures, many of us decided to pull over on the side of the road and got out of the cars to play in the snow field.
Tasmania is truly magical... like Narnia.
But we have more places to visit, people to meet and food to devour... to be continued.
Here's a little video I put together of our tour in Hobart. Enjoy!
Have you been to Tasmania? If so, what was the highlights of your trip?
[A Table For Two and The Pom visit Tasmania courtesy of Tourism Tasmania]