Five top Hobart feasts
Hobart’s reputation for exciting, boundary-pushing cuisine is well deserved and strong enough to make the rest of Australia sit up to attention.
Whether you are dining in the basement of Mona, the back streets of the city, or a CBD hole in the wall, the food is fresh, original and exciting. It draws on the abundance of excellent Tasmanian produce and serves up the expected with flair. Here are five dining options that will make you hungry to visit.
The only thing you can predict about dining at the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) is that it is unpredictable.
Dining at Faro, where the restaurant is reverse engineered around an art installation, turns a meal into an experience. Built around the enormous white globe of James Turrell’s Unseen Seen with his Weight of Darkness waiting around the corner, the restaurant is an eye-stopping space.
Unpredictable dining at Faro.
Walk in here and you’ll be stunned by the 13m high ceilings and the first natural light in the museum. Do you look at the expansive Derwent River views, the white sphere, or your plate? Probably all three in quick succession until eating becomes your imperative.
Mona’s executive chef Vince Trim describes Faro as a place to invigorate you for the rest of your exploration. Originally from New Zealand, Vince has been ‘let loose in the Mona kitchen’, as he describes it, for 10 years. His culinary passion is evident, and it drives the eclectic European-inspired seasonal menu to great heights.
The menu teases, starting with little and small plates, then working up to large plates, and is spiked with ingredients you have never heard of before. It’s okay to ask the wait staff to explain what guindilla, kunzea or saltbush furakaki might be before you order. They may be new flavours to your palate, but you can be sure your taste buds will be delighted to meet them.
The drinks do not disappoint either. Faro’s black margarita with a feral pig eye encased in ice is a beautiful but confronting concoction. An offshoot of Mona’s Eat the Problem exhibition, which aims to deepen the appreciation of sustainable thinking, the cocktail is available on request, when the tricky ice cube ball machinery is working.
Dining at Templo is like going to a party at someone’s house where the crowd is pumping and the food is deliciously approachable.
Small and cosy, the restaurant might be located in the back blocks of Hobart, but it does not miss out when it comes to awards, taking home a hat in the Good Food Guide 2019.
The small, seasonal Italian-influenced menu is filled with the sort of dishes that make your mouth water just thinking about them. The cooking is inventive but not over-the-top, the service fast and friendly.
Owners Chris Chapple and Matt Breen, who is also head chef, source their produce direct from a handful of suppliers, farmers and producers.
The menu changes regularly, but the gnocco fritto (small fried bread puffs) is available every day, along with handmade pasta. You might also find baked sardines or pork neck with braised greens alongside fried quail. If it all sounds too tempting, a chef’s menu with small tastes of everything should suffice. There’s also a window through to the kitchen so you can see all the action unfold.
Tasmanian Wild Seafood Adventures
If you have never been fond of the flavour of sea urchin, this half-day cruise on the Derwent River and around Bruny Island could change your mind.
You’ll see skipper and diver Shane Wilson jump overboard and bring up the ocean’s bounty ready for your feasting pleasure. There are sea urchins and periwinkles in the bag when Shane emerges and climbs, dripping, onto the deck. Those periwinkle shells that have been colonised by cute red hermit crabs get thrown back into the sea. The sea urchins are not so lucky. They are the fourth course in this deep-to-dish experience.
The decadent degustation takes place as the two-storey catamaran motors in through pristine Tasmanian waters. After an oyster shucking lesson, there are oysters natural, or kilpatrick if you prefer. As the boat pulls up next to a salmon farm, Shane brings out a large salmon.
It looks freshly plucked from the ocean, but he picked it up that morning from the farm. Shane makes fish filleting look so easy, and soon there are delicate slices of pink salmon marinating on top of a polished pink slab of rock salt. He dabs some with basil pesto and others get the blow torch treatment.
There is more still to come. A large red lobster quickly becomes another dish where the succulent white flesh is a star. The sea urchins have their moment of glory as the hard-shell exterior is cut open. Shane places it on a bed of rice, and it becomes sushi. The flavour is better than any I have tasted, but I’m still not convinced. However, according to Shane, this is a highlight for Asian passengers who consider sea urchin a real delight.
For me, the star of the show is the thin slices of abalone that Shane has freshly prepared. He shows us how to cut open the shell and prepare the meat. In a flash, it is cooked on the grill and served up in the shell.
Kin Japanese BBQ
Blink and you will miss this hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant in Hobart’s busy Macquarie Street, and that would be a shame, because this is food to savour.
You can see chef Casey Burns at the rear of this long, narrow restaurant cooking over a simple hibachi grill. The inspiration for this restaurant came not from a holiday in Japan, but a trip to New Zealand where Casey stumbled across a yakitori bar and had a lightbulb moment.
Back home in Hobart, Casey found a space to create the intimate dining experience of his dreams.
The food is all cooked over a little concrete box filled with coal made from recycled wood, which burns for up to seven hours so Casey can work his magic.
Expect to dine on Bruny Island oysters that are just warmed through yet still have chargrilled favour. There are roe-on Tasmanian scallops that you dip into the egg yolk and then roll in crumbled wakame (seaweed). You can also roll your own sashimi and caramelised yuzu (citrus fruit) tart for dessert. It’s crafted from seasonal produce sourced directly from small local suppliers, or whatever has inspired Casey at the Salamanca or Farmgate markets that week.
Bar manager Liliana is creative with drinks, and her Earl Grey cocktail is a must-try, or you can dip into the sake matches.
Many Tasmanians would know 190-year-old Prospect House just outside Richmond.
Present-day owners, John and Libby Pooley, bought the property in 2017 and reopened it as the elegant 12-room Prospect House Private Hotel. Although in-house guests take precedence, the dining room is once again welcoming outside visitors.
Head chef Kurstin Berriman works with carefully selected produce from Coal River Valley to create dishes that showcase local flavours. You might find beef cheek braised with Coal River cabernet surrounded by vegetables plucked that day from the Prospect House garden, or free-range Tarkine pork belly with pickled quince, again from the orchard just outside the dining room window.
Below the stairs, the convict-built cellar is now home to wines made between 100m and 10,000km from Prospect’s door.
Overnight guests enjoy a lavish breakfast spread in the kitchen conservatory including freshly baked bread, house-made muesli and condiments along with eggs to order.
Kerry Heaney is passionate about food. The writer and editor travels the world bite by bite. Kerry’s website, eatdrinkandbekerry.net and social platforms reach a highly motivated niche audience of passionate food lovers and travellers.