It’s become difficult to keep up with Hobart’s restaurants and bars. Trend-setting Garagistes has faded in the memory and Ethos has long gone. Franklin has received a makeover and long-time favourite Smolt has vanished, replaced by another hotspot. New places continue to emerge.
Tapas lovers are now well catered for with Faro in the new Pharos space at MONA, and with the arrival of The Den on the Salamanca waterfront, which also does a nifty line-up of cocktails. Meanwhile, Cantonese standout Me Wah has opened the new Kwan Ho at Wrest Point Casino.
The ‘book or miss out’ destinations include Fico and Templo – both tiny, relative newcomers – along with funky Dier Makr and the recently unveiled Frogmore Creek City.
If you have only one night in town, Fico would be my choice. Oskar Rossi, ex Melbourne’s Vue de Monde and son of renowned local artist Tom Samek, has teamed up with his Italian partner Federica Andrisani to serve a delightful mix of intriguing dishes featuring Japanese and Italian accents. The couple describes their style as “a blurring of fine dining and a traditional bistro”. Think dishes like roasted pigeon, squid mousse with crab and mustard leaves, or house-made spaghetti with sardines. The ambience is delightful, service spot-on and wine knowledge excellent; expect everything from boutique Tasmanian wines to good-value imports. The $65 “let us feed you” menu is deservedly popular. Templo, which seats just 20, looks like a cosy neighbourhood eatery, but serves excellent Italian-influenced dishes, with a focus on wines from boutique producers, many of them making minimal-intervention wines. Here you will find dishes such as casarecce pasta with cheese, puntarella and pancetta, wines from the likes of Tom Shobbrook and top service.
Suzie Luck’s – in a bright revamped space on Salamanca Place that formerly housed Smolt – ticks all the boxes; enjoy the best of Thailand, Vietnam and other south-east Asian cuisines, along with punchy cocktails. This is fun dining, from Vietnamese Wagyu beef carpaccio to soft-shell crab banh mi and twice-cooked pork belly.
Another recent arrival, Dier Makr, is from Melburnians Kobi Ruzicka and Sarah Fitzsimmons. The focus is on produce-driven seasonal tasting menus, and clever cocktails and wines that veer to the lo-fi side of the drinking spectrum. You’ll find mainly organic and biodynamic wines in the walk-in cellar, along with some intriguing imports. The $65 tasting menu here is a winner.
Long-time favourite Franklin (pictured above) said farewell to chef David Moyle, with ex-Bar Brosé panhandler Analiese Gregory making the move from Sydney to take over. Choose a seat near the open kitchen in Franklin’s cavernous post-industrial space and start your night with Tasmanian bubbles and local oysters. As at Dier Makr, you’ll find some unexpected names on the wine list, as well as bottles from the owners’ vineyard – Jetty Road, from the Channel region south of Hobart.
Frank, under the same management as Suzie Luck’s, is a busy South American hotspot where it’s about meat, meat and more meat. Discover lesser-used cuts in tasty empanadas or perhaps the flank steak that’s served with a chimichurri sauce and salsa piquante. The charcoal grill is a key attraction here, but you’ll also find fresh oysters and ceviche on offer, with most dishes also suitable for sharing. Frank’s wine list is an amalgam of reds from Chile and Argentina alongside some more familiar names. An excellent Don David Torrontes is worth a whirl for white wine drinkers, while Jed Malbec from the Uco Valley is a red standout. Meadowbank and Moorilla are among the local labels, though only a fool would visit without sampling a Pisco Sour.
Down the road at Brooke Street Pier, be blown away by the fabulous views at Aloft, an attic space offering Asian-fusion dishes. Much of its ever-rotating menu focuses on seasonal herbs and vegetables, and locally caught seafood. On the same wharf you’ll find The Glass House, which specialises in share plates and also has an outstanding sake range.
Other newcomers include Landscape Restaurant & Grill at the Henry Jones Hotel, where chef Oli Mellers uses a coal-fired grill to serve seared, aged, local Wagyu, Tasmanian lamb and seafood. The wine list strikes a well-judged balance of New World and Old, complete with a choice of House of Arras bubbles by the glass and names ranging from Marion’s Vineyard to Levantine Hill and Chateau Lascombes.
Mr Good Guy is in the new Ibis Hotel, offering Asian hawker-style dishes, while at The Old Wharf Restaurant in the new five-star Macq 01 Hotel, former Saffire Freycinet head chef Simon Pockran shines a light on seafood and fresh produce. The hotel’s cosy Story Bar is the place to settle in and enjoy a selection of Tasmanian whiskies.
Frogmore Creek City (a spin-off from the Coal River Valley vineyard restaurant) opened last October, offering two dining experiences on the waterfront. The Lounge is an elegant but relaxed eatery, while Atmosphere by Frogmore Creek features high-end wines and food from chef Ruben Koopman (pictured below). This is an ultra-luxe eatery with prices to match.
For those who just want a glass of wine or maybe an artisan gin, check out Drink Co. Its range of local offerings is extraordinary, and all wines are at cellar-door prices. It’s run by winemaker and distiller James Broinowski. Other recent arrivals include the laid-back speakeasy Gold Bar, and Rude Boy, with its Caribbean vibe and regular rum events.
Black Footed Pig is an excellent tapas and wine bar, with nearby Institut Polaire a tiny venue operated by the team from Domaine Simha and Sud Polaire gin, specialising in small-plate dishes. For excellent wines by the glass, head to north Hobart bar Willing Bros or the European-themed Ettie’s, which has taken over the old Ethos space and fast built a reputation for its bistro classics.
Get out of town
Save some time to venture out of the capital city.
The new Agrarian Kitchen Eatery at New Norfolk picked up two Chef’s Hats and was named Regional Restaurant of the Year in the 2018 Good Food Guide. This spin-off from Rodney Dunn and Severine Demanet’s Agrarian Kitchen Cooking School at neighbouring Lachlan serves dishes accompanied by wine from star Tasmanian producers such as Stargazer, Hughes and Hughes, Meadowbank and Bagdad Hills. Allow a 30-minute drive north of Hobart.
Gourmet Farmer Matthew Evans’ Friday Feasts present degustation lunches at Fat Pig Farm outside Cygnet, around a 40-minute drive south of the capital. Nearly all produce served comes from the farm, and wines are from producers including Sailor Seeks Horse and Stefano Lubiana.
Perhaps the best sushi in Tasmania is at Masaaki’s in the Huon Valley hamlet of Geeveston (BYO only), while up north in Launceston, long-time favourites Stillwater and Black Cow Bistro (both with excellent wine lists) share the limelight with more recent arrival Geronimo.
At Pumphouse Point on Lake St Clair, a new wine list (compiled by yours truly) comprises 75 per cent Tasmanian examples (think MacLean Bay, Bream Creek and Milton) along with high-end imports sourced from the cellar at the Royal Mail in Victoria.
This article originally appeared as ‘Hobart sets the pace’ in issue #40 of Halliday magazine.