Show-off holiday post: Hobart

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I’ve just returned from a few days in Hobart with my lovely friend, Steph. Steph is an excellent travel companion because she understands the important stuff like snacks* and museum gift-shops**.

I hadn’t been to Hobart since the seventies (I know!), so really, all prior Tasmanian experiences didn’t count and I was essentially a newcomer.

And what an amazing few days we had. The purpose of the trip was to visit MONA, however I quickly realised that a visit to MONA is a good way to dress-up three days of eating and drinking. I’ve been lucky enough to have some amazing meals during the last few weeks but my two nights out in Hobart – at Franklin and then Ethos – were possibly two of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. Anywhere. Ever.

Day 1

We arrived late in the afternoon and checked into our hotel, The Henry Jones. The hotel sits on the wharf and occupies the former IXL Jam Factory – part of its charm is the exposed brick walls, factory machinery, wooden beams and the corrugated iron roof that remain (we had a big wheel and pulley in our room).

We took a walk around Salamanca and then headed back to the hotel for cocktails. The incredible beetroot, gin, grenadine and liqueur de violette concoction we had smelt earthy and rich yet had a surprising citrus tang (and yes, it looked like blood and was thick and viscous like blood – it was created for the Dark MOFO festival) – it set the tone for what lay ahead (excellence).

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We then headed to Franklin for dinner. Franklin is the new kid on the block and when I booked a few weeks ago they didn’t even have a complete website, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Firstly, wow. Located in a 1920s car showroom, the restaurant is all polished concrete, wood, glass and clever lighting. It doesn’t feel cold though – the open kitchen and wood oven, animal skin rugs, and native blooms create a calm, inviting space. The service was excellent and the food, sublime – exciting flavours and some unusual ingredients but seemingly simply prepared. There is an emphasis on Tasmanian produce at Franklin. We ate –

  • pacific oysters
  • duck liver parfait with wood-fired kale (if kale was always as tasty as this, I’d eat #ALLTHEKALE)
  • southern calamari with blackened eggplant and nasturtium
  • bone marrow dumplings with roasted Jerusalem artichokes, black truffle and sea blight
  • whole roasted flathead with kombu butter (could have had a bowl of that kombu butter and eaten it like soup)
  • beef hanger with potato sauce, beef dripping*** and toasted bean leaf (my favourite dish, shown below)

We couldn’t fit in dessert (I know, novices) but if I’d been wearing elastic-waisted pants I would have had the lemon and bay-leaf ice cream. Next time.

hobart-20Day 2

Started the day with Eggs Benedict at Machine Laundry Cafe (it’s a laundromat and a cafe). The eggs were perfect. Then we jumped on the ferry to MONA (Museum of Old and New).

I had no preconceived ideas about what I’d see at MONA (although I knew about the wall of vaginas). I started with a little jump on a trampoline (it’s functional art) – you know I can’t resist a view.

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Happily, on the MONA audio tour, there’s ‘art wank’ information for each installation. It’s good, because sometimes I look at modern art and think “Realllllly….?” That said, the first installation was mesmerizing – water droplets made to form words, with the words taken from the most common words appearing on news feeds on the internet (there’s lots of deep thinking to be done there about the fleeting nature of world news but I was simply intrigued by the mechanics of the piece).

I could have also spent an afternoon in the Madonna karaoke installation – simply a whole bunch of people singing Madonna songs for hours on end. It initially strikes you as a wall of sound but the longer you listen, the more individual voices you hear. Who doesn’t love Lucky Star?

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After MONA we did some quick gin tasting, working our way through all that was on offer from McHenry, a boutique Tasmanian distillery. I walked away with a bottle of Sloe and a bottle of Classic. Happy days.

Learning from previous errors, Steph and I put on our elastic-waisted pants and headed to Ethos for dinner. Another exceptional space, although quite different to our previous evening. Ethos is tucked away and intimate. You enter through their kitchen garden and walk by the open kitchen, with its shelves crammed full of preserves and bottled fruit and vegetables. The restaurant is a warm space with interesting fixtures such as ropes and hooks on the wall, old bottles made into chandeliers and a sideboard loaded with fresh loaves of sourdough (we were offered a takeaway loaf at the end of the night – isn’t that lovely?).

hobart-25Everything at Ethos is grown on the premises or sourced locally from small-batch suppliers and the menu changes daily (although we didn’t see the menu until the end of the evening – each dish was presented, with its story, by the brilliant staff). We ate –

hobart-13And because you’re probably wondering, the ‘snack’ was goose jelly topped with house-pickled walnut. And the pre-dessert was a persimmon granita. Quite frankly, any time a waitress says “For your first dessert tonight…”, you know you’re in the right kind of place. The mushrooms and cauliflower dish was exciting however the stand-out was the venison – every mouthful was, to quote Stradal, “… about as much flavor as fifteen seconds were capable of…”. Extraordinary.

Steph and I spent what some would consider an unreasonable amount of time debating which meal we enjoyed more. We couldn’t decide. Rematch?

Day 3

After a leisurely breakfast at our hotel (which included “…a little breakfast amuse from the chef…” {a tasty wedge of bread and butter pudding}), we picked up a car and headed to Mt Wellington for a view.

hobart-26We didn’t make it to the top before clouds set in however we got far enough to break out the pano setting on the camera.

hobart-15Then a pleasant half-hour drive out of Hobart landed us in Richmond, home to the oldest bridge in Australia. Richmond is my only memory of my 1976 visit to Tasmania – I stood on the edge of the river singing “Five little ducks went out one day…” and my dad captured the moment with a photo. Meanwhile my mum was trying to move us all on. The photos later revealed why – while I was singing to ducks, there was a couple on a picnic blanket who probably should have got a room.

Our return to Hobart included a quick stop for cheese-tasting and then, when we discovered our flight was delayed, some Tasmanian beer-tasting. Obvs.

All in all, a ten-out-of-ten trip.

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* we tend to have enormous breakfasts, snacks, then lavish dinners when we travel together.
** we’re not mad for shopping but we never bypass a museum gift-shop.
*** in case you don’t know, dripping is basically molten fat and is extremely delicious in the right context.

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9 responses

  1. Do you remember how I copied your Berlin trip? I think I’ll also be copying this one. I have never been to Tassie, and have really been wanting to go ever since I heard Jon Faine talking about the Bay of Fires, and then really really wanting to go, ever since I heard about MONA. You are like a travel scout; you go out and find the best things (don’t know how you do that) and then people like me (adventurous, yes, but often will make bad choices, ie the wrong restaurant, wrong hotel) can follow in your wake.

    Let me know if you ever go to Istanbul/Turkey. Then I can share some titbits. (But you’ve probably been.)

    • Thank you 🙂 I’ve resolved to see more of Tasmania (the natural scenery bits), and to take the kids. I hadn’t been before now because, as a general rule, I avoid cold weather. That said, I think it was warmer in Hobart than it was in Melbourne. Hobart was a great destination for a short holiday – lots of great flight deals available, booking everything was easy and when we were there, I didn’t think it was expensive for what we did (compared to Melbourne or Sydney).

      I always put a vast amount of research into where to eat when I visit somewhere new (priorities). I like finding things by chance but I also like having a few representative restaurants locked in (can’t fight my natural tendency to plan #ALLTHETHINGS ). Coincidentally, my travel companion to Hobart was the same friend I was with in Berlin – she is a (very, very good) interior designer who specialises in hotel and restaurant design – so, no pressure on me to choose spectacular places 😉

      I haven’t been to Turkey – when I do, you will be my first port of call 🙂

  2. Double thumbs up excellent trip although the lack of gift shop at MONA was a slight black spot. Never underestimate the importance of good s, giftshop and dinner planning. Oh and gin of course. Thanks for organising it all. It was bulk ace.

  3. Pingback: A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

  4. Pingback: Show-off holiday post: Hobart (again) | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

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