Fanned by the new foodie revolution taking place in Hobart, buzz surrounding the opening of a new world class museum, and the fact I was going down under already . . . I couldn’t resist taking some time to check out this capital city of Tasmania, the island state of Australia. I cooked, I ate, I drank, I walked, I met friends of friends, I made new friends and generally had a great but too short visit. Here is what I crammed into just 2 days and 3 nights:
The Islington Hotel, 321 Davey Street, Hobart, Tasmania
Part grand old house and part modern glass pavilion, this small hotel is a luxurious treat. Spacious and comfortable rooms decorated with antiques are complimented by beautifully appointed modern bathrooms, including heated floors, free standing tubs, rain showers, Aesop toiletries and piles of fluffy white towels. The open kitchen and dining room sit in the central pavilion complete with grande fireplace and a big white sofa where you can lounge while having a mixed drink or a glass of Tasmanian wine from the well stocked, shared honor bar (complimentary waters, sodas and teas are available in your room and are replenished daily) or indulge in freshly baked muffins and cookies always available for the taking. I dined in house on my first evening and the meal was very good but take note, the kitchen is only open for dinner the latter half of the week. I can guarantee, otherwise, anything you need will be promptly taken care of in this well run establishment.
All this luxury doesn’t come cheap but you can book through wotif.com and save a few dollars off the standard room rates offered by the hotel. Staying in the smaller attic room located in the old house portion of the hotel as I did, will save you even more — but beware, this room’s window overlooks the open kitchen and dining area which goes late and starts up again early in the morning. If you’re a light sleeper, I’d recommend one of the rooms in the newer wing.
eat and drink:
Dev’lish Espresso, 137 Macquarie Street — open for breakfast and lunch. Mostly a take out coffee and sandwich shop but there is a small counter for eating in. Be drawn in by the case of spectacular goodies but don’t miss the small menu of hot specialties on the right-hand wall before you decide.
Kawasemi, 109 Main Road — hidden away in a small dark arcade in the northern suburb of Moonah, this is an authentic Japanese restaurant frequented by locals (exactly how I found my way there, meeting friends of friends who live nearby). According to the the chef at my hotel, it’s the best kept secret in Hobart. The food was great, portions large and prices low. It always pays to stray off the beaten path.
Garagistes — the media darling of the Hobart food scene with all communal tables, small plates made from locally sourced ingredients and an international wine list. (see more)
I was told whatever I do, not to miss Sweet Envy (341 Elizabeth Street, North Hobart) for pastries and ice cream made by husband and wife chefs who once worked for Gordan Ramsey. As much as I hate to miss a spectacular ice cream opportunity, unfortunately my busy schedule didn’t allow me to get there.
see and do:
I can’t think of a more lovely way to spend a day. Rodney Dunn and his wife Severine have created the most wonderful cooking school in a converted old school house surrounded by 5 acres of working farmland. The morning is spent visiting the pigs, milking goats, touring the gardens and picking the fruits and vegetables for a several course meal the class prepares in the afternoon, hands on. Anything that doesn’t come directly from their farm is sourced from neighbors and friends in the area. You learn not only great recipes but techniques that will last you a lifetime — and there is no better way to get to know a group of fellow foodies then by sharing stories while working in the kitchen and then sitting down to a fabulous meal together. The only downside is classes book up 4-6 months in advance. I booked 6 months out and then planned the rest of my vacation around this. It was well worth it.
Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)
655 Main Road, Berriedale
Forget everything you know about a traditional museum. Now imagine, arriving by boat to a fortress, surrounded by vineyards (the oldest in Tasmania) and facing a mountain of sandstone stairs. After your climb, you are handed a specially programmed iPod and let loose to wander down another grand staircase, through a subterranean maze of rooms that house a collection of curious antiquities and provocative modern art pieces – from machines that replicate excrement to waterfalls of politicized words to houses made of human hair.
You have just entered the wacky and wonderful world of David Walsh, an eccentric billionaire whom I suspect is hell bent on turning his little patch into the center of the universe. And he just may succeed, which is saying a lot for a gambler who lives at the bottom of the world. Go, you won’t regret it.
Moo Brew Brewery — on the grounds of MONA is a fine little brewery (and a winery, 5 star hotel, restaurant, bar, concert grounds and now also a farmers market every Saturday)
The creative director in me, always on the look out for great packaging, was drawn to Moo Brew’s wonderfully shaped beer bottles with artist created labels after seeing them online. Since, I have sent cases of beer as gifts but I longed to taste the micro brews for myself. So, after visiting the museum I took the Friday afternoon tour of the brewery. There’s not much to tour actually — just a single glass brewing room with multiple stainless steel tanks and fermenting machines. These days most of the real production is done in another location. One of the three brew masters gives you a lengthy description of their history and process while plying you with full bottles of each of their 4 brews and if you’re lucky, a glass or two of some new styles they are working on. For a taste of their uber-special limited edition stout ($600/case) you’ll need to visit the on-site pub and pony up some cash. Needless to say, I walked away a bit drunk but very happy.
Moo Brew is sold & shipped only within Australia as the beer being preservative free and unpasteurized, must remain refrigerated.
Country Woman’s Association Gift Shop, 165 Elizabeth Street
Look in the left front window and point to the home baked sweet treat you want. Inside, find fresh made preserves, hand knit tea cosies and baby sweaters galore. I carried my frosted ginger cake on three flights, all the way back home for consumption and boy was it good!
Love & Clutter, 31 Murray Street — if you need a special baby gift and cost isn’t an issue, this little shop has the sweetest handmade dresses. pillows and toys. But in general I found the shop to be extremely overpriced even by Australian standards. For example, quilted throws made from Indian saris that sell in the States for $99 were over $300.
The Maker, 77 Salamanca Place
The more grown up sister shop to Love & Clutter, The Maker specializes in vintage wares, useful or not so useful objects, crafts, and clothing made by local designers. I couldn’t resist a couple of the jarred candles and if they weren’t so heavy (and expensive) I would have bought a whole cluster of them in all sizes. ($54 – $190)
I have a little remorse I didn’t pick up this beautiful handmade cabled scarf which at $135 I thought to be a good price, actually. Go figure.
Oh, and If you do buy something make sure to have it gift wrapped because they do a beautiful job using a combination of craft paper, old sheet music and twine to match the carefully honed vintage feel of the tiny space.