I may be having a love affair with Melbourne but Tasmania is also near and dear to my heart. So when I couldn’t get a direct miles flight home on the day I wanted and found myself with two extra days in Australia, I headed for Hobart. Just a short one and a quarter hour flight from Melbourne into a small airport 15 minutes from town, it was a no brainer.
Hotels are plentiful in Hobart and you have your choice from economy to super plush. Since this was an add-on special to my trip I opted to find something nice but affordable and turned again, to AirBnB. My first time renting a room in someones home vs. a self contained unit — although with a separate entrance it acted nearly the same way, I was just invited to eat breakfast in the kitchen, play with the dog and come and go through the front door if I pleased. This experience sealed the deal for me with AirBnB. A gorgeous home with magnificent gardens set high on a hill behind a stone wall just blocks from town. The owner, an architect originally from Sydney, was most interesting and gracious. Walking to the bakery in the morning to get fresh croissants for breakfast, offering great conversation and even wine in the evening, helping with my bags, I was blown away by the experience not to mention the comfortable room.
My guess is the room was a small studio on the original property tied to the main house through an addition with sitting area, bathroom and a utility room where the makings for tea & a small fridge were made available. I was swayed by the Hans Wegner Wishbone chair in my room, the Toledo chairs surrounding the garden table outside my window, and an impressive library of design books. This place spoke my language.
Eat & Drink
Crumb Street Kitchen,144 Harrington Street, Hobart — American style, slow cooked BBQ served up in pizza boxes in a funky astro turf, sink stand and wire spindle table filled, eclectic environment. But boy is it good! And the guy behind the counter was just about the nicest guy ever. They believe in what they do and do it well. Proof that the best meals are quite often the simplest.
Single serve of brisket, coleslaw and a side of smokey beans. I say order a double serve or two different meats, skip the slaw and have a sarsaparilla to wash it down.
Pigeon Hole Cafe, 93 Goulbourn Street, West Hobart (til 4:30 PM Tues- Sat) — Much to the disappointment of my BnB host, I opted to eat breakfast out my first morning in order to experience the Pigeon Hole Cafe, just a few blocks away. When I learned that they were responsible for the bread i declared, “The best ever!” during my last visit to Hobart, I had to see what else they do. What they do, is about 6-8 menu items really well, a slew of baked goods and THAT BREAD. It may look like two breakfasts but I couldn’t leave without doing a bit of the savory and the sweet. For the savory: Baked eggs with preserved lemon and lovage oil, taleggio cheese and their famous toast for dipping. Perfection. For the sweet: Meyer lemon & olive oil cake and a spot of chamomile tea. A perfect respite from the rainy weather outside.
Want to make the cake yourself? As luck should have it I came across the recipe in a back issue of Gourmet Traveler magazine – interpreted below:
Pigeon Hole Cafe Meyer Lemon Cakes — makes 12 small loaves
- 300 g (1.5 cups) sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 c milk
- 1 c extra virgin olive oil
- Juice and zest of 3 Meyer lemons – if not available substitute any lemons
- 2 c four
- 1T baking powder
- Powdered Sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Butter & flour 12 mini loaf tins.
Whisk sugar, eggs and a pinch of salt in an electric mixer until pale and thick (3-4 minutes). Combine milk, olive oil, juice and zest. Gradually add to egg mixture, mixing until well combined. Fold through flour and baking powder. Divide batter between loaf tins and bake until golden and cooked through (apprx. 12 minutes). Cool loaves then turn out and dust with powdered sugar.
LUC Design, 418 Macquarie Street, South Hobart — This may be the best little shop I have come across in years. Tiny, tiny but packed full of goodness thanks to the discerning eye of interior designer and owner, Lucy, who has lived all around the world and returned to Hobart for its quality of life. If I hadn’t been so completely water logged from my 30 minute walk there in the rain; or so caught up in conversation about design, Hobart, NYC, food and more; or completely mesmerized by shiny objects; I might have remembered to take photos. Trust me. If you only go to one shop, this is it and leave lots of room in your suitcase.
Henk Berg Leather — I stumbled upon these locally designed leather bags at Inside, a gift shop in town and hastily made a purchase of a beautiful green leather purse that was the perfect complement to the green silk scarf I had just bought around the corner at Luxe. An unexpectedly productive morning as I rushed to the farmers market for my scheduled food tour. But know, that Henk Berg has a large booth at the market so you can buy direct. I couldn’t bring myself to look at the prices or even to see if they had my same bag. What was done was done and I love my new purse regardless of the cost (which was completely reasonable).
See & Do
State Cinema, 375 Elizabeth Street, North Hobart — I had planned to make a return trip to MONA (the must see Museum of Old and New Art) on my one free day in Hobart but after a morning attempt to ignore the rain and ending up nothing but wet and wetter, the nice owner of LUC called me a cab and I heard the words, State Cinema rather than Museum Ferry come out of my mouth. This was the perfect place to take in an afternoon double feature (even at $18 a pop) with a cafe and bookshop on site for sustenance and distraction between shows. Not to mention, Elizabeth Street is full of window shopping and restaurants that kept me busy well past the dinner hour and post rain.
Saturdays at Salamanca with Mary of Gourmania Food Tours — One of several tours this recently returned native of Hobart and professional pastry chef offers. Our group met up at Doctor Coffee in Salamanca Place for a hot drink and lesson about coffee beans sourced direct from Africa and roasted on site. It’s quite an investment to ship and store coffee beans by the container that I honestly never considered before. You have to sell a lot of coffee to recoup that investment but luckily the margins are high.A quick trip through the market had us visit just 4 vendors as more time was dedicated to local businesses in and around the area. So if you wish to see more of the market go a little early and look around on your own. But be careful not to fill up on market goodies as you’ll want to be hungry for the tour that had us eating everything from scrambled eggs to oysters (my first — not so much a fan), ceviche, 24 hour fermented bread, cheese, sweets and more.
And drinking coffee or cocoa, sparkling wine, tea and hard cider. There was truly something for everyone. We saw houses and boats, shops, restaurants and foodie landmarks like the Wursthaus Kitchen and Jackman & McRoss — although after breakfast croissants, tarts and brioche on tour from the latter, I’m thinking the appeal is more its landmark status than authentic quality of its baked goods. My favorite places on the tour were Smolt — definitely worth dining at on your own; Dickens Ciderhouse — a new addition just six weeks old. I’m not a huge fan of cider but the place was comfortable, the owner super entertaining and one or two of the many ciders we tasted were quite good. I may be a convert; and my favorite stop of the day had to be Pollen Tea Room — a postage stamp sized tea and vegan cafe in picturesque Battery Point where we drank Sweet Flower Tea and ate amazing bruschetta made from market fresh ingredients.
Note: Pollen Tea Room is closed on Tuesdays & Wednesdays and is located at 56 Hampden Road, Battery Point.
If you take a tour with Mary which I highly recommend, go hungry as she packs a lot in. And find some time to go back to many of the establishments on your own as your appetite will surely be wet for more.
Odd ‘n Ends
Hobart is a small town with a sophisticated heart. Probably because it came of age during the foodie revolution and internet explosion combined. MONA has assured its place on the tourist map and so I think it only gets better from here. It’s easy enough to walk almost everywhere, weather permitting — although it does get hilly in areas so beware. Or cabs are plentiful if you prefer. If your not afraid to drive on the wrong side of the road (my greatest fear) then renting a car will allow you to go farther afield. I can think of nothing more appealing that a road trip around Tasmania. It’s a beautiful island state that should be seen in its entirety. One day . . .