Tasmania: from its rather ominous past as a penal colony, Tasmania has bloomed to become the culinary darling of Australia. Its former reputation of being home to the baddest, most hardened criminals has been transformed; Tasmania is now renowned for its master cheesemakers and wine producers. A trip through the picturesque state guarantees a culinary journey through magnificent wine country, bountiful orchards, teeming marine farms and fields of fragrant lavender. And in between all the feasting, you might meet a devil or two – the feisty little Tasmanian devil, that is. This past December, we spent an eye-opening two weeks driving through the Land Down Down Under, starting our journey from the cultural capital of Hobart, before meandering our way up to rustic Cradle Mountain (in between sips of Pinot Noir, of course).
699 Richmond Road, Cambridge, +61 3 6274 5884
Nestled in the heart of Coal Valley wine country, Frogmore Creek is one of Australia’s most celebrated cellar doors. This family-owned establishment sources cool-climate grapes for its two labels, 42 Degrees South and Storm Bay, and houses a beautiful restaurant overlooking the intoxicating rose garden and vineyard. The French-inspired wine lunches are epic, especially when paired with a few glasses of the winery’s luscious vinos. We crunched into the crispy pork belly with caramel-glazed mini apples and devoured the candied walnut and pear salad. To add a further dash of sophistication, the winery also houses an upstairs art gallery showcasing local artists. We couldn’t help but ship back a few bottles of Pinot Noir to Hong Kong.
Elizabeth Street Pier, Sullivans Cove, Hobart, +61 3 6231 2134
In an area dotted with an abundance of fish and chip joints, there’s one chippy that reigns supreme. Perched on a pier at Hobart’s waterfront, Fish Frenzy has been sizzling up golden nuggets of tender, flaky fish for more than 20 years. It’s quite literally a frenzy most of the time at Fish Frenzy, as the restaurant is packed to the brim nearly every day. Our pick is the Fish Frenzy meal, a whopping paper cone filled with two golden pieces of fish, scallops, loops of calamari and piping-hot fat chips. Ask for “crumbed” instead of “battered” – a tip we gathered from those in the know. And if you sit outside on the pier to enjoy this meal, be prepared for a food fight with the resident seagulls!
Bridestowe Lavender Estate
296 Gillespies Road, Nabowla, +61 3 6352 8182
A walk through the blooming 265-acre Bridestowe Estate feels as if Provence has been transplanted to Tasmania. Established in 1922, London perfumer CK Denny moved to Tasmania with his family, bringing with him the finest lavender seeds from the French Alps. Today, this nearly century-old lavender farm is one of the largest in the world and remains an important distillery to leading global perfume houses. Bridestowe’s lavender is not only used in perfumes, skincare products and aromatherapy but is also a key culinary ingredient. Following a tour of the plantation and distillery, guests can relax and savour scrumptious cakes at the teahouse, all of which include a generous infusion of lavender. We especially loved lapping up the aromatic lavender ice cream and buttery lavender scones. The on-site shop is well stocked in everything lavender, from bath salts to a completely purple Le Creuset section. The fields are ablaze with flowers from December through January, so this is the best time to visit.
Ritchie’s Mill, Launceston, +61 3 6331 4153
It’s hard to imagine that the sleepy little town of Launceston could harbour such an elegant gem of a restaurant. Housed in a refurbished 1830s timber building at the historic Ritchie’s Mill of Cataract Gorge, the restaurant overlooks the calm waters of the Tamar River. Soft, natural earth tones from restored Oregon timber beams and kauri pine floors set the space aglow with plenty of warmth and charm. The focus is on seasonal, locally sourced and sustainable ingredients, with a sophisticated yet unpretentious menu that rivals even the finest big-city establishments. The beautifully presented beetroot and crème fraîche mousse served with smoked goat curd and beetroot paper made us weak at the knees, and the slow-cooked Wagyu with tempura leaves was a wonderful study in contrast. The knowledgeable hipster staff made us want to come back, even if it’s just to hang out and have a glass of wine at Stillwater’s harbourside bar.
2 Salamanca Place, Hobart, +61 3 6224 2554
Another culinary gem in Hobart, Smolt corners the market on casual fine dining. Situated in bustling Salamanca Place, Smolt divides its dining space between a casual communal table and a more private seating area. Located next door to the Tassal salmon shop, a brand recognised internationally for quality Tasmanian salmon, Smolt features plenty of fish on the menu. We couldn’t resist the grilled Tassal salmon over farro and lentils and the market fish with roasted vegetables, all washed down with glasses of locally grown Pinot Noir. The dense, rich chocolate marquis, paired with a refreshing coconut sorbet, mixed berries and fig, concluded the meal on a very sweet note.
2/38 Steele Street (in Rooke Lane), Devonport, +61 3 6424 4333
A road trip through Tasmania usually includes a visit to the majestic Cradle Mountains. The small town of Devonport is an easy detour on the way there, and Laneway Cafe makes for a satisfying meal before all that hiking. Situated, literally, in the back lane of Steele Street, Laneway Cafe is both a quirky little diner, as well as a delicatessen filled with unique artisanal cheeses, premium olive oils, local free-range eggs, Tasmanian craft beers and freshly baked breads. On the all-day menu, fluffy home-made waffles compete for attention with crunchy toasted panini and smashed avocado poached eggs. We couldn’t resist the Greek-style 16-hour slow-cooked lamb shoulder, wrapped in mountain bread with smoky aubergine and paired with beer-battered chips. Laneway is a fantastic little spot to refuel on food and chai lattes before heading to the Cradle.
- Despite its relative remoteness and small population, Hobart is truly a foodie destination. Hip, innovative restaurants such as Garagistes (103 Murray Street, Hobart, +61 3 6231 0558) and Lebrina (155 New Town Road, Hobart, +61 3 6228 7775) have been winning critical acclaim, although the opening hours of these eateries are often sporadic, so it’s best to pre-book to avoid disappointment.
- When heading to picturesque Freycinet Peninsula, be sure to stop by Freycinet Marine Farm (1784 Coles Bay Road, Coles Bay, +61 3 6257 0140) for some freshly shucked oysters and baked scallops. This family-owned marine farm even paves its walkways in crushed oyster shells.
- Louisa’s Walk was our most meaningful tour in Tasmania. This piece of “living theatre” revolves around the true story of Louisa, an Englishwoman who was sent to work in the Female Factory (or women’s prison) as part of the early settlement of Tasmania. Watching actors recreate her story through a walk to the old prison was truly spectacular. Go to http://livehistoryhobart.com.au for more information.
Read more of Celia’s food adventures here: www.girlmeetscooking.com