from one generation to the next
Last week were took a grown ups’ holiday to Hobart in Tasmania. I’m ashamed to say it’s twenty years since we’d last set foot in the “apple isle”, but lured by the burgeoning local food and wine industry, the idea of some cooler (it was wet and cold) summertime weather and a chance to see the new and exciting Museum of Old and New Art, it was a welcome respite.
Friends had raved to us about the Henry Jones Art Hotel housed in the former IXL jam factory on the Hobart waterfront. We rarely choose to stay in hotels opting for intimate accommodation instead, but we join in their chorus of praise. The industrial vibe, original artworks, upmarket facilities and convenient location are fantastic, but its the savvy suggestions, local knowledge and the friendly can do attitude of the staff that added the gloss to our stay.
We enjoyed a buttery pastry and super strength espresso each day for breakfast at “Daci and Daci”, bakers extraordinaire, before venturing out to do our touristy thing, wandering aimlessly, stopping randomly for coffee, beer, wine or whisky depending on the time of day and taking chances with where we chose to eat. Mostly we did well, enjoying a delicious bowl of Miso Ramen at “Jam Jar”, beautifully dressed vegetable salads at “Smolt” and an incredibly generous Ploughman’s platter at the “MONA wine bar”.
The hotel’s concierge secured a dinner booking for us at “Ethos” where the degustation menu is changed daily according to the availability of locally sourced produce. After the menu is set the young sommelier chooses accompanying wines. We loved her quirky choices. There were unexpected grape varieties and uncharacteristic winemaking techniques but all were beautifully balanced with the food, right down to the super dry Spanish sherry served with dessert. It was a mind expanding wine and food experience. Run by a young dynamic and passionate team, I see a big future for “Ethos”.
We began our meal with snacks, sunflower shoots with grated lonzino and a single slice of the most luscious ripe tomato, salt flakes and fresh basil. A salad of heritage purple potato confit with thyme and chives, pickled rhubarb and beurre noisette came next. This unlikely combination was perfect. The acidity of the rhubarb balanced the buttery oiliness of the potatoes.
The highlight dish for us both was described as mushrooms, garlic, chicken sauce. Locally grown enoki, shiitake and portobello mushrooms had been sautéed in cultured butter. They were served with slow roasted garlic puree, deep fried garlic chips and a rich and sticky chicken broth. It was a sublime dish and only good manners stopped us from licking the bowls clean.
I didn’t take photos of the served food choosing to enjoy the moment instead. Suffice to say each course was served on fine but rustic locally made stoneware glazed in greens, a range of bowls, deep cups and shallow plates, not detracting from, but complementing the simply presented food.
Every morsel was delicious, but I must acknowledge the playfulness of the 64C egg that was served with beets, turnips, sourdough bread, cultured butter and olive salt. This was comfort food extraordinaire, the flavour transporting me back to childhood’s vegemite soldiers dipped into a soft boiled egg. Olive salt is an inspired condiment I now feel compelled to perfect.
The restrained aesthetic of the restaurant and the food, the friendly and informative service and the interesting wines made our night at “Ethos” truly memorable, right up there with our top worldwide dining experiences.
A single glass of red wine in the bar at the hotel led us on a road trip to “Domaine A” in the Coal Valley wine region. We were pleased to acquaint ourselves with their unusual wooded Sauvignon Blanc and welcomed the chance to taste across their range of Cabernet Sauvignon blends, before sending a dozen of their reds winging across the water to our doorstep.
Yes we ate and drank lots, too much probably, but the other major highlight of our stay was the visit to the Museum of Old and New Art.
MONA is everything it’s cracked up to be. You don’t have to be artyfarty to be impressed by the location, engineering and mission of this cutting edge art gallery. A short ferry ride up the Derwent River from Hobart lands you at 99 steps that lead up to the entrance. Having climbed up, you then descend three levels to the exhibition spaces. The exposed towering wall created by the deep excavation dominates the walkways and leads into the labyrinth of dimly lit gallery spaces displaying modern sculpture, art and video installations alongside ancient artefacts from Egypt. I won’t pretend I understood or appreciated most of what I saw, though some pieces both moved and excited me. The significance and irreverence afforded to art in this space is palpable the experience memorable.
Hobart may be small, but it’s reputation grows daily.