Eating Ourselves Stupid in Tasmania – Launceston
After our brief adventures in Hobart we headed north to Launceston in our little white ASX fuelled by fresh apricots, cherries the size of a baby’s fist and ginger fudge also from Tasmania. Apparently MS doesn’t like fudge but that didn’t stop him from eating most of it the fatty. We arrived in Launceston at about 7.30 in the evening and after checking into our cheap and cheerful hotel the Balmoral on York I found myself googling places to go for dinner. Ever the organiser I usually have a comprehensive list of places that I want to go for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even just a bite to eat at but in Launceston I have to admit I was really stumped. In all honesty I wanted to come to Launceston for the wineries and the gorge and that’s it.
Stillwater had been recommended to me by a few of my readers but after our dinner the night before both MS and I were looking forward to a meal that didn’t involve someone refilling our water every 10 minutes and describing each dish in exquisite detail as it was placed in front of us. Black Bow Bistro was booked out so after reading some ‘decent’ reviews online we headed to Cataract on Paterson. I don’t need to say a whole lot about Cataract on Paterson other than that it was probably the worst meal that we had on our short stay in Tasmania. I asked for the chowder that I had seen online but according to the girl that was on their old menu that had literally only just changed a few days prior to our visit. The service was terrible, the food was ordinary, the wait for the food was lengthy and it took over 20 minutes before we received our drinks. Couple that with the fact that they have just introduced the unique Stone Grill cooking method. You know the one where you cook your own meat on the hot rock? I’m sorry but that was just so 10 years ago (remember the Fermented Grape days?) I learned my lesson. Be more prepared and since when do I ever trust Trip Advisor anyway?
The next day was Tamar Valley wine route day. We started off with a light breakfast at some random breakfast place in the middle of Launceston. I had begged and pleaded with MS to go to much hyped vegetarian café ‘Fresh on Charles’ but he downright refused it because there was no bacon. Apparently we were spending the day doing stuff that I wanted to do (visiting vineyards) so the least I could do is choose somewhere that had bacon for him. Sigh.
As a little detour before our wine tour and with me playing tour guide we took the ‘steep hikers walk’ up to Cataract Gorge only realising when we got there that there was actually a flat, concreted walk on the other side that would have been far easier. And here’s me wondering why there were women in full Lorna Jane getup huffing and puffing their way past us while I’m climbing mountains of stairs around in a tiny skater dress and ballet flats. And then to make matters worse we realised there was indeed a car park that took you right up to Cataract Gorge and we needn’t have walked at all.
There was plenty of locals sunning themselves at the gorge and taking advantage of the glorious day as well as a few Chinese tourists running around with their now all too common selfie sticks. MS and I paid $12 each to take the chair lift from one side of the Gorge to the other with me worrying about the possibility of dropping my shoes in the water the entire way over. We finally made it back to the car (on the flat walk this time) and continued on to the Tamar Wine Route. Where’s the food you say? Yes, yes, I’m getting to it. Haven’t you heard of a preamble?
There are over 30 wineries in the Tamar Valley so the night before I had a look over each and every one and decided which ones I wanted to go to. First up we headed to Moores Hill Winery which was about a 25 minute drive from the heart of Launceston – after a brief detour to Beaconsfield to see the mine and get a sausage roll for sustenance from the local bakery. “Enjoy the vineyard views from the verandah and try and Tasmanian tasting plate” said the Moores Hill Winery website. That’s it I didn’t need to read anymore.
As we pulled up at the vineyard I realised we were the only ones there which meant we had the place all to ourselves – though this didn’t last long. There was a lovely lady whose name I can’t remember for the life of me that ran us (mostly me) through the wine tasting – starting with the sparkling, onto the whites, the reds and finally finishing with a taste of the CGR Late Harvest Riesling which was my pick of the bunch (MS preferred the NV Sparkling). Because of the cooler climate Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are the mostly commonly produced wines in Tasmania.
MS and chose a glass of our favourite drop from the tastings and kicked back on the veranda overlooking the vineyard with a cheese and meat platter to share.
We got to meet the gorgeous neighbourhood hound Otto – I mean neighbourhood because according to local legend he often turns up at more than just one vineyard throughout the day. (I may or may not have fed him cheese).
Halfway through our wine and blissful cheese platter another couple arrived for a wine tasting. The woman had obviously had a little too much to drink at previously wineries and was very loud and annoying. Maybe it was her Mickey Mouse trackpants or her Adelaide Churchgoers 2012 t-shirt or maybe it was just the fact that she just couldn’t pick up on our ‘please go away and let us enjoy our wine and cheese platter’ cues but she was a real pain the ass and I felt sorry for the lady behind the counter that was stuck with her and her husband when we left. Due to the ridiculous 7kg baggage limit we didn’t buy any wine to take home with us but I haven’t forgotten my promise, nor my desire to buy some of the Moores Hill wines online.
After Moores Hill I had every intention on going to the Goaty Hill Winery down the road but time was getting away from us and those wine tastings had started to go to my head so we skipped Goaty Hill and headed to the Bay of Fires Winery. Across the Batman Bridge and about thirty minutes up the road we found ourselves lining up for some wine tastings at the Bay of Fires Winery. Before I go any further it goes without saying that that MS (my designated driver for the day) despite having a few wine tastings is a very responsible driver and at no point would he risk going over 0.05.
We tasted most of the wines at the Bay of Fires winery and I wasn’t particularly taken with any of them to be honest. The only reason that I wanted to go there was because I liked the name but it turns out that the Bay of Fires is actually no where near this winery and is actually about 170km away. Good marketing ploy though. I chose a glass of pinot noir to go with the Tasting Platter and we sat out on the patio eating cheese, beetroot relish and quail legs – something we both decided that we didn’t like. The Tasting Platter was a little extravagant for two people but hey we were on holidays and technically this was lunch. Plus it had plenty of blue cheese to keep me happy and plenty of non blue cheese to keep MS happy.
On the way home we stopped at one of the many fruit farms that we had seen along the way to pick up some cherries and of course some more fudge. Unfortunately the fruit farm that we stopped at had sold out of XXL cherries so we had to settle for the XL cherries, poor us. These things were just enormous and so sweet and fleshy I would probably say they are the best cherries I have ever eaten.
Upon returning to our humble abode at the Balmoral On York we promptly fell into a food coma for the rest of the afternoon. Yes our day of wineries turned into only two wineries – complete amateurs compared to much of you wino’s I’m sure but any more and I would probably be passed out cold in the shower for the rest of the evening. Dinner for us that night was fairly low key and we opted for some fish and chips overlooking the Tamar River with a glass of locally made Pagan Cider it was super romantic especially with the Bunnings Warehouse looming in the background.
If you’re heading to the Tamar Wine Route I would definitely recommend a stop at Moores Hill Winery. The Bay of Fires was great but we both preferred the wines, the outlook and the warm hospitality at Moores Hill. Stay tuned for the next instalment of my Tassie adventure featuring the Freycinet National Park, Swansea and of course the Oyster Farm x