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
No longer a ’20 something chick who likes to eat out in and around Cairns’ I recently celebrated my 30th birthday and MS who knows the way to my heart (food and travel) took me to Tasmania a couple of weeks ago to celebrate. Having travelled to Tassie a few times to attend the Maritime College in Launceston and Beauty Point for various work courses I hadn’t actually had the opportunity to spend any ‘leisurely’ time down there until now.
With jaw dropping scenery, a thriving food culture built on a diverse range of produce, a plethora of vineyards selling some of the finest drops of pinot noir you’re likely to ever taste, excellent roads and sh*tloads of native roadkill it’s easy to see why Tasmania has been named in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions to travel to in 2015. For such a small state there is much to see and do in Tasmania and in an ideal world two weeks would be a perfect amount of time to spend there however due to work schedules and upcoming surgical procedures (no I am not getting a boob job) five days in Tassie was all we could muster.
We flew in and out of Hobart via Melbourne on Jetstar, somehow managed to bypass the Jetstar baggage Nazi’s for the entire trip down and back to Cairns. I must have just been lucky because my carry on was 8.5kg before I even left home – slightly above the 7kg allowance. We picked up our rental and headed into the city to our room at the Travelodge on Macquarie Street. Clean simple rooms around the $120 a night mark within good walking distance to pretty much everything and most importantly Salamanca Place is only about a 10 minute walk.
That night I had booked us in for dinner at lovacore restaurant Ethos, a place I picked after reading about in a recent issue of Gourmet Traveller. For those of you wondering what a ‘lovacore’ restaurant is according to Wikipedia it’s a ‘person that’s interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market’ with the term being ‘spawned as a result of interest in sustainability’. From the sounds of it we were certainly in the right place because there’s no shortage of this type of thing in Tasmania.
The restaurant itself is housed in a space over 190 years old and illustrates an important part of Hobart’s history. We were impressed from the moment we entered the arched laneway to Ethos, walking through the thriving veggie garden and onwards into the main part of the restaurant.
The menu at Ethos is determined by the seasonal produce and offerings that arrive that day therefore each day it is different. MS and I chose the 6 courses for AU$85 without wine ($160 with a wine pairing) and instead chose our own drinks from the menu. I chose a Pinot Noir from the Huon Valley while MS ever the non wine drinker chose the locally made Pagan Apple Cider.
Over the 6 courses we dined on dehydrated kingfish, rats tail radish, Bruny Island goat and bonito just to name a few things but my personal favourite was without a doubt the Egg, Asparagus, Kombu (kelp), Magentaspreen (some weird leafy vegetable) and Chickweed (another plant) dish. I know it sounds complicated but it really wasn’t. The flavour combination of the of the egg yolk, tempura asparagus and seaweed was exquisite.
The entire meal was excellent with exceptionally knowledgeable, albeit seemingly nervous staff to boot but more importantly I love eating somewhere with such an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. It really excites me and by excited I mean the ‘gosh what’s going to happen next’ kind rather than the piss your pants kind. Before I move on I must give a mention to the house made sourdough with butter that is churned in house for a week before serving. Yes typical me, I go to an expensive restaurant and the most memorable thing for me is the bread.
The next day we headed up the road to highly recommended café Ginger Brown. I must admit we were both a little disappointed when we arrived. To put it bluntly it was an unassuming café on a random backstreet of Hobart.
I was kind of hoping to have some delightful harbour views while sipping my morning flat white but the predominantly brown vintage décor would have to do. I chose the House baked crumpets with whipped vanilla bean butter, caramelised nectarines and honey whilst MS chose the Red wine braised beef cheek omelette with sweet chilli, avocado, fried shallots and bean shoots (with a side of bacon of course).
Despite the immense ‘heaviness’ of his breakfast MS enjoyed it but couldn’t finish it, I however nearly licked my plate clean. My breakfast of House baked crumpets was in fact one of the best breakfasts I have ever had the pleasure of eating.
Next up we headed to Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) which houses the largest privately owned art collection in Australia and without going into it too much because no doubt it’s either somewhere you have already been or heard of, neither of MS or I particularly enjoyed it. Call me uneducated, call me ignorant, call me what you like but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. According to the lady at the front counter apparently peoples views on MONA are few and far between – some love it, some hate and some just leave confused. Having said that I highly recommend that anyone visiting Hobart takes a trip to MONA to see it for themselves.
Beyond the art the museum itself is very impressive having cost over $70 million to build, including a winery, a brewery and a restaurant as well as a sweet a** outdoor area where you can sit on bean bags whilst drinking wine and eating cheese. Pretty sure that right there is my lifelong dream.
At the MONA’s above ground Wine Bar (yes there is a below ground one also) MS ordered a Lemon Tart that he didn’t realise was a Lemon Tart (he sure is special sometimes) while I ordered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and some cheese and biccies to ‘nibble on’.
After our MONA visit we headed up to the top of Mt Wellington for stunning 360 degree views and if it wasn’t for little bit of cloud cover to the north I am pretty sure we could have almost seen Melbourne the views are that vast. Before we made the two hour drive to Launceston where we were booked in for the next night we drove in completely the other direction (stupidly at my request) to Peppermint Bay for a bite to eat.
The Peppermint Bay restaurant in Woodbridge was also suggested by one of my readers (thanks Bernard) as somewhere to visit and after having a look at it online I decided it was a must-do. The food there was great with an exciting lunch menu and a few specials on the board but the best part was probably the location.
The former resting place for Tassie favourite ‘The Stackings’ Peppermint Bay looks out over the pristine Tasmanian waterway towards Bruny Island where you can watch the barges making their way in and out of Hobart whilst enjoying a glass of wine and lifes simple pleasures.
Peppermint Bay would also be a fantastic place to go for dinner and drinks during winter. With the fire crackling in the background and the cold chill of the outside air pressing up against the floor to ceiling glass windows I think it would be absolute magic. Yes it’s a tough life but someone’s got to do it.
Stay tuned for my next post about Launceston and the Tamar Valley Wine Region xox
To plan your own trip to Tasmania check out the Discover Tasmania website here