They have depth chargers on the menu. And Fishwives’ garden stuff. And battle of Cadiz stuff. Skeletons on the ceiling, boats everywhere, and so much brass you could start a factory. Where are we? One of Hobart’s oldest and longest running restaurant institutions – The Drunken Admiral.
Refusing to say “Ahoy me hearties” as we shamble in, it became increasingly hard to resist as the drinks flowed, the nautical theme inserted itself everywhere, and the seafood spoke. Of freshness, brine, and the sea.
Knowing that this is a Godfrey family business that’s been running since 1979, and having discovered present head chef, Jamison Godfrey through a cookbook he’s published, I was curious to revisit the Admiral after a few years’ hiatus. I used to take my clients there for expense account dinners a while back when I was doing PR for a big software testing company.
We always had a good night, and considering they are still doing around 200 covers on a Monday night, (yes! In little old Hobart!) they must be doing something right. I saw Jam’s book, “The boy who would be cook,’ in the offices of 40 Degrees South, and loved it from first sight. It’s got great recipes, lovely stories of the area, and Jamison’s childhood in one neat package.
It pushed me to revisit, unannounced, and there we were, six of us ready to toast and wassail and me hearty everyone in sight. The menu? Enormous, again. I honestly don’t know how these big menus are going to survive with millennials who have trouble reading a parking sign. But between six of us, we somehow made it to a selection, with the aid of the waiter, Steve. In man-bun.
We ordered the seafood platter (for 2) $134; the depth chargers $13.90; the Yachties’ Seafood Mixed Grill, $39.90; a Sultan’s Wok Pot $35.90 and a Chipotle Calamari $29.90. A salad and fries as sides, because we love chips and that seemed enough. For the moment.
“Those depth chargers were a hit. “Guaranteed to kill all your seamen!” they were seeded fresh chillies, filled with a garlicky herb cream cheese, fried in a light batter and served with a sticky blackberry dip. And delicious.”
We were still dithering about with the wine, when the food arrived. OMG! It couldn’t have been much more than 10 minutes, and this mountain of food was trucked to our table and pushed around the limited space. We hadn’t even settled in! We’re still agog as to that quick service. Lucky the seafood platter is vertical. Hot on the top, cold on the bottom. The grill on its hot plate sizzled and we pinned our ears back and tucked in.
Those depth chargers were a hit. “Guaranteed to kill all your seamen!” they were seeded fresh chillies, filled with a garlicky herb cream cheese, fried in a light batter and served with a sticky blackberry dip. And delicious. Exceedingly so. The cold fresh seafood was perfect. Really good quality, and the crumbed calamari and fish on top was okay, but we all felt the crumb mix was a bit thick.
The hot smoked salmon on the dish was sublime, and the coconutty cashew satay sauce with the Wok Pot was declared a winner. The chips are shoestring, but hot and fresh. And quite frankly, I couldn’t face Heston fries with all that seafood. Mixed grill? Fresh, succulent seafood, and the calamari, tender and tasty. The seafood platter was enormous, but happy chirruping noises abounded, the wine eventually flowed, and was kept up. Sonni had ordered a vodka shooter as a starter, which seemed to get forgotten, and that really, was the only jarring note of the night. Well, that’s if you don’t count Mr. Hipster.
Our man-bunned waiter suddenly decided he’d rather not have us on his turf, and after being kind and welcoming at the beginning, turned surly, dismissive and uncooperative. When it came time to clear the table, he must have been on his break. Or serving others. Or fishing. But he really didn’t want to serve us.
We were not going to have our night spoilt by one obnoxious staff member, and everyone else was terrific. So we soldiered on, and ordered three desserts which we still couldn’t finish, even with six of us. The Panna Cotta with “molten blueberry jam, vanilla Persian fairy floss and baby meringues” was soft, delicate, sweet and a lovely mix of flavours. A tiny bit too much gelatin, but otherwise, a pleasant dessert.
The ‘Waterman’s Dock Steamed Butterscotch Pudding’ with caramel sauce, salted caramel ice-cream and toasted almond flakes was our favourite, and the Coffee chocolate broadside, an ‘espresso brulee with dark
chocolate under the usual brulee toffee crust’, was for us, the least effective. Somehow, the coffee didn’t quite go as a custard base for the toffee on top. All were $15.90, and good value.
As we paid and sauntered out, we deliberated on our verdicts. For us all, we had a good night. The food was great in parts, and in others? Good, but could be a little better. The Admiral is what it is. No pretensions otherwise, and that’s a good thing. But that bloody waiter? He was a big fly in otherwise smooth ointment. What a shame.
It’s a big call for a restaurant to survive almost 40 years and still continue to thrive. It’s easy to forget that they’re there still delivering. And the seafood, fresh and local on the whole, was terrific. So whether there’s a disconnect between back of house and front of house, I don’t know, but the Captain of that ship needs a hard look at the crew. What’s your experience?