Murray got it. The reference to the Led Zeppelin song that is. I had no clue. This new bar on the block hums to its own tune, and that’s a good thing. The food is outstanding. Go, if just for the food. The wine? Well that’s another story.
The buzz about town was enough to make us curious, especially as this baby was born just a few short months ago. So on a recent Saturday night, we wandered into a beautiful heritage building in Collins Street that used to house a printers’ business.
What’s the dominant colour? Black. Surprise surprise. But the fit out we loved. A spacious room with banquettes along 2 walls, tables reasonably spaced apart, and a very open kitchen that’s more of a low bar where diners can sit and chat to the chef as he moves in service.
Next to that? The cocktail bar where the idea is the same. Relaxed, casual, and no real hint of the treats to come. A short printed menu of bar snacks that we ignored, and the degustation was just a couple of lists on a blackboard of food and cocktails.
7 courses for $65. Sounded like us, so we ordered cocktails which were unusual, about the $20 mark, and absolutely hit the spot. Service? Quick and professional, and as we take in the room, we notice a small ante-room with dim lighting and a small central table. Ahh, the wine room.
Sarah, our main waiter, asked would we like to go shopping? Would we? Murray’s eyes lit up, and he loved the concept. The rest of us, not so much. So I wouldn’t pooh-pooh that out of hand – it’s a horses for courses thing. But when we did sidle into the wine ‘salon’, the prices hit us between the eyes.
The cheapest wines? $48, and from then up to $59, $69, $95, to stratospheric $120 and upwards. And not a Tasmanian offering among them! Not one that we could see, anyway. Now, I have to say, this is the only disappointment of the night. We selected a ‘Blush’ Pinot Gris from South Australia for $48, and settled down for the food.
First, was ‘Carrot’. And, as Coby, the chef, had worked for Heston at Fat Duck, it was as far from just carrot as the Fat Duck is from Hobart. A carrot-flavoured tuile wrapped around a delicious savoury custard topped with a thin slice of heirloom carrot. Small, but perfect. And a good start.
The wine? As they used to say about Cooper’s beer, “been through the horse twice”. Seriously awful, it was like drinking a very tart Prosecco that was cloudy and frankly, at $48 I wanted to run home then and there. And we tried. We pinched our noses and drank again, to see if we were missing something. We tried to find some redeeming features, but alas there were none.
Next? Squash and yolk arrived with char grilled button squash, topped with a sous vide yolk, some croutons adding a much needed crunch over a bed of mayo and some deep fried sage. Different, and delicious. By this time, the wine had mellowed a little, and seemed to have put down its battle weapons, but that’s possibly simply the fact that the food was so good we felt bad criticising anything.
The squid on a mushroom broth was glorious. Squid cut into tagliatelle-like strips worked as a clever take on pasta-not-pasta. By that time, the pickles, a sharp blend of radish, beetroot and vinegar was the perfect hump-day middle to the menu, and cleared our palates.
Mussels in beer and then the chicken topped with big crisp balls of salmon roe that exploded in a briny goodness in the mouth? Fantastic. And then came dessert, after a bit of a break, a smooth custard in a tuile on a bed of stewed apple and black olives somehow worked, and topped with a sprinkle of freeze-dried olive was amazing.
The second wine, a ‘Vino Rosso – White + Red’ was just more of the same but did age a little better than the first. Still $48, and worth? About $4. Again, we tried very hard to like it, but next time? I’ll ask if they do BYO – happy to pay corkage, rather than be forced to choose between Jamie Packer or boganvillea. It’s obvious the cocktails are a big focus, but great food deserves good wine, nothing less.
Whether Coby did a stage (a free stint) or not at Heston’s doesn’t really matter here – he’s a gifted chef and the experience was obviously a good thing. But whoever’s in charge of the wine choice? Get real.
And we had to save our utensils for every dish, which was a bit ‘meh’…. And the dish explanations were rushed and hard to hear, so would have loved a written sheet to take home. A little more communication, as in why we’re reusing utensils, why they don’t have any meat on the menu, would go a long way. Just saying…
The consensus? Absolutely terrific food, great design and good concept. Sort the wine choice out (and for heavens’ sake get in something from Tas. It’s not hard and they’re up there with the best at much better prices.) You’re in Hobart, and we like to support our own. If you can do that, Sarah and Coby, you’ve got something grand.