A new chef, a new regime, but the original principles of good fresh food lovingly prepared are still in place.
Franklin soared, then sputtered, then soared, sputtered, and on the whole has been privy to very mixed reviews. The locals in Hobart are tough. These days, we’re spoilt for choice, and if a favourite falls out of favour, hey? There always a new kid or five on the block to try out.
David Moyle has been around. I first met him when he was still at Peppermint Bay and just beginning the merge to Franklin. It was at a friend and fellow chef’s birthday party, complete with suckling pig, many drinks, and a roaring open fire in midwinter which was the centerpiece. We commented on Mona’s new-age spit that held the pig open and spread and had to be turned like a huge fan.Since then,
David saw his baby open, prosper, and… yes, it was uneven. A visit for me early on encountered what so many had complained about: snooty, careless service. I didn’t review it – had nothing really nice to say. And other reports from friends listed woes of tiny portions stratospherically priced, and more silly, ignorant service.
But Franklin now has a new chef, as David pursues other markets in Melbourne, and Annaliese Gregory, of Bar Brose heads up the kitchen these days. More power to her.
This review started out as a take on the pub, Tom McHugo’s, which is across the road. I’d organized to meet an old friend from the North West at said pub, and she had trouble finding it. Then when found, neither of us was impressed by the service or the menu. Very ordinary pub grub and looking around at other diners, we decided to cut our losses and headed over to Franklin.
Again, I do think that is a case of opening flush dying, staff departing, and a bumpy road has been hit. And that’s a shame, because the first reviews of McHugo’s were raves, so I hope they can find that sweet spot again.
It’s also lunch time, on a Thursday, so Franklin is not busy, and we’re seated and watered without fuss. The waiter? He was a tiny bit on the snooty side – he definitely had trouble cracking a smile, but he was far from glacial. And the other girls made up for him.
The menu is tiny. Fantastic, except it’s so tiny there’s one dessert. What’s that about? That’s taking minimalism to a whole new level. And I would’ve at least liked some choice! However, the savoury bits read well, and we chose the pasta of the day, tagliatelle with mussles $20, and the pork neck, $26.
A glass of 2016 Jauma “Sand on Schist” Chenin Blanc from McLaren Vale at $14.50 was pleasant, though for me, a little young and oaky. But that’s a personal thing – I’ve never liked oak in wines – it smacks to me of covering up lesser grapes, and missing the point. I want to taste fruit. But that’s just me. Schist? What is schist? It’s a metamorphic rock, just fyi.
I guess that means that the grapes are grown on tough, rocky soil. Years ago, trudging around Victoria’s wine country, I remember asking a wine-maker why does the vine love such rocky, barren earth? He replied, “Because it’s a weed! It’s a weed, dammit. And thank god for that!”
We waited a bit, and I did notice the chef who seemed to be making the meals was toing and froing, opening up fridges, pulling out tubs, going back of house, fiddling about, in other words, did not appear to be at all organized. Mise en place? What’s that?
I think Annaliese was there. At least I did see a small woman in a bandanna chatting to a waitress for a while, as the big guy at the stoves fiddled and farted about. Our ‘tagliatelle’ arrived at the table and looked interesting – but I couldn’t see any mussels. The waiter said, “Oh they’re in the sauce. Don’t you worry.”
And they were. We scooped up a couple of bowls full, and began to munch, and he was right. The pasta was delicious. But it was spaghetti, not tagliatelli. Get it right, guys. It’s not hard. The sauce was smooth and tasty, with a beautiful big mussel flavour hit, and topped with good parmesan and a bit of smoked chilli.
We loved the idea of the mussel having been whizzed up as well, because they can be tough, chewy, and this solves all of that. Then the pork neck came out, absolutely black on top, resting on a bed of pumpkin puree with a side garnish of fresh kale. We guessed the pork had been baked in the ten-tonne Scotch oven, which could do large babies at a pinch, and it was unctuous.
Tasty, fall apart in the mouth, and the combination of the pumpkin and the kale with the salty richness of the pork was perfect. We looked at the desserts, though for lunch, we were done really, and that’s when I thought “One? One dessert? You have to be kidding me. One dessert???” It was “milk ice cream with miellerie honey $12”. Pass. Even though the Miellerie honey is from Woodbridge, and superb, it, well, didn’t tempt.
I’ve thought that’s a name that doubles as well – miellerie means house of honey – so miellerie honey I guess is house of honey honey…. Well, sort of makes sense.
I’ve posted the menu here for you to see – and while small, it still tempts, except for the dessert, in my humble opinion.
Franklin Bar and Restaurant / Old Mercury Building Argyle Street, Hobart TAS 7000 / Open Tuesday – Saturday 11.30am onwards / $$$ /