What’s the mark of a great city? For me, it’s one that slowly disrobes layer by layer. Hobart is like a great lady of the burlesque. She’s constantly teasing, revealing, and always her colourful history informs the smallest detail.
Is Friday night your night out? It certainly is for me and my crowd. It’s our night to swoop, to schmooze, to sip and sup. So this is a fairly typical Friday as I take you on a tour of our secret town. One that usually is ‘locals only’. And often, some of the delights are known to only a small number of locals. It’s our secret, but one I’m happy to share.
4pm: We often begin early in this balmy summer weather, with a trip to Street Eats at Franko. Franko, aka Franklin Square, rests in a mid-city green haven between Macquarie, Murray and Davey Streets. The central statue of John Franklin, a former governor of Hobart, presides over a fountain and colourful jumble of food and drink stalls, while people spill down a grassy verge as they munch and muse to the rhythms of live music. Franko pumps until April, so make sure you visit before the cold winds blow.
5pm: After a small bite or three, a drink and some toe-tapping, we often then head down to Red Square. Set behind the big soon-to-be-open Maq01 Hotel and food precinct (what? More food? Hell, yeah!) is the Red Shed where the rough and so ready corrugated iron shanty, houses a delectable brew house, Hobart Brewing Company. Try their newly minted Saison, or any one of a dozen or more of fresh brewed ales, each one complex and a testament to very capable hands at the spout.
While you’re down this neck of the woods, sometimes the Twilight Market might be next door, with more food vans, and stalls selling arts, crafts, and anything else the hardy Hobartians might make for your pleasure. Moving on…
5.30pm: It’s now we race to the front section of Salamanca Place and gallery row. Beginning at the top, just next to the ubiquitous Ball and Chain Restaurant, is Trudy Young’s Colville Gallery. Trudy is a champion of Tasmanian artists, and will host a launch of a new exhibition in style, with drinks and usually a great (and often funny) speech by a local and friend or colleague of the artist in situ.
Then it’s usually down to see what Handmark are showing, and it could be beautiful art, or jewellery, or even furniture, or a combination of all. Then sometimes it’s up to The Long Gallery or even the Sidespace Gallery as well if new artists have something to say and we need to hear them say it.
To the left of the Long Gallery is Betty Nolan Gallery and her curations are always worth a look and a discussion. On the ground level, in that small arcade under the Long Gallery stairs lies Inka Gallery, and when they launch there’s a hubbub and crush as devoted fans push into the tiny shop where some wonderful artists are launched and feted.
An important note here: Most galleries launch on a fortnightly, sometimes monthly basis, so check their websites, or better still, if you are really interested in the vibrant Hobart art scene, subscribe and they’ll let you know when it’s all happening. And compared to other cities? The art is well priced, there’s a government deal that helps you pay it off, interest free over a year, so it’s win-win all round. Who knows? You might just get lucky and invest for a song in the next Del Kathryn Barton?
6.30pm: Moving on, as this is Friday and it’s busy, busy, we head up the arcade as we follow the music. This is true Hobart at its best: Rektango. At the end of the arcade where Inka Gallery sits, lies a massive granite wall, with wildflowers spilling down from a great height. The wall frames a small podium and dance area, where almost without fail, the locals can enjoy a dance, some cheap drinks, and catching up after a busy week. Only heavy rain will cancel the gig. The band usually kicks off around 5:30pm, and plays until 7:30pm or so, when everyone filters off to eat or party.
This ancient wall was once part of a huge quarry that ended where the city hub is, and old loading docks punctuated by a modern glass lift look down on the fun and frivolity. I’m always amazed when I come across locals who’ve never heard of Rektango, and we look pityingly upon them, knowing they’ve missed some of the best nights and bands around. And you know what? It’s free!
After 7:30pm? Sometimes dinner, or if we’ve indulged already at Franko or Red Square, it could be a movie, a play at the Peacock Theatre, or a Screen Launch in the Founders’ Room, all in the cluster of buildings that surround the Long Gallery and the art precinct.
And after that? Well, you can schlepp around to The Brick Factory, where hipsters and business people rub stomachs and the food’s reasonable and tasty. Or, our favourite ‘hidden’ bar, The South Seas, back along the Castray Esplanade, where a mind-blowing rum cocktail the size of a planet awaits. With straws so your friends don’t miss out. Just don’t go already plastered, because they will not let you in. So don’t get too untidy because we’ve saved the best till last? Or maybe not – that’s your choice.
Does this sound like a top Friday night to you? It is to me, and as Hobart and Maq01 open up to the sound of trumpets in the near future, we’ll just have to pin our ears back and put shoulder to the glass. Or plate. Happy hunting!