Fico Bistro & Vino / 154 Macquarie St Hobart TAS 7000 / Ph: 03 6245 3391 / Open Dinner Tue – Sat; Lunch Fri – Sat; Long lunch Sunday / $$$ / www.ficofico.net
Fico Bistro is just one of the many new restaurants popping up in the Hobart food scene, but it stands out.
For several reasons: the food is damn good and the décor, also designed by the owner/chefs, is superb. These guys are knocking it out of the park.
Oskar Rossi and Freddie (Federica) Andrisani, met over figs, and wanted to do something beautiful – or fico – together. Oskar brought Freddie to Hobart, and this gorgeous room or bistro, that’s like being in an elegant home but better, is the result.
It might help that Oskar is Tom Samek’s son. Samek is one of Tasmania’s most beloved artists, and his whimsical art and woodcuts adorn the walls. (If you missed going up to the mezzanine at Frogmore Creek to admire the woodcut floor by Samek which tells the history of wine in Tasmania, it’s worth a trip alone.)
Walking in, the room sighs with a genteel calm. Plenty of space between tables, another plus, allows those among us to get fairly ribald without fear of censure. Our waitress settles us down, with a strong accent which is Italian, Francesca delivers menus, water and specials without missing a beat.
We’re here for the food, so it’s the degustation for us, or as Fico terms it, “Let us cook for you”. It’s $65 a head, includes the fabulous house-made grissini that sing with parmesan and set us up for a night of treats. And the food comes out in good time, and the noises we make sound like a bevy of contented horses at a trough. Though this food would be wasted on horses.
Oysters arrive – big and briny and fresh with just lemon. They need nothing else, make their statement as to the quality that is to follow, and we settle in. Blini, stuffed with smoked eel and topped with caviar are a delicious couple of bites that take eel to another level.
I had blinis and caviar at the Russian Tea Room in New York, many years ago, and these blitzed those beauties effortlessly. Two tiny cubes of Kingfish arrived on a marble slab, marinated with soy, and topped with wasabi and a tiny leaf of coriander. Interesting, and delicious.
Game terrine, one of the specials was next, and a beautiful formed slice that was a picture of smoked meaty goodness in a brioche crust with a sparkle of herbs and aspic.
Next, a small serve of risotto that was white, on white, on white. This perfectly cooked Arborio rice was aggressively cheesy, finished with aged Parmesan and topped with strips of white smoked lardo. But it worked, and was perfectly salty, winey, cheesy, bacony all at once.
We hit the secondi with an osso buco, with celeriac, horseradish and cabbage – an inspired take on a very traditional Italian Milanese dish. Even the cabbage, fresh with a slight char gave it a light, fresh touch.
The final and seventh dish to arrive for us was the dessert of ‘mandarin, liquorice, yoghurt.’ Like all the others, it’s so much more than the sum of its parts. And has a lightness of touch that sings from the kitchen, ‘You are in good hands.’
We had spotted an interesting selection of cheese on a dresser across the room from us, and so we have to order a 3 Cheese supplement for $30, which comes with some bread, and more grissini.
The wine list is well thought through as well. An interesting selection of Tasmanian, Italian and French labels from $50 up, and all great examples of their class. We tried the Hughes and Hughes Sauvignon Blanc from the Derwent Valley, at $50 a beautiful, balanced wine that held its head high throughout the meal.
Then we had to try a Les Vignes d’Olivier Rose, from the Languedoc region of France, at $55 (bottle shop price around $17-$20) and a raw wine, it was a fine choice to stand up to the exciting food. For a raw, organic wine, this was well balanced and yet fresh at the same time.
Francesca, our waitress delivered well, though her wine pouring skills weren’t perfect, her enthusiasm made up for those stray couple of drops. Bistro? Not sure about that – it’s way beyond the usual.
We left happy. One of the group, who’s a pretty big eater, felt that the food wasn’t quite enough for him, yet the rest of us were sated. And 7 courses, though small, at $65? Sterling value. Fico for us, was a find. Agree?