What’s important in a restaurant that’s a part of a much larger whole?
So often, the food and the food venues are an afterthought in big museums and art galleries. And big buildings. “We build something magnificent, or practical, or necessary, and then? Oh heck yeah! We have to eat, better put something in that’ll fill that hole.” And so the architects (obviously often culinary morons in my opinion the way they design these spaces) tack something on so they often feel, somehow, a necessary evil.
The tables are glass, with small geological excavational references peeping up at us as we sit. I guess that’s a reference to the name?
Especially museum and gallery restaurants – sutured on clumsily to the main attraction, clinical and lifeless, with minimum kitchen space, standard lunch boring staples: Pies, rolls, wraps. Built to a price, and though they are frequented heavily, there’s usually no choice in the dining options when one is captive, the powers that be continuing to give them scant regard.
Which is what brings me to MONA. Visiting with friends, I insist that we lunch at The Source, MONA’s premium venue, upstairs on the river end of the tasting bar.
And while there are other venues to dine at, which do their own further down market thing pretty well, I hadn’t dined at The Source for some years, and with Vince Trim now at the helm after Pillippe Leban bit the bullet and hurtled into his own venue in Battery Point last year, a visit here was long overdue.
The décor has gone up a notch, the dense herb gardens on the verandah are looking well tended, and the service is still supremely professional. And being MONA, art or art sensibilities are everywhere. The tables are glass, with small geological excavational references peeping up at us as we sit. I guess that’s a reference to the name?
I look down. Our table has an arrangement of coal, and sparkling crystals (diamonds) scattered about like some modern art installation. Which I guess it is. It’s MONA after all, and the opportunity to meld art with life is seized at every opportunity. Wonder what I can do at home? I muse as I notice the table across – resplendent with gold boats or seed pods winking at the diners above.
He loves a metaphor, does our David Walsh. I’m thinking that Hobartians are going to start calling him, ‘our David’, as befits a benefactor who breathed life into a slumbering town and put it on the world map.
The Source is not about breaking any new ground though, with its food and menu. The whole ethos is about fresh, local seasonal food cooked well. Share plates that range from $18 to $25 for smaller ones, $28 – $38 for larger size. The $38 being for eye fillet, which these days, is damn good value.
We try a selection between five of us, and are very happy with our choices: plump fresh oysters at $17 for six – bargain; a delicious duck liver parfait with slivers of gold sweet potato, pickled walnuts and kale; a smoked salmon with a Japanese touch with tempura nori on top; and a seared wallaby fillet with walnuts, dates and a very rich reduced jus. For John, who just felt like some vegetables, his order of Brussels sprouts with bacon and julienned carrot absolutely hit the spot.
We ate, downed a Meadowbank Riesling at $60 which is getting up there, and left sated, and quietly pleased with ourselves. The Source absolutely delivers on its promise, and though the wine list is War and Peace and with the cheapest bottle $53, expensive, the food was interesting, tasty and fresh.
And a point of discussion for us was, why weren’t there more Tasmanian wines on offer? And those that were, were bloody expensive. How is it that a wine considered good enough to put on a premium restaurant’s wine list, (a G. & J.H. Goisot ‘Côte dAuxerre’) shipped all the way from Burgundy, can sell at $53 while the Moorilla Muse Riesling, made in house is $65??? Think of the footprint, for starters.
There were Spanish, New York, Napa Valley wines and so many more besides on offer. A wine lover’s poem almost, in the massive selection, for those who like to try something different, and don’t mind paying. Well, I guess that’s the market that forms a large part of MONA’s customer base.
But these days, the restaurant is ticking along, secure in its niche and delivery. And to hit all the right notes with a simple stir fry of the dreaded Brussels sprouts? Well, that takes talent, and Vince has plenty of that.
Don’t forget about The Source, dear readers – even though it’s 15 minutes out of the CBD, a trip out there with a side visit to the latest exhibition or even a swerve through the library is something we should all indulge in, once in a while. Hobart, and MONA, is so much more than most people would think.
The Source Restaurant / Ether Building, Mona Museum, Berriedale TAS / Ph: 03 6277 9904 / Open 6 days Wednesday – Monday for breakfast and lunch; Dinner Friday and Saturday / $$$ /