The Huntington Tavern / Main Street Kempton, TAS 7030 / Open Lunch and Dinner 7 Days / Ph: 03 6259 1292 / $ / www.thehuntingtonkempton.com.au
Redlands Distillery /26 Main Street, Kempton, TAS 7030 / Ph: 03 6259 3058 / $$ / www.redlandsdistillery.com.au
What’s the most important word, to you, when you visit an historic site. Old? History? Understanding? For me, it’s authenticity. If I want to dabble in footsteps past, I want that experience to be authentic. Or as authentic as it can be, given the passage of time.
Tasmania is historic. And Kempton? As an old carriage and horse rest stop, the history is what it’s all about. It’s such a treat to swoop into a town like Kempton and see the sights. There’s a few, but the main ones for me, are the tavern and Dysart House. And while the historic pub is long gone, the Huntington Tavern is getting a facelift that would rival Nicole Kidman.
The authenticity of the pub? Impossible in an historic context, but the new owners are determined to keep the venue authentic within their area, and market. And within their own sensibilities. It’s a plain brick newish building, which is such a shame given what the original one must have been like, but what’s done is done, and Janice Overett and her partners are working hard on revitalizing a business that’s important to the town, and the area. So while it may be a building that was a misstep before their time, the business is on track to rekindle a bygone era of ‘the local’.
I first met Janice when she was administering the Fine Food Awards for the Royal Hobart Show, and I was a judge. So Janice knows food, and the producers of the food world, well. Taking over a pub is a big call, and I think Janice and Julie, her partner are up for it. Walls are being ripped out, a garden area and function place added, the kitchen upgraded, you name it, it’s going on there.
I called in two weeks after opening, and the renovations were in full swing. Tired? Janice was exhausted, but still managed a smile and a laugh as she took me through the areas under renew. I had the fish and chips. $25 and a really large, though excellent serve, with a nice balanced dressing on the salad. The chef is working hard on keeping locals and tourists happy.
The menu is pretty extensive, (again, could be smaller without any loss of real choice), including seafood, meats, vegetarian, game and a host of toppings, sides and sauces. Reasonably priced, good solid pub food with ‘something a little bit fancy’ here and there, and desserts at just $9 were tempting. The ocean platter for two at $95 looked amazing, and I made a mental note to revisit with a friend or two to do that justice. Buffet Sundays are planned, and should fit with the locals a treat.
So Kempton should really be on the radar, and the tavern is a perfectly good alternative to stopping off in Campbelltown for lunch or coffee, or a drink. Or simply, go out there for lunch. The service is terrific, and after lunch, I had a wander through Dysart House, something that I’ve been meaning to do for some time.
“And a couple in the lounge had just finished lunch. What did they have to eat? Nachos!”
And here’s the sticker. The house and property, under the banner of Redlands Distillery, is glorious, and the new whisky distilling shed to the side is worth the visit alone, where if you’re lucky, you might catch Robbie Gilligan taking a whisky tasting tour. With a thick Scottish accent that could cut through the copper still beside him, he explains the finer points of distilling, and of course, the tasting is magnificent.
But, as I walked through the house itself, the dining room on the right is gorgeous, but the lounge on the left, has a large, ugly copper sheet of sculpture that belongs… elsewhere. Definitely not here. And a couple in the lounge had just finished lunch. What did they have to eat? Nachos!
Nachos in this beautiful historic building seemed like sacrilege to me. And the menu is no different. Might I suggest something much more in keeping with the surroundings? A modern twist on old English food perhaps? Bill Lark is no stranger to hospitality, surely he would know that you can’t please everyone, so don’t even try. Nachos? It doesn’t need to be Heston level, but it would be a wonderful thing to see the era and ethos of this beautiful place matched with the food. Just saying. Authentic it’s not.
Kempton is a beautiful little town of not much more than one street, and some of the shops have survived and stand proudly. If only those windows could talk, what tales would they tell? And judging by the busy trade the tavern were doing, predominantly locals, they’ve hit the ground running. Well done.