30 Argyle St, Hobart Open Tuesday-Thursday for dinner, drinks and snacks, from 4.30pm until late; and Friday and Saturday for lunch from 11.30am, snacks from 4.30pm and dinner from 6pm. Licensed. 6234 3375 F ranklin opened three years ago with lauded chef David Moyle at the helm. Many predicted it would fill the void when the terroir restaurant Garagistes closed, but three years on, one would be hard-pressed to find a Hobart eatery that so divides opinion.
I had eaten David Moyle’s food at his previous post at the Stackings at Peppermint Bay, but I missed his Franklin era. My maiden visit to the restaurant coincided with the recent arrival of new chef Analiese Gregory, fresh from Sydney’s famed Bar Brose, who has been in the job just over a month now.
Much has been written about the Brutalist interior of Franklin, which is housed in the old Mercury building, and I braced myself for the chill and clatter that so often accompanies such spaces. I needn’t have worried as the buzzy bonhomie softened all those potentially hard edges to reveal a lofty, inviting and beautiful space.
There was a legion of friendly staff on hand the evening we visited. Perched on the bar, we could view the kitchen staff meeting their deadlines with the sort of calm efficiency that is always a marvel to witness. This is clearly a kitchen in control.
The continuity of the house style of food appears to be, at least in the interim, intact, with a few Moyle-era riffs reverberating on the menu in the form of the octopus and the whole flathead.
I’m unclear if Gregory has exercised much of her repertoire as yet, given her recent arrival, however the food we sampled was sure-footed, interesting and delicious.
Top-notch burnished sourdough came from Pigeon Whole, baked on the Argyle St site in the same building.
We started with a bite of chicken liver pate sandwiched between sheaths of beguiling yeast crisps, not unlike impossibly thin filo pastry. We then enjoyed a crisp-roasted lamb rib, each sitting in a viscous pool of burnt honey, though the licorice accompanying it was very subtle.
Next we shared a Japanese-inspired dish of raw snapper with cumquat and wakame that was as elegant to gaze upon as it was to taste. Our wood-fired potato bread with guanciale was a crisp-shelled delight topped with cured pork and a tangy-salty anchovy dressing.
Then it was time to sample the octopus with preserved lemon and smoked paprika. It was verging on glassy and yet firmed up enough by the radiant heat of the wood-fired oven to appease those who like their seafood cooked all the way through. It was then back to Japan for the inspired dish of butter-soft pork jowl with pickled plum and radicchio.
Perhaps the best dish of the evening, and one I have sampled on at least three menus of late, was the wood-roasted cabbage, this version with wakame butter and shaved salted cheese. It was a detonation of flavour and texture, really outstanding and so wonderful to see the humble cabbage playing a leading role.
Of the four desserts listed, we rhapsodised over the crispy potato, brown butter and salted caramel. The other selected dessert, the strawberry gum milk sorbet, rhubarb and damson, was an intriguing mix of textures with a vaguely medicinal flavour profile that had me placing it in the “curious” rather than “delicious” side of the pudding ledger.
Franklin’s wine list is a love letter of sorts to a style of wine-making often described as minimalist intervention, and many of these are foreign or from the mainland.
Some people may find it challenging that Tasmanian wines are scarce on this list, but I think Franklin’s commitment to championing a wine philosophy they believe in deserves plaudits.
Many food operations play it safe and we are lucky to have a few that dare to be different. The measure of a mature and open-minded city is reflected in the diversity of its food and wine offerings and Franklin caters to this point of difference in a distinctive and determined way.