Hello Mrs Jones

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - Graeme Phillips

MRS JONES RESTAU­RANT BAR LOUNGE LEVEL 1, 41 BLUFF RD, DEVON­PORT LI­CENSED LUNCH AND DIN­NER DAILY 6423 3881

FOR 10 years, Jac­qui Leary and David Aitken ran the best restau­rant in the North- West, the now- closed Wild at Pen­guin. To­gether with chef James Lock­ett and the gen­er­ous as­sis­tance of the city coun­cil, they’ve now opened a big­ger and even bet­ter one – Mrs Jones in Devon­port.

Leary and Aitken have brought their tal­ents and well- earned rep­u­ta­tions to the ven­ture, with Lock­ett pro­vid­ing his restau­rant de­sign and culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ence, honed af­ter 12 years of con­sul­tancy work in Hong Kong, Thai­land, Malaysia and the Mal­dives.

Perched above the seag­ulls and bathers at Devon­port beach, open to the sounds and smells of the surf and with the sweep­ing views over Bass Strait framed by The Bluff, the restau­rant’s set­ting is sim­ply su­perb.

As is the de­sign and decor – the pol­ished and patterned tim­ber ceil­ings, the long, cop­per- clad bar fronting the open kitchen, the win­dow group­ings of Ital­ian leather lounges, the large deck ta­bles with cush­ioned seat­ing and the spa­cious din­ing room strate­gi­cally mir­rored so ev­ery diner can share in the gor­geous ocean views. In the evening it must all be quite spec­tac­u­lar.

Add in metic­u­lously clothed ta­bles, qual­ity table­ware, cus­tomised crock­ery and floor staff in crisp white jack­ets and your ex­pec­ta­tions upon be­ing seated are that you’re in for a su­pe­rior din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

And that’s just what I got in a pro­ces­sion of beau­ti­fully pre­sented dishes at lunch just a few weeks af­ter their open­ing.

Fresh oys­ters in a pud­dle of Asian- ac­cented broth with a slice of crisp pork belly “lid” were fol­lowed by de­li­cious tahini- dressed spiced beetroot, braised leeks and pis­ta­chio quinoa salad with a whis­per of truf­fle oil and a tex­tu­ral scat­ter­ing of toasted wal­nuts.

A piece of patag­o­nian tooth­fish, mar­i­nated in white miso and wrapped in shaved cu­cum­ber with lemon­grass and shiso pickle was a per­fectly bal­anced combo of the sweet and salty.

Then came an in­spired pre­sen­ta­tion of soft shell crab, crisp legs dra­mat­i­cally akimbo as it seem­ingly dived into its wrap­per of tem­pura rice pa­per rolls filled with pink gin­ger, Thai basil and avocado with flakes of pink salt and dry chilli and a caramel orange dip­ping sauce.

Bril­liant pre­sen­ta­tion – and tast­ing as good as it looked.

Fi­nally, and tast­ing just as good, an ex­em­plary red duck and pump­kin curry with co­conut rice, crisp gar­lic, a knot of crunchy snake beans and a sweet cu­cum­ber pickle on the side.

Each dish of my meal was an ex­cit­ing and com­plex in­ter­play of flavours and tex­tures and, while I seemed to have leant to­wards Asia in my choices, there are plenty of other, more main­stream op­tions among the menu’s nine en­trees and 10 mains in­clud­ing po­tato gnoc­chi, mush­room risotto, pan- fried At­lantic salmon, roasted lamb rack and “steak and frits” plus six desserts and lo­cal cheeses.

The wines, beers and ciders are well­cho­sen and priced with good Tas­ma­nian rep­re­sen­ta­tion and, un­der Leary’s pro­fes­sional eyes, the chic ser­vice staff got ev­ery­thing on the day spot on.

Leary, Aitken and Lock­ett are all North- West born and raised and, with one of the state’s most ex­cit­ing new and rea­son­ably priced eater­ies in Mrs Jones, they’re now re­pay­ing their com­mu­nity in spades.

PRICE GUIDE

En­trees $ 17 to $ 21; mains $ 29 to $ 36; desserts around $ 14.50; three cheeses $ 22; Tas­ma­nian wines by the glass around $ 9.

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