Sim­ply sen­sa­tional

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

SMOLT

Li­censed 2 Sala­manca Square, Sala­manca, Ho­bart Daily from 8.30am. Phone: 6224 2554

‘ I T’S THE most pro­fes­sional restau­rant in Ho­bart,” said a friend who knows his way around. And, af­ter a re­cent lunch and din­ner, it would be hard to ar­gue with him. Busy on our lunch visit and packed- to- over­flow­ing at din­ner, ev­ery­thing seemed to hum like clock­work.

A great credit to own­ers Scott McMur­ray and Kif We­ber and the floor and kitchen teams they’ve put to­gether un­der man­ager Nina Schu­bert and head chef Scott Hef­fer­nan.

Apart from the ad­di­tion of sec­tions cov­er­ing piz­zas and pas­tas, the small dishes/ mains menu for­mat is un­changed from when they opened in 2007, We­ber say­ing at the time the idea was to em­brace the trend to­wards smaller dishes and shared plates.

In a re­view four weeks af­ter they opened, I wrote: “It’s the small plates which I’ve found to be the most ex­cit­ing, sat­is­fy­ing and best- value part of the menu.

“It’s not un­com­mon at all in restaurants for en­trees to pro­vide more ex­cit­ing com­bi­na­tions than mains and it is prob­a­bly the Smolt team’s ex­pe­ri­enced in­ten­tion to de­sign the menu in that way, al­low­ing more ad­ven­tur­ous eaters to com­pose their meal of a num­ber of small plates, while the big plates com­fort the less ad­ven­tur­ous”.

Seven years on, I feel the same way – our lunch was an as­sort­ment of de­light­ful small dishes, the main cour­ses at din­ner far less sat­is­fy­ing.

Read­ing the main course op­tions, I felt with dishes like – honey- glazed duck breast, braised radic­chio, ril­lettes, blood sausage crumb, stone fruit salad, cau­li­flower puree, fen­nel and or­ange re­duc­tion; grilled Tas­ma­nian veni­son, sea­sonal fruit puree, quinoa, spiced cau­li­flower and al­mond salad, creamed gar­lic – there was too much hap­pen­ing on the plate, so I chose the ri­ga­toni with pork and veni­son sausage which was fine.

In ad­di­tion, a slightly bit­ter puree of smoked egg­plant with “sea­sonal spring veg­eta­bles” and a chilli, gar­lic and an­chovy dress­ing didn’t do much to redeem my wife’s fairly chewy pieces of lamb.

But I’m firmly in the keep- it- sim­ple, lessis- more school of food and, af­ter en­joy­ing the lamb the pre­vi­ous night, a cou­ple from in­ter­state at the next ta­ble was in again to try

the mains of grilled sal­mon and the duck – so it ob­vi­ously works for some.

Ac­tu­ally, judg­ing by the din­ner crowd, it ob­vi­ously works for many.

For me, how­ever, it’s their small plates we shared with two friends and their seven- yearold daugh­ter at lunch that will bring me back.

The sin­gle slice of her tomato and basil pizza the daugh­ter al­lowed me was as good, fresh and brightly fl avoured as you could want. Spring Bay mus­sels with saf­fron aioli were per­fectly cooked to juicy plump­ness, the dish not fi nished un­til we’d com­peted with each other to soak up ev­ery last drop of the gar­licky, dill and pars­ley- fl ecked cook­ing juices with Smolt’s ex­cel­lent cia­batta bread. Like­wise a dish of braised oc­to­pus and its tomato- y cook­ing liq­uid.

Ja­mon cro­quettes with smoked pep­per aioli were very good as was a pair of leek and cheese aran­cino.

The only hic­cup in the lunch came in one of the day’s spe­cials, two diffi cult- to- get- right roasted mar­row bones topped gen­er­ously with toasted crumbs, one of which had been over­cooked and the mar­row melted into the crumbs, the other still a lit­tle un­der­done with the mar­row not prop­erly set. As said, they’re not easy.

An­other big plus is one of the city’s bet­ter and more ex­ten­sive wine lists fea­tur­ing a wide di­ver­sity of styles in wines from France, Italy, Spain, Ger­many, Chile and Ar­gentina as well as from the main­land and Tas­ma­nia with plenty of by- the- glass op­tions.

There are also their good- value Smolt Chardon­nay and pinot noir, made for them from grapes they se­lect and buy them­selves, and their range of Salli Brown beers made to their brief by Iron House Brew­ery.

Price guide: Arancini $ 3.90; cro­quets $ 14.90; mus­sels $ 23.90; ri­ga­toni $ 28.90; lamb $ 36.90; Smolt pinot noir $ 8.90/ 39; Home Hill Kelly’s Re­serve Chardon­nay $ 61.

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