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.