Huon Valley still serving up top- quality delights
WHILE the Huon Valley is one of the most beautiful and product- rich regions of the state, in culinary terms its main centre, Huonville, seems to have always come a distant second to Cygnet.
Recently, however, there have been some very positive changes that deliver on the region’s promise and should provide locals and tourists good reasons to visit and stay a while.
Rosemary and Terry Bennett’s Home Hill Winery and Restaurant at Ranelagh has, of course, long been one of the Huon’s principle destination eateries.
Set among beautifully tendered lawns against a bucolic backdrop of vines, as an architectural statement in rammed earth, glass and timber, it is as stunning as ever.
With chef Simon Davies in the kitchen since March, the food is back to its best.
From his smallish menu – four entrees, five mains – at lunch a fortnight ago, the slowcooked, nicely crisped pork belly with red cabbage, yoghurt labna and honey- roasted pear was a visual and taste delight, as good as any pork belly dish you’ll find.
This was followed by two main course meats, each cooked to perfection – a beautifully medium- rare fillet of beef and the most tender spiced duck breast I can remember eating.
A little more work on the sauces and the accompanying vegetables and both dishes would have been superb.
My only real complaint was a visually clumsy and superfluous side serving of prosciutto with strong pickles on sourdough, which clashed badly and spoiled an otherwise excellent Tuscan- style red pepper soup spiked with olive tapenade.
Needless to say, the Estate and Reserve wines available at lunch and for tasting at the cellar door are among Tasmania’s most highly acclaimed drops, particularly the 2012 Estate Pinot Noir we enjoyed with our meal.
The most exciting recent addition to the area is, of course, Andrew Smith and Sam Reid’s makeover of a 1942 apple- packing shed into the wonderful Willie Smith Apple Museum and Cider House in Grove.
Part of the recently formed Tasmanian Cider Trail and home to the inaugural Huon Winter Fest, it tells the story of the valley’s apple industry through the Smith family’s eyes with a range of ciders available to wash down a small menu of regional goodies from their wood- fired oven. Open seven days a week, the car park was packed and things were pumping on the day of our visit.
Also new, and also in an old refurbished apple shed, is Kate Hill’s winery, a little further towards Huonville at 101 Glen Rd.
Home to her fabulous and well- priced, medal- winning rieslings and pinots, subtle European- styled cabernet merlots and luscious, first- vintage fizz, Kate and husband Charles will open their new on- site cellar door in December, initially from 11am to 4pm on Thursday and Fridays through to March while they see what their first summer season brings.
If wine quality is any measure, they deserve to be run off their feet.
Not so new but with new courtyard seating opening in time for summer is the little cafe attached to the long- established Summer Organic Bakery just down the road from Home Hill in Ranelagh.
With some of the state’s best sourdough
breads, as well as a delicious pumpkin bread, excellent coffee and a range of savoury pies and baked goodies, it’s the sort of unassuming country eatery that surprises and delights in equal measure.
A sweet finish to our meanderings came at The Cat’s Tongue, in town proper at 13 Wilmot Rd.
The production and retail centre for Andy Abramowich’s acclaimed Cat’s Tongue chocolates, it opened as a small cafe in November last year, serving sweets and coffee on Fridays and with a small menu of very interesting- sounding – but as yet unsampled – dishes from 9am to 4pm on weekends.