Huon Val­ley still serv­ing up top- qual­ity de­lights

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TASTE - Graeme Phillips

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.

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