TA­BLES Kids in a sweet shop

A youth­ful team is turn­ing out ex­em­plary fare in Ho­bart’s Bat­tery Point, re­ports Matthew Denholm

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

SSIETTE is French for plate but be­hind the curved wooden door of an old sweet shop in Ho­bart it has ac­quired a new mean­ing. The young team at Pic­calilly in Bat­tery Point has hi­jacked the word to de­scribe a form of din­ing that is closer to graz­ing.

The tra­di­tional en­tree-main-dessert menu is re­placed with lists of savoury and sweet dishes, each served with a com­pat­i­ble wine, if de­sired. It might be de­scribed as a more struc­tured and so­phis­ti­cated ver­sion of ta­pas.

Each dish is small, but not tiny, al­low­ing the diner to ex­pe­ri­ence a wider range of flavours, tex­tures and taste com­bi­na­tions. The menu of­fers a choice of four, five, six or eight-dish selections, with the op­tion of matched wines or beers. (There is also a tra­di­tional three-course menu for un­bend­ing types.)

My din­ing com­pan­ion, Coco, and I take the eight-dish de­gus­ta­tion op­tion ($120 a per­son) on the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion it is only $10 more than the six-dish se­lec­tion and to prop­erly ex­pe­ri­ence the cui­sine of Pic­calilly’s young chef, Iain Todd.

Hav­ing taken the de­gus­ta­tion route we shouldn’t be able to choose what dishes are in­cluded. How­ever, Coco’s de­sire for the Bruny Is­land oys­ters is such that man­ager Elysia Man­nix re­lents and we hap­pily sac­ri­fice a salad. Be­fore our se­lected dishes ar­rive, we are de­liv­ered a small amuse-gueule: seared Long­ford beef with mus­tard emul­sion and pick­led shal­lots. A mere wisp of lean flesh and tang, it alerts our stom­achs to the plea­sures ahead. The eight Bruny Is­land Pa­cific oys­ters — four nat­u­ral and four with a red wine and shal­lot vinai­grette — are large, fresh and suc­cu­lent. They slide down, lu­bri­cated per­fectly by a 2005 Ki­likanoon Vou­vray , a smooth and slightly fruity chenin blanc bub­bly ($9 a glass).

Next is a sashimi of yel­low­tail king­fish with pick­led cu­cum­ber and yuzu vinai­grette; it’s such a work of art that we are re­luc­tant to spoil the can­vas. The in­gre­di­ents are ar­ranged with the pre­ci­sion of a clas­si­cal Ja­panese draw­ing, del­i­cate baby beet­root shoots tak­ing the place of wil­low trees. The raw­ness of the fresh fish con­trasts nicely with the tangy vinai­grette.

With three of the eight dishes cen­tred on seafood, we opt for white wine to fol­low the bub­bles. I have a glass of Velo pinot gris ($10) from the Ta­mar Val­ley in Tas­ma­nia’s north; it has a pink­ish hue and vi­brant pas­sion­fruit and peach flavours. Coco en­joys a glass of Home Hill Kelly’s Re­serve Chardon­nay ($10) from the Huon Val­ley.

Our next dish is seared king ge­orge whit­ing fil­let from South Aus­tralia with sauce vierge and cit­rus jel­ly­fish. Won­der­fully crisp, the fish is en­livened by the tomato and herbs in the vierge and the tart­ness of the yuzu juice used to mar­i­nate the re­hy­drated dried jel­ly­fish. The in­ter­val be­tween plates is suf­fi­cient to savour each dish and rest be­fore the next but there is time to con­tem­plate the sur­round­ings, par­tic­u­larly if you are lucky enough to be seated by the largest win­dow.

Pic­calilly is on a street cor­ner in Ham­p­den Road, the high street of Ho­bart’s his­toric in­ner-city sub­urb of Bat­tery Point. The build­ing is in­ter­est­ing in it­self, its wide front win­dow and beau­ti­ful curved wooden front doors point­ers to a past life. While a restau­rant for many years pre­ced­ing its in­car­na­tion as Pic­calilly, it was once a sweet shop and the win­dow by which we sit was no doubt stared into long­ingly by count­less chil­dren.

Young guns: An imag­i­na­tive ap­proach to din­ing makes for a mem­o­rable meal at Pic­calilly in Ho­bart’s pretty Bat­tery Point

Work of art: Yel­low­tail king­fish sashimi

The culi­nary art of Todd con­tin­ues to daz­zle with the ar­rival of a pithivier of quail with wal­nut chut­ney and cau­li­flower puree. The pithivier, a type of shiny-crust pie, is su­perb; ten­der quail, puffy pas­try and the savoury in­flu­ence of the wal­nuts and cau­li­flower com­bine to great ef­fect.

If chefs im­prove with age, Todd’s is a name worth watch­ing. He trained in Mel­bourne at Mode in St Kilda and Fenix in Rich­mond as well as at Mead­ow­bank Es­tate near Ho­bart. Be­fore open­ing Pic­calilly, he was sous chef at The Henry Jones Art Ho­tel on Ho­bart’s water­front.

The en­tire team at Pic­calilly is a po­tent ad­ver­tise­ment for the youth of Tas­ma­nia. Man­nix, Todd’s part­ner and restau­rant man­ager, is 27, while the other staff mem­bers are even younger.

It’s cer­tainly enough to make us feel old. For­tu­nately, re­vival is on hand cour­tesy of a palate-cleans­ing chunk of wa­ter­melon dowsed in bal­samic gel.

Of our four re­main­ing dishes, the first is roast Boer goat loin from Riven­dale Goat Stud at Cradoc in the Huon Val­ley. Once again the choice of ac­com­pa­ni­ment — a chilled yo­ghurt and cu­cum­ber salad — is per­fect. This is the car­niv­o­rous end of pro­ceed­ings and our fi­nal savoury dish is dry-aged Long­ford eye fil­let with creamed leek and sauteed mush­rooms. The su­per-ten­der meat is al­most gamey, the leeks fit for a Welsh­man and the com­bi­na­tion of hearty flavours sim­ple but ef­fec­tive.

Of our two sweet dishes, one in par­tic­u­lar in­trigues us. If some of Todd’s of­fer­ings are art on a china can­vas, his mango eggs with can­died brioche sol­diers is in­stal­la­tion art. Two chicken eggs have been hol­lowed and the con­tents used to make a rich cus­tard. This serves as the re­place­ment egg white’’, while an ul­tra-smooth mango puree serves as the yolk’’. The sol­diers give the dish the ap­pear­ance of an or­di­nary boiled-egg break­fast.

It’s hardly sur­pris­ing that our last dish, blood or­ange and Pimms tri­fle, falls short of this su­gar high, which surely ex­ceeds any­thing of­fered at that orig­i­nal sweet shop. While not a patch on the tri­fle my nanna used to make, the Pimms evokes fond mem­o­ries of English sum­mers and back­ing the right horse at Royal As­cot. In Pic­calilly, too, we have picked a win­ner. All Ta­bles vis­its are unan­nounced and meals paid for.

Check­list

Pic­calilly Cnr Ham­p­den Road and Fran­cis Street, Bat­tery Point, Ho­bart. (03) 6224 9900; www.pic­calilly.com.au. Open: Lunch, Thurs­day and Fri­day from mid­day; din­ner Tues­day-Satur­day from 6pm. Cost: Four-dish din­ner se­lec­tion, $82 ($135 with matched wines or $127 with matched beers). Five, six and eight-dish selections also avail­able. A tra­di­tional en­tree, main and dessert op­tion is $82. Drink: Choose an assi­ette se­lec­tion with matched wines or beers, or there is a mod­est but well­con­ceived se­lec­tion of wines from home and over­seas and a ded­i­cated Tas­ma­nian list­ing. Op­tions by the glass. Rea­son to re­turn: An un­usual ap­proach that al­lows din­ers to ex­pe­ri­ence a greater range of tex­ture and taste com­bi­na­tions.

Pic­tures: Matthew New­ton

(Selections from tast­ing menu)

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