Excess all areas
Explore Hobart through its best dining and providore experiences
HOBART is a walking city, which is just as well. Because aside from exploring its remarkably intact built heritage and excellent art galleries, including the brilliant Museum of Old and New Art, the best thing to do here is eat to excess. And then stride off the kilojoules.
Enter Mary McNeill, former artist and pastry chef, a Tassie native who returned from New York and is now running themed walking tours of her hometown. Her food credentials may be impressive (she’s a graduate of the French Culinary Institute’s pastry course) but McNeill’s Tassie connections are impeccable. Her family arrived on the island in 1810 and great-grandfather Courtland Oakes was employed by Cascade Brewery to sort out Hobart’s roughest pubs.
No doubt he would have had little use for the Tasmanian knitted woollen knee rug proffered at the groovy Tricycle Cafe & Bar (pick up your own at the Waverley Woollen Mills shop in Liverpool Street). Tucked into the atmospheric foyer of the old Peacock Theatre, off Salamanca Place, this is one of McNeill’s favourite breakfast boltholes and an inclusion on her city tour.
Try the homemade crumpets topped with Miellerie honey butter (made by Tassie-based French apiarist Yves Ginat), but don’t order the full cooked breakfast — McNeill’s Gourmania walking tours include enough grazing, tasting and sampling to fortify even the most peckish traveller.
With a maximum of eight participants (though McNeill is happy to set out with just one greedy gourmand), the city tour takes about four hours and traverses, at a very leisurely pace, about 3km.
Groups meet at the Tassal Salmon Shop (tasting hot and cold smoked salmon and gravlax), before going on to sample charcuterie at the very smart Wursthaus Kitchen, a danish pastry and coffee at the famous Jackman & McRoss, sushi at R. Takagi, a local drop or two at Cool Wine and yet more food at the 1827 Brunswick Hotel (Australia’s second-oldest pub and a little gastro haven serving up the likes of wallaby and rabbit pie). The tour concludes at the stylish Smolt (where McNeill worked as pastry chef) with more food and a glass of wine or bubbles.
Also featured is A Common Ground, wedged under the stairs in the Salamanca Arts Centre. It’s a joint venture between cheesemaker Nick Haddow and food critic turned television farmer Matthew Evans. Everything stocked here is Tasmanian (except the cornichons). Be sure to pick up a jar of the delicious baby rose olives from Bruny Island.
The quaint Retro Fudge Bar is a new addition to the Gourmania tour. The great slabs of homemade confectionery, in flavours of butterscotch, Turkish delight and chocolate, rum and raisin, may look like grainy gardener’s soap, but they taste divine.
And after the tour is over, if you fancy a bit of extracurricular noshing, it’s worth the long hike up Elizabeth Street to visit Sweet Envy, where former Gordon Ramsay pastry chef Alistair Wise and Teena Kearney whip up the most beautiful cakes, tarts and pies.
The spirit of a city doing funky even better than its mainland counterparts — Lonely Planet named Hobart one of the world’s top 10 cities to visit in 2013 — is crystallised every Saturday morning at the waterfront Salamanca Market, which has notched up four decades of alfresco retailing.
About 300 stalls are crammed between Salamanca’s avenue of plane trees and the Georgian sandstone warehouses framing the waterfront. Even in winter, locals dine on Persian wraps, wafer-thin crepes, elderflower cordial and mushroom tempura, while pan pipers and bagpipers play to the crowds.
Go early — the market attracts as many as 40,000 visitors on a summer’s Saturday (about 25,000 in winter) and stallholders begin packing up at about 2.30pm. There’s not much that can’t be had here, from vintage furs and hand-turned wooden spoons to homemade hats, leather bags and jewellery. There are skincare products fashioned from the botanicals of a Hobart garden and crusty, knotty bread that looks almost knitted.
For lunch, head to Ethos, tucked off Elizabeth Street, an easy walk from Salamanca Place and set in a rustic stable (one of the city’s oldest buildings), where chandeliers are fashioned from 19th-century medicine bottles and menus are clipped inside old book covers. The smallplate menu is designed for sharing and features imaginative dishes such as fermented apple with potato and white miso.
Afterwards you might like to stroll back to the waterfront to jump on the ferry to MONA, where the Theatre of the World exhibition runs until April 8. If you’re staying more than a few days in Hobart or travelling with your family, Sullivans Cove Apartments, located in four precincts around the waterfront, feature accommodation with large gourmet kitchens and fridges stocked with local wine and beer (a 24-hour food mart is a short walk away). Set behind the Henry Jones Art Hotel, the apartments are huge and well kitted out with rather glamorous extras ( Italian ceramic loo seats and L’Occitaine amenities). Christine McCabe was a guest of Tourism Tasmania and the Museum of Old and New Art.
above Mary McNeill runs the Gourmania tour
left Ethos chef Iain Todd serves breakfast below Sweet Envy offers exceptional cakes