Sunday Herald Sun - Escape
Small city, big fun
What Hobart lacks in size it makes up for with thrilling offerings on the food and drinks front
Of all Australia’s state capitals, it’s the smallest – Hobart – that always leaves the biggest impression. A visit earlier this month reminded me, for the umpteenth time, that the Tassie capital punches way above its weight when it comes to food, drinks and fun. You just need to know where to look.
Great coffee’s easy to come by. Melbourne gets all the caffeine-culture credit but, for its size, Hobart’s possibly even more bean-obsessed. There’s no shortage of sharp coffee shops in town, such as Bury Me Standing, with beans roasted in suburban Kingston, to Ecru and its big sibling Villino, both on Criterion Street (burymestanding.com.au; ecrucoffee.com.au; villino.com.au).
There’s decent coffee, too, at Born in Brunswick, which brings a sunny Scandi vibe to North Hobart’s lively Elizabeth Street strip. But it’s better known for an all-day brunch menu that embraces lemongrass chicken banh mi alongside scrambled eggs with octopus and scampi. Bloody Marys and mimosas optional (borninbrunswick.com.au).
Landmark Battery Point bakery Jackman & McRoss (57 Hampden Road) is as comforting as ever with its wood fire, bentwood chairs and buttermilk raisin loafs for two, served with lashings of jam and butter. But my favourite Hobart breakfast is a morning bun (a sort of hybrid croissant-spiced scroll) from Pigeon
Whole Bakers’ Art Deco shopfront on Argyle
Street (pigeonwholebakers.com.au). If the buns are sold out, the Basque tarts and almond croissants are both excellent consolations.
For lunch, I like newcomer La Sardina Loca, tucked down the end of an arched carriageway in a warm space of convict-cut stone walls. The snacky Spanish-accented menu might feature salt-cod croquettes with salsa verde and its lush chicken terrine with pickled mushrooms and tarragon (100 Elizabeth Street, Hobart).
Dana Eating House debuted post-lockdown in a handsome 1860 corner site that feels refined up front and casual in the rear pergola. The kitchen riffs on South East Asian streetfood such as skewers and chicken wings, larb gai (spicy minced meat) and bowls of wok-fried beef or tofu (danaeatinghouse.com.au).
At A’Petit Bistro and Bar, lunch is a simple affair of hearty sambos but, from 5pm, chef Courtney Drew’s creativity comes into play with a concise, enticing menu of duck prosciutto and caperberries, say, or charred cabbage with house ricotta and lemon, plus lovely local wines (374 Murray Street).
Cocktail hour in Hobart’s a mostly civilised affair that always involves food, even when there’s only a single hotplate as at Sonny, which is small, loud and lots of fun. New-era wines and cocktails are paired with a handful of plates, from Bruny Island oysters with fermented chilli to poppy-seed sourdough toast layered with aioli, anchovy and cucumber (currently my top bar snack of 2021; sonny.com.au).
The 12th-floor Aura Bar at the just-opened Crowne Plaza Hotel is a penthouse playground with commanding views of Australia’s second oldest capital (aurahobart.com.au). And Institut Polaire plays on Hobart’s Antarctic connections with a wintry palette of greys and whites and a drinks list heavy on cool-climate wines and cocktails featuring co-owner Louise Radman’s
Sud Polaire gin (institutpolaire.com.au).
The city’s finest dining is at the degustation-only Dier Makr. Sister bar Lucinda is more accessible and, at Friday lunchtimes, one of Australia’s top chefs, Analiese Gregory, cooks whatever’s great on the day (diermakr.com; lucindawine.com).
There’s a similar split-shift happening at Hobart’s Italian gem Templo (templo.com.au), where Luke Burgess, the talented chef behind Hobart’s gastro-pioneer Garagistes, and friends are running a pop-up izakaya on Tuesdays and Wednesdays until mid-April. Standouts include the charcoal-grilled meatballs and crayfish chawanmushi (bookings: lukeburgess.com.au).
And don’t miss Fico, a gorgeous room of leather, art, fresh flowers and gleaming glassware. It’s open weekends for mod-Italian set menus, but cuts loose Sunday nights with relaxed, à la carte offerings that might include the signature oyster san choy bow and a Parmigiano panna cotta showered with local truffle. Wonderful wine list, too (ficofico.net).
On the non-dining front, the Saturday Salamanca Market is still the weekend’s biggest drawcard, with more than 200 stallholders gathering to sell everything Tasmanian – from fresh vegetables to chunky woollens and even thylacine-print dog coats (salamancamarket.com.au).
Mona, the enfant terrible of the Australian art scene, turned 10 this month. It’s just reopened after an extended Covid lockdown with heaps more for kids (trampoline, skate ramp, playgrounds, pizza!), a house of mirrors and an entirely new re-hang of the gallery (mona.net.au).
It’s always worth stopping by the Brooke Street Pier, a floating pontoon devoted entirely to pleasure. Tenants include glamorous waterfront bar The Glass House (theglass.house), Grandvewe Cheesery (grandvewe.com.au), Bright Eyes coffee and three distillery outlets (brookestreetpier.com).
The dog- and people-friendly In the Hanging Garden is a Mona-led project that’s revived two heritage city buildings. In essence it’s a bountiful, beautiful beer garden with container kitchens, bars, music and a nightclub at weekends – the new social hub of Hobart (inthehanginggarden.com.au).
Hotel-wise, besides the Crowne Plaza and the just-débuted Movenpick, Vibe Hobart has opened on Argyle Street, with 142 rooms including reasonably priced one- and twobedroom apartments with kitchenettes, which of course will be superfluous in
Hobart (rooms from $187; vibehotels.com).