A quirky hotel transformation draws attention to Launceston’s finest assets
The four former grain silos, now transformed into the $25 million Peppers Silo Hotel development, stand like a beacon heralding a new era for Launceston. For most of its 212-year history, the city has turned its back on the river, which used it be its commercial lifeblood, and the industrial area on its North Bank shore.
Dividing the central city area from floodprone industrial heartland, the River Tamar has been a largely-ignored asset, but that’s about to change with the construction of a pedestrian and cycle bridge connecting Seaport with North Bank. Here, 1.29ha of family-friendly recreation play space will wow visitors and surround Peppers Silo with a parkland precinct.
Created by repurposing four disused concrete silos, built in the 1960s to store grain, the 35m-high Peppers Silo is now the tallest building in town. The 10-level hotel features 108 guest rooms, including 52 inside the former silo barrels. Their curving concrete walls reveal enviable views over the Tamar towards Launceston’s famed Cataract Gorge.
Rooms on the hotel’s other side overlook the river as it snakes north to the sea. “It doesn’t matter where you sit in the hotel, you have a great vista of the water,” says the hotel’s developer, Launceston local Errol Stewart.
A strong Tasmanian theme flows throughout the rooms which have been finished with wood, recycled from the wool stores formerly onsite, and artfully decorated with soft woollen throws, produced by Launceston’s Waverley Mills. The mini bar is stocked with wine and spirits from Tasmania (at street prices) and bathroom products with Tasmanian ingredients.
Star of the Silo show is a two-anda-half-year-old black Labrador called Archie. He has a comfy dog bed in reception, where he sleeps with his teddy, and greets guests wearing a bow tie. His other duties include morning paper deliveries and walks accompanied by the concierge. If you are looking for more exercise than dog walking, there’s a gym next to a day spa and hairdressing salon.
The hotel’s hub is Woody’s bar, located in the middle of the second silo. Named after the building construction manager, it has been designed as gathering point but also serves the relaxed, open lounge area.
WHERE TO EAT
You’ll have no problem finding memorable food experiences in and around Launceston. It starts in the hotel’s own Grain of the Silos restaurant where the clever menu of food director and TV personality, Massimo Mele, and head chef, Peter Twitchett, highlight premium Tasmanian produce. Forging relationships with growers by visiting them on site, Mele and Twitchett have captured only the best for Grain of the Silo’s debut menu. Produce from the Huon Valley, and north and southwest Tasmania features, but many of the culinary gems can be found strolling around Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market each Saturday morning. “The market is the foundation for the weekend. You make plans to
go there and then make plans from there,” says Kim Seagram, co-owner of acclaimed Stillwater restaurant and Harvest Market vice-president. “Tasmania has recognised it can’t compete on scale, so it has to compete on quality … it has to be better.”
Harvest Market started five years ago with 12 stall holders. Now there is an average of 60 from a rotating pool of 120. There’s a strict ratio of 70 per cent growers to 20 per cent value-added products and 10 per cent ready-to-eat offerings. It’s a foodie’s paradise where you can enjoy a real paddock-to-plate beef and pork burger.
At the Bolani Stall, Afghan families offer a traditional Afghan snack topped with Tasmanian yoghurt – easily carried and eaten with one hand as you stroll around the market. Taste some Brady’s Lookout or Lost Pippin Cider, sample real Tassie butter, thickly smeared over freshly baked bread or try locally made cheese.
Launceston’s breakfast options are many, but standouts are Stillwater restaurant with its contemporary cuisine and Tamar River views. At quirky Bryher cafe, it feels like a visit to Nana’s with its antique cutlery and crockery and delicious house-made treats. Do try the Scotch eggs that include a layer of blood pudding from butcher Casalinga Gourmet Meats. Chef Matt Adams cooks on coals and fire at Timbre Kitchen where the wood oven-grilled cheese with granny Jean’s mustard pickle will have you itching to return. At Geronimo the fresh take on European-style food would be right at home in Melbourne’s laneways.
AND THEN …
Walk Launceston’s picturesque city centre to see the National Trust Old Umbrella Shop, Wursthaus at Olivers to stock up your room fridge and Goulay’s Sweet Shop, where you should try a classic Launceston acid drop lolly.
Cataract Gorge is a fascinating mix of human, botanical and geological history which is easy to explore from the city. Stroll the path overlooking South Esk River to reach First Basin, a favourite swimming spot for locals.
In the Victorian garden on the shady south side of the gorge, exotically plumed peacocks strut around the teahouse.
Launceston is the gateway to the 170km Tamar Valley wine route, which boasts more than 30 cellar doors. Clover Hill produces wines using only traditional methods and it is worth a stop for a tasting experience overlooking the vineyard.
Just off the road that heads towards the airport, Josef Chromy Wines headlines as one of the top 10 cellar doors in Australia.
Don’t just stop at the cellar door though, because their restaurant at the rear overlooks 61ha of vineyards.
If you still have time to spare, the historic town of Evandale will fascinate with its oldworld streetscape. The Clarendon Arms offers eclectic dining inside with a stylish pizzathemed beer garden outside that is popular with families.
THE AUTHOR WAS A GUEST OF PEPPERS SILO AND TOURISM TASMANIA
Peppers Silo soars 35m, the tallest building in Launceston; and blood pudding scotch egg at Bryher is recommended.