A quirky ho­tel trans­for­ma­tion draws at­ten­tion to Launce­s­ton’s finest as­sets

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - DESTINATION | TASMANIA - KERRY HEANEY

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.


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.


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.



Pep­pers Silo soars 35m, the tallest build­ing in Launce­s­ton; and blood pud­ding scotch egg at Bry­her is rec­om­mended.

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