Jackman & McRoss: World beaters.

I’ve been putting off writing this for sometime. I’m not entirely sure why – probably a combination of some trepidation at getting it right and doing this wonderful Hobart group of eateries justice whilst remaining honest about what to expect.  Along with Pigeon Hole, there are few places I have spent more time. The flagship Battery Point Jackman & McRoss is always mentioned when high profile bloggers and reviewers come to Tasmania to do their stock-standard whirlwind trip. I get it: Battery Point is easily Hobart’s most picturesque suburb with its sweeping river views from the banks of the mighty Derwent to the frosted clichéd Instagram shot of a snow dusted Mt. Wellington. It is undoubtedly a wonderful haven in the biting winter of Hobart.

City Jackman & McRoss Lunch

The Battery Point Jackman can get very, very busy. Arrive after 10am on the weekend and you can almost guarantee that there won’t be any of their croissants left (which, to be honest, should always be your first breakfast choice). J&M croissants are hard to overrate – they’re big and buttery served with a seasonal jam, usually raspberry. A friend and I went to the Hobart launch of the Movida Guide to Barcelona last year with Melbourne chef Frank Camorra and his writer, Richard Cornish. Afterwards, we approached Cornish to talk about the book, and during our conversation, we asked him about the best spots he had been to in the Island State. His response, of course, included Peppermint Bay, Garagistes, ethos, etc etc. However, he became particularly animated when discussing the delectable treats on offer at Jackman. The croissants, he said, were world beaters. Unrivalled even in their Parisian patisserie home – surely the spiritual Mecca for all lovers of pastry.

It’s hard for me to sum up the best things on offer at Jackman & McRoss, because as always, a bakery café of this type is always going to disappoint if you go in expecting the wrong thing. It is not fine dining, but something much more casual and relaxed. I must have been there hundreds of times, and whether it is nipping down for a seedy Sunday debrief over a flat white or a half time pie run on a Saturday afternoon, J&M has never provided the same experience. And I don’t say that as a bad thing, necessarily. The staff are a different breed. They’re tight knit and Nerida McRoss, if you have the pleasure of having her serve you, will quiz you on your choice or perhaps provide some insight into the current position of her beloved Hawthorn ‘Tassie’ Hawks.

There is an obvious downside to its popularity . A forty minute wait for lunch service on a busy day is not uncommon, and on a Sunday morning that can stretch well into the hour. I’ve never been fussed by that. My opinion is that the staff are clearly working hard, they’re probably doing 50 covers an hour which a normal Hobart eatery would hope to do in a sitting and they, generally, do it with good humour and enthusiasm.  Some struggle to handle the lack of pandering that they might be used to at the lacklustre Metz, but I’m a fan of service with a bit of attitude. Some personality is certainly better than none.

Finally,  Jackman & McRoss manages to stay honest to its roots as a local bakehouse providing great food at a very reasonable price. It is adventurous – ranging from braised rabbit to confit duck to lamb shanks wrapped in buttery pastry goodness – while remaining cheap – rarely does a dish cost over $15. It’s easy to have a great lunch with a number of friends and get a bit raucous after a night suffering the sometimes stagnant nightlife.

The city outlet of J&M – just up from Fullers Bookshop – is a little more serious with a price hike of a couple of dollars to pay for the service, whilst the New Town café can be quieter and may allow for a lazier time. Jackman & McRoss is always enjoyable – just don’t go in expecting restaurant service, but embrace its sometimes chaotic atmosphere and the best baked goods in Hobart.

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A photo from Fat Pig Farm

Just a little teaser for an article to come soon. I spent some time with Matthew Evans at his new place at Glazier’s Bay, Fat Pig Farm, today.

I look forward to working through the notes and providing a better insight in the coming weeks but for now, this will suffice.

Thanks to Sime BS for taking this snap of the Wessex Saddleback breeding sow while I chatted to Matthew.

Hot Mother Lounge: the Coast’s own

I came home to Burnie for a few days of comfort last week and visiting one of my favourite local cafés was a must.

Hot Mother Lounge is fantastic. It’s what every regional city needs. Caroline Mulder, the café’s ‘Hot Mother’ is one of those locals that everyone knows. Her son was a ballet dancing, representative prop in Tassie’s high school rugby team.  I’ve always thought it spoke volumes about the kind of person she was, to produce a bloke like that.

She’s set something up that really fits in with everything Burnie can be and should be.  It allows the city’s workers somewhere to go for fabulous coffee and homely treats and it allows those that otherwise might not have tried a barley and beef soup to feel that it’s something they could have a go at.  The lunch bar has built a solid reputation from filling that hole in your belly no matter how big or small.  I’ve generally gone for the egg and bacon tart or the chicken foccacia. Now I know what you’re thinking – “That sounds like nothing special. In fact, I could get that anywhere. Who cares? That’s not interesting food. That’s just takeaway toasties.” But I beg to differ.

It is about homely food, like you wished your mother could make – an affordable lunch in a cosy room with two waitresses that are best friends and will happily partake in some banter, if you’re game. It’s not fine dining, and it’s not going to be for you if you’re after a lot of personal space when having your morning cup of coffee.  It’s not pokey, but cosy. The art on the walls can be a bit odd. One day there’ll be some Lisa Garland photos – her evocative gelatin prints of characters with their collections and next time, it’s poorly drawn flower people but hey, it’s supporting local art and I’m all for that. I’ve participated in my fair share of questionable regional productions, and that’s the way it should be – having a crack should definitely be celebrated.

The recycled bus bench seats are, at times, a little uncomfortable. However, I think one of the things Hot Mother does best, and other places around Tassie could follow this model, is that it doesn’t pretend to be something it is not. Take a Launcestonian friend of mine who visited the coast and Hot Mother one afternoon. He couldn’t quite believe the friendliness of the staff and the quality of the fare. I try to avoid being parochial, but Hot Mother proves that Burnie is not the final frontier; and if it is, it’s still a place where you can get some damn fine food and coffee. Eliza churns out espresso guaranteed to impress with its accuracy of temperature and reliability of flavour.  I’m yet to have a coffee I didn’t enjoy at this little place on Wilson St and I’ll be surprised if Hot Mother doesn’t continue to do what its been doing for the past 5 years or so.

So, if you’re feeling like visiting the Coast, Hot Mother Lounge should be a high priority. It’s up there with Cradle Mountain and Boat Harbour Beach as far as I’m concerned – do all three, you’ll have a splendid day.  Caroline and her team are selling quality food and impressive coffee. It wouldn’t be out of place in a Melbourne laneway but for those us that venture north more regularly than for a weekend after a few episodes of Masterchef, Hot Mother Lounge continues to provide the proof that there’s more here than most would realise.  Give it a go, after all, even though it’s uphill all the way from Hobart, it’s downhill all the way back.

It’s a quick little trip when you have gems like this at the destination.

Passion not a trend.

Yellow Bernard have recently acquired a new house blend. The blend is, I’m led to believe, a mix of a couple of single origin beans aimed at showing off the talents of the roasters at Melbourne’s Gridlock Coffee. I’ve been blessed over the past couple of weeks to share a quiet chat with YBs owner/ manager and have been informed of the approach taken by the Victorian brewmasters. He spoke glowingly of the vibe and the electricity of the CBD cafe, a blend of suit and chic, apparently a must see across the Strait on the next jaunt for all things Good Food Guide.

My boss has a penchant for hazelnut in his coffee, and I’ve realised the reason he bastardises his drink so is because he’s not used to consistency. He’s not used to enjoying the flavours of the coffee brought out by someone that truly cares about what they’re doing.

I insisted on shouting the morning snack this week, and of course, he loved it. It’s that drinkability of the coffee that makes it so hard not to go back. Two double shot lattes later and I’m sure he will think twice about returning to the sub-par establishment he prefers to spend his dollars.

I went back later on in the day to purchase the latte pictured above and continued our earlier chat about Gridlock. Brief as it was, again I was pleased to hear the words tumble from him, in a completely unpretentious, non self-conscious way – “At Gridlock, coffee isn’t a trend, it’s a passion. It’s not about hipsters or being cool, it’s just the coffee. We really liked that and that’s what we aim for.’

If this is what Yellow Bernard manages, Hobart will be better off. Bravo Yellow Bernard, more please

Pigeon Hole delivers as Hobart chill rolls in.

A week or so ago I had the delightful opportunity of being taken to Pigeon Hole, on West Hobart’s Goulburn St, for lunch. Pigeon Hole has been my haunt of choice since I first came across it through my older brother in 2009. It’s the sort of place where you can set yourself for a good couple of hours, pick your way through your meal, enjoy the reliably flavoursome coffee and take in the cosiness of the setting in the foothills of ‘the mountain’.

On this particular Saturday, Hobart was subjected to it’s infamous penetrating icey wind, and I was hoping to get a seat inside. However, my timing was poor and outside it was. Not that it really matters, the communal dining makes any visit enjoyable. A very dapper 40-something gent sat next to us with his bright orange pullover looking well at ease in the blowy Autumn surrounds. It’s part of Pigeon Hole’s charm – the community feel, the welcoming smile of Emma working the machine and Jay out the back in the galley kitchen. Management have done a superb job of selecting their staff – always conscientious, without slipping into annoying, something easy to do.

Pigeon Hole in Autumn

We ordered a soup each – chorizo, cabbage and potato – and a roast chicken, aioli, capers and italian parsley panini to share. The soup was a surprise.  I was expecting a thick, hearty, creamy type soup but the dish delivered was more of a broth.  Not that I see a problem with that.  The chorizo was subtle and the potato a welcome addition. Patey’s stoneground whole-meal provided some extra fill to an otherwise light yet satisfying snack.

The panini was, as always, exceptional.  I hadn’t taken note of the capers on the blackboard menu but I would argue they made this particular combination. This is what Pigeon Hole does best. It gets it’s customers to try something a little bit new in a different setting and make it all the more accessible. The paninis have really cemented Pigeon Hole amongst Hobart’s best, and most lauded, eateries. (Mention must be given to the eggs en cocotte – a superb dish.) As noted in an earlier post, Jay and Emma, the duo behind Pigeon Hole, have recently expanded with Pigeon Hole Bakers, which can only be a welcome addition to Hobart’s culinary scene.

Finally, the coffee. Two lattes were always going to please nursing a weary head. So, obviously, Pigeon Hole is a delight. A must see for any visitor to Hobart interested not only in food and coffee but also those that want to enjoy their day just a little bit more.

I look forward to many more afternoons at Pigeon, it’s a fine little place that has quickly become a local institution. Let’s hope they stay small and cosy – as that’s the way to enjoy it.

Atlas-150

It’s been a long time coming and now it has finally arrived. Goodbye swotvac!

Marmalade’s disappointment

One blustery Hobart Sunday late in April, I ventured to try something new at Marmalade, a café/ restaurant up on Elizabeth St, not far from EC.

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marmalade – room to improve.

I was with some old friends and the catch up would have proved enjoyable had it not been for a number of pointed errors on behalf of the staff.

Firstly, don’t let people sit for ten minutes as you walk past putting things away from the dishwasher. It was only 2pm, and lunch was still being served (or ordered at least.)

Secondly, once the order is placed, it’s not really ok to take half an hour for two coffees, a pot of tea and a berry smoothie. (All reasonable, but certainly not memorable).

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Berry smoothie – $7 worth? Didn’t taste it

And finally, if something’s not on the menu, try and let the people know when you had it to them. It really is quite frustrating to ask for something and then be refused because you’ve ‘run out’.

It was a shame because I’m often keen to be taken to unfamiliar spots and be surprised by what’s on offer. Sadly, my Sundays will be unlikely to again consider Marmalade. Perhaps it was an off day, perhaps we came across as rude or maybe I should’ve have expected so much.

I hope it was just an anomaly, the exception to an otherwise impressive rule, but I won’t be holding my breath next time I give it a shot.

A

An Evening at Ethos!

Ethos, on Hobart’s Elizabeth St, has been a favourite of mine for the past year that it’s been open.

Ethos will scare some people off – the menu is by no means normal.  It is an exciting addition to the Australian food scene and more importantly, it is a drawcard for Tasmania as a destination.

I would argue that Ethos, in it’s intention, is on par with Garagiste, Pigeon Hole and perhaps even MONA in what it aims to achieve for Hobart. Certainly a positive development from the at times inaccessible Picalilly on Battery Point’s Hamden Rd (which closed down to make way for Iain Todd’s newer project).

The dish I thought I would concentrate on what a delicious $12 number of seared octopus. The octopus had a smokey, intensity to it that left me wondering how it had been achieved.

Octo at Ethos

Arguably, there wasn’t much to it but that’s why I think it succeeded.  Too many of the other dishes enjoyed were over the top.  Too many flavours that hadn’t been pulled off as well as this delightfully simple dish.

Ethos should definitely continue to push the boundaries. All that needs to be remembered is that in doing so, sometimes they’ll fall short.  I don’t think that’s any reason to be disappointed, it’s all part of the experience because when they get it right, they really nail it.

A

Top notch with Yellow Bernard

I don’t have much time for inconsistency in product when it comes to coffee. I find that it’s always reassuring when a café takes it seriously. Yellow Bernard is one such place.

Upon waiting in line at the usual early morning coffee rush, I heard the lady in front of me say – ‘I want it hot but I don’t want it too hot. I don’t want it to burn my tongue.’  And in a tone not condescending yet oozing competence and knowledge the proprietor responded ‘Don’t worry about that.  We generally hit around 65 degrees; it should be just right.’

They’re friendly and professional and crank out some amazing coffee. In a town where the coffee business is booming, Yellow Bernard are at the top of their game. It’s been a fantastic year for the hole in the wall on Collins St, and things can only get better.

What a review! Tassie goin’ global.

What a review! Tassie goin’ global.

Tasmanian’s culinary scene is booming.  Here’s some third party knowledge dropped by a Big Apple foodie.

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