Yellow Bernard goes global

Last week I received a much appreciated and very generous package from the men from Yellow Bernard in Hobart. It is hard to know how to properly say thanks –aside from sending them a package of the Czech delicacy of pizza with a hot dog crust (truly disgusting, but in a deeply compelling way) – but this will have to suffice.

A welcome sight!

To provide a little context, a few weeks ago I returned back to my lodgings after a lengthy sit down in a Czech Republic micro-brewery to make the rookie error of logging into Facebook while intoxicated.  (At around $AU 1.50 a pint, the night can quickly get away from you. A bit like whipping cream: if you dare to stop concentrating and allow your mind to wander, you’ve been at it too long and it’s a lost cause.) So, in that beer induced golden hue, I posted, in some sort of colloquial jabber, on YBs Facebook page that the local ‘kavarnas’ had yet to live up to the heady heights of the Hobart scene, and that I though the price of posting some beans over here to Brno was worth it.  To further add to the disorderly conduct, when I revisited my post it appeared my light headed self had decided to throw in a couple of hashtags for good measure to really add some spice to my social networking.

Combine the time difference, a couple of comments and a like or two and the post was stuck.  No morning after cleaning up for me.

Needless to say, David, ever the professional, replied warmly and then emailed a couple of days later to organise the postage. I was chuffed that he was willing to go to the effort and excited at the prospect of having my culture shock soothed by the comfort and flavour of the Yellow Bernard house blend.

A week later, the package arrived with 500g of Gridlock’s finest; 250g of ground house blend and 250 g of the 7000 blend. Now, having procured, as advised, a little plunger for my shared room, I have now sat down to boost my caffeine levels, think of home and write a little post of gratitude and thanks. (I feel perhaps, by now, it goes without saying that the YB blends have travelled very well to my home for the next few months and will be enjoyed immensely by those who may be lucky enough to reach that particular level of friendship.)

Yellow Bernard continues to really impress me with their approach and commitment. Going above and beyond seems to be the standard of care that’s become everyday at that hole in the wall on Hobart’s Collins Street. The locals –  as I’m sure many do –  need to realise their luck at having such an establishment in our Southern home .

It really is something else.

Childhood revisited at Red Velvet Lounge

Hobart was suffering through a brooding morning, so we decided to enjoy Bronnie’s last day before University resumed and went for a 1950s-esque Sunday drive down to Tinderbox and up through the Huon.  Travelling through the Huon is authentic Tasmaniana: a journey through foggy mist and sweeping apple orchards and the moment after, pouring rain as a doey eyed bovine looks on as it meanders through the thick green pasture.  It is idyllic and inherently peaceful, with beautiful cabins, and wooden boats and yachts floating on rippling rivers flowing into the D’Entrecastaux Channel.

On this particular day, Cygnet’s Red Velvet Lounge was our destination. A fortnight or so earlier, I travelled to Cygnet to visit Matthew Evans at his Fat Pig Farm, and on our way Sadie had suggested we visit Red Velvet Lounge. I wasn’t satisfied that one take away coffee was enough to do it justice, and so we returned.

Someone has some serious interior design skills – it feels like home.

It makes a difference to walk into a place and feel instantly welcome. The staff at Red Velvet Lounge are superb, so much so that I will definitely take the forty minute trip again just to see the friendliest, most helpful Ned Kelly look-a-like I have ever come across. He was erudite and professional- a welcome surprise. There’s something wonderful about walking inside, out of the rain, into a warmly lit, fire warmed café come restaurant in a place close enough to the forests for you to feel them. The softly spoken waiter with a thick European accent and a messy upper arm tattoo was attentive without being overbearing. It is a hard skill to master – the awkward “hurry up I want to go home” moment every waiter suffers at some point. Perhaps my own experience (and shocking tactics employed at times) have heightened my senses to any hints of being rushed. There was no rushing at Red Velvet Lounge. In fact, the warm glow from friendliness caused a rush of blood purchase of one of the etching prints out of the eclectic range hung on the walls.

The afternoon tea was exceptional. My upside down pear cake was moist with hints of brown sugar and cinnamon, reminiscent of apple crumble on a winter’s eve. Great food has the capacity to evoke nostalgia: the quietness of the cake put me in mind of memories of childhood family trips to a friend’s property beside the Huon River, looking down over the water. The place had the romance of the bush and the space of the river, the warmth of kitchen surrounded by the outside. Bron had a confit berry tart which wasn’t adventurous but pleasing enough. The custardy filling smooth and textured – if cookbooks are to be believed, when baking desserts, accuracy is important. That attention to detail was clear in the tart.  The flavour was sweet and verged on everyday, but when the everyday is made with fresh berries and is enjoyed in such a location, it is hard to fault. The success of our sojourn was that it was blessed with the comforts of the familiar. A warm cake or a little sweet tart on a chilly afternoon after a long drive.

‘PIzza Slices’

Both servings were provided with a quenelle of cream that was placed with such attention to detail that I felt bad eating it. Of course, cream must be eaten, and I enjoyed all of it. And I wanted more.  I love the feeling of being somewhere that is truly exciting; where the ingredients are fresh and prepared by someone who cares.

I had a pot of Russian Caravan tea which has a strong smokey and earthy flavour and puts you in mind of the pictures on the front of the tea boxes of camel trains. It’s dirty, like unshaven merchants, burly men sitting in the desert. I know that might not sound particularly appetising but I love it. Drinking tea is a ritual act that needs to happen slowly, and it is this ritual that makes choosing it over coffee worthwhile. A close friend and I recently had a disagreement about the point of providing the jug, and an empty cup  with a little pour of milk to do the mixing yourself. He thinks when you order tea, it should be a bag of Bushells in a mug. Nothing more. But he is clearly wrong: part of what makes food wonderful  is the ritual it involves. It is what makes going out for a meal an event, something to be savoured.

Red Velvet Lounge was the perfect way to spend the last afternoon before the stress and mundanity of assessments, exams and assignments. It should be visited on any trip down the Huon, and even for its own sake. Once you are  sitting in front of the fire, a belly full of deliciousness, you’ll be glad you did.

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.

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.

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

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