A rather hot and sticky B2B, H2B, MOTB and I are off to dinner at what’s touted (believe the hype) as the destination restaurant in Hobart, Garagistes. Opened in 2011 by friends Katrina Birchmeier, Luke Burgess (who’s done time in the kitchen at Tetsuya’s and Noma) and Kirk Richardson – a diverse and novel trio that have changed the Hobart dining scene.
Essentially a wine bar (the word ‘garagistes’ refers to a group of innovative wine makers in the Bordeaux region that made ‘garage wine’), where the food on offer is just as important as the drinks. Their menu reflects seasonally grown, organic and foraged local ingredients and changes daily. What more could you ask for?
Of course they don’t take bookings, but there is their other littler wine bar, Sidcecar, just around the corner. We anticipate the 45 minute drive in to ‘town’ and potential table wait with an afternoon of local cheese at B2B & H2B’s new home, Little Oak in the hills of Cygent. A platter of Sapphire blue, Friesland fog, Pinot paste and Mutton sausage that we picked up from Grandvewe Cheese; Tom’s cheddar from Bruny Island Cheese; local apples and apricots and a ginger chilli beer from the Tasmanian Chilli Beer Co. I should mention that at this point, the temperature has reached a rather moist and uncomfortable, 39’C. We’re sans-air conditioning and all I want to do is lay down on the cold concrete floor of their quaint cottage.
The drive from Cygnet shares with me an abundance of local fruits; wild blackberry bushes stretch for miles along the roadside – the berries are still green, but give them a month and I’d be out there filling up ice cream containers and making jams and pies… *sigh*.
Staring out the window, I drift off into a fantasy of fruits. The apples and plums, are almost ripe. And the cherries – bright red and glistening like baubles – perfect for picking. We pass clusters of foreigners heading home after a day in the orchards. The landscape is beautiful, but it’s blonde and terribly dry – dangerous conditions for the bush fires already burning out of control further north, with winds and temperature (now 41’C) ceasing to ease.
As we walk from the car, the streets of central Hobart are empty and the sky is thick like pink pea soup. The sign on the front of Garagistes huge black metal clad door is shaded by the golden haze from the smokey sky. Black ash falls on my arm. The atmosphere is eerie.
We hope/pray for air conditioning inside, but the heat wave has shorted the power for their refrigeration. The fridge is back on, but the aircon is off. It’s like a sauna in the once motor garage – an industrial space with high ceilings and metal supporting beams with hanging lights.
The long wooden communal tables are on castors and we’re seated right next to the open kitchen – if we’re hot, spare a thought for the man working the custom-made BBQ grill. Geez. We drink our Domaine Saint Nicolas Fiefs Vendéens Les Clous Blanc 2011 at a rate of knots, before it becomes luke-warn.
The menu is small and tonight there’s a choice between the 3 ($55) or 5 ($85) course menu – we’re having 5 courses, with the addition of oysters. Some buckwheat pastry with olive mayo and kombu (seaweed) is brought out as a snack.
You know I’m not an oyster fan, but I’m in the town where they’re good. So I feel obliged to try one – a Steamed Bruny Island oyster in Shungiku vinegar emulsion and bay oil ($3), that leaves me swooning. It’s so good that I may never look at an oyster the same again! Something in the vinegar maybe? I’ve always loved anything pickled or brined – I used to drink the liquor from pickled onions and olives as a child (shhh). But I digress, lovely oyster.
First course is Steamed king mussel, king fish tartare, squid ink and gooseberry. Again, I know what you’re thinking – mussels aren’t really my bag either. But it’s so tender and subtle, and I love it. The sauce is a little bit salty, a little bit tart. Perfect with the light and silky seafood.
The Greenfeast peas, grated courgette, loveage oil and yoghurt curd are as pretty as a picture. So vibrant, clean and fresh. The peas are crunchy and sweet, like they’ve just been popped from their pods. And the shaved kmobu on top, adds just enough umami (savoury taste).
If you’re loving the fabulous stone plates as much as I am – they’re made by local artisan Ben Richardson.
Did I mention it’s hot? The sweat is dripping from my shins and I fear the wet patch that will remain in my seat after I have left. Every so often H2B checks that fire department website for updates.
Next is Spanner crab, young almonds, yuk hoe, almond milk and sea lettuce. Silky translucent sweet poached crab meat and young almonds – I love their texture. The crunch is what I imagine chomping into a garlic clove would be like, except much more pleasant of course.
Then we get to the meat course (H2B is happy). Slow roasted wagyu beef bavette, summer onions, daikon, parsley and dried house-cured olives. The meat is perfectly pink, the daikon has just a little give under tooth and the spring onions are charred and slightly bitter. Delicious.
Dessert is Lucaston raspberries, fenugreek cream, buckwheat crisp and frozen sable. The raspberries are amazing – so intense and full of flavour. Perfectly paired with the subtle maple taste of the fenugreek cream, crunch from the buckwheat crisp and frozen sable – they still rise as the hero of the dish. I love the cool frozen sable (a sweet dough that’s often used in French tarts and biscuits) that melts into sweet sandy crumbs on my tongue.
As I peel my wet self off the chair, this may be the first meal I will finish, a few kilos lighter! And I can’t wait to come back.
Garagistes – 103 Murray St, Hobart, TAS 7000 – (03) 6231 0558