Word of Mouth: Hobart

Modern art, pub grub, fine dining and more in the tiny island state

Whether you’re visiting Tasmania for Dark MOFO or simply to see what life’s like at the other end of the world, there’s a lot to do on this little Australian island. Hobart, the state’s capital, has a rich history despite a sometimes forgotten past and the undoubtedly inaccurate reputation that the destination was sweet but dull. Thanks to ever-changing whisky and wine industries, an exciting food scene and the opening of MONA in 2011, Hobart has become a must-visit city when traveling to Australia. With incredibly fresh produce and seafood, compelling art and superb restaurants, it’s a wonder this place was ever off the map in the first place. We’ve selected some of our favorite spots in the quaint but buzzing city—from accommodations to wineries and a pub where you’ll feel like a local.

Franklin

If you’re having a glass of wine and a snack at the bar or sitting down for a multi-course feast, Franklin delivers a superb experience. The industrial setting (it used to be a Ford showroom) could have become cold or stark, but thanks to a few well-placed cowhides, plenty of wooden stools, rich lighting and several native Tasmanian plants, it’s an inviting space. Adding to its charm and warmth is the impeccable service—the wait staff here is not only knowledgable but approachable and enthusiastic. With a focus on seasonal, local produce, the menu changes daily—but if they’re available, try the periwinkles. The extensive wine list has lots of interesting and natural wines, and if you’re unsure, your waiter won’t lead you astray.

Pigeon Whole Bakers

Located right next door to Franklin (and providing the restaurant with their bread), Pigeon Whole Bakers makes some of the best bread in Tasmania. Without adding any fake flavors, colors or additives, Pigeon Whole’s breads are handmade with stoneground flour, as well as local and natural levain. They’re wholesome enough that even some gluten-phobes could be convinced. With ready-to-go sandwiches, coffee and plenty of buttery, flaky pastries, there are many reasons to visit—but don’t leave without trying the rye or sourdough.

MONA

Almost as fascinating as the remarkable art collection at MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) is its origin story. Hobart local David Walsh created (at a young age) a gambling system that meant he—and later, his team—would win millions on sports and horse racing. Realizing, when coming back to Australia from a particularly successful gambling trip, that one can only bring a certain amount of cash into the country, he began buying art instead. His taste is nothing if not eclectic—from ancient Egyptian artifacts to ultra-modern installations. With more than enough artwork to fill a museum or two, Walsh opened MONA: the largest privately funded museum in Australia. Showing works by the likes of James Turrell and Yayoi Kusama, MONA has become the crown jewel of Hobart. Free to all Hobart residents, the museum has increased tourism to Tasmania immensely. With summer and winter festivals too (MOFO and Dark MOFO), the museum is an ever-changing place, with beautiful grounds, restaurants, accommodation and even Walsh’s hidden private residence. Get MONA’s own ferry (camouflage-painted) from Brooke Street Pier—with a Posh Pit option complete with wine and snacks—and give yourself a full day at this wonderland.

 

Moorilla Winery

It’s no surprise that the winery owned by MONA’s David Walsh has a focus on experimentation. Head winemaker, the charming Canadian-born Conor van der Reest, has fun playing with wines but takes tending to his fruit—testing it constantly—very seriously. The results are divine. Producing everything from sparkling riesling to syrah and pinot noir, Moorilla‘s wines are interesting, nuanced and delicious. We suggest taking a tour and tasting ($20) or, if your wallet allows, the Posh-As Day At MONA preferential package. Don’t miss out on a taste of the Cloth Label Red 2013.

Henry Jones Hotel

A converted warehouse and factory, The Henry Jones is Australia’s first art hotel and it blends an industrial design with luxury, heritage and modernity in a manner that is ultimately warm and appealing. What used to be a jam factory, the building dates back to 1804 but by the ’90s was crumbling. In 2004, it was developed into a five-star hotel. Downstairs, there are two restaurants, a cafe, a bar and the lobby—each boasting the building’s beautiful, raw sandstone. Each guest room features plenty of original Tasmanian artwork, and very cozy beds—while the Deluxe Spa Room offers a little more. The bathroom is a noteworthy feature here, with green and clear glass permeating, with accents of porcelain, wood and steel. The giant jacuzzi-style tub is the perfect place to sip a glass of wine while unwinding after a day exploring the historic city.

Dier Makr

Opening in late 2016, Dier Makr is another jewel in Hobart’s culinary crown. With only a sandwich board and doorway announcing its presence, the entry’s easy to miss but just beyond lies a charming, bright space. The restaurant focuses on natural wines, carefully made cocktails and dishes crafted from local ingredients. It’s a bistro-meets-bar-meets-cellar where visitors can have a drink, a full meal or buy a bottle of wine to take home. Of course, the seafood dishes are incredibly fresh and tasty, but since the team works closely with local Tasmanian growers, all the produce is high-quality as well. If you’re unsure about some ingredients or wines, ask the wait staff—all of whom are wildly knowledgable.

Jackman & McRoss

Much more than fresh bread, classic pastries and great coffee, Battery Point institution Jackman & McRoss has plenty of Tasmanian (and wider Australian) specialities on offer. This light-filled cafe has a distinctly Victorian style—with old-fashioned scales and equipment hanging from the ceiling, hairpin chairs and plenty of timber. The ideal spot for a breakfast or afternoon tea (consider going here after a wander through nearby Salamanca Market), this cafe-meets-bakery is brimming with savory and sweet treats. Try a cranberry and walnut sausage roll, goat and lentil pie, lamb shank in puff pastry or the Tassie delicacy: a scallop pie. Make sure to take a few snacks for the road.

Lark Cellar Door and Whisky Bar

From the climate to fresh and soft water, highland peat bogs, and fields of barley, the environment of Tasmania supports the production of some of the best spirits in Australia—which you can try at the Lark Cellar Door and Whisky Bar. Serving up fancy whiskies like Lark’s single-malt that’s aged for nine years in a Heaven Hill Distillery bourbon cask to gins, plus local wine and beer, this venue is warm and rustic. The laid-back atmosphere and early closing times mean this is the place for an afternoon drink rather than an all-nighter. With no frills but plenty of corrugated iron, very friendly service, and a great booze list (plus cheese platters and a ploughman’s lunch), it’s a quintessentially Tasmanian bar.

Born in Brunswick

Contrasting the pale wood and white fabrics of Born in Brunswick‘s interior are the wildly colorful dishes. From the spiced hotcake (with sweetened matcha tofu, fresh and fermented fruits and grapefruit curd) to the sweet red miso eggplant (with sesame scramble and pickled daikon), the meals at this cafe are a sight for hungry eyes. Serving up all-day brunch, there’s a lot more here than standard eggs and bacon—try the wallaby shank. Along with Australian wines and beers, there are creative cocktails on offer, as well as delectable smoothies. The coffee is a point of pride here. Not only is it well-made, but their beans change often—and the team has a commitment to positive and transparent relationships with their growers, producers and roasters.

The Winston

As cliché as it may seem, seeking out a quintessential Australian pub while traveling through the country is kind of a must. And though gastro-pubs may be more popular, there’s nothing quite like a classic, no-frills institution. The Winston is a balance of the two—with traditional pub grub (like burgers, fries and hotdogs) but also unexpected additions like the broccoli “buffalo wings.” Beer enthusiasts will be impressed by the diverse options: there are craft beers from all over the world, along with local treats like Hobart Brewing Company’s Barrel-Aged Saison (which is aged for four months in Forty Spotted gin barrels and Grant Burge port barrels) to the Winston’s own ales and stouts.

Aloft

Located on the top floor at the end of the recently refurbished Brooke Street Pier, Aloft has floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the River Derwent and Sullivan’s Cove. It would be understandable, then, for visitors to assume the floating restaurant is a tourist trap, but the drinks, food and service here make it worthwhile. The space is primarily sleek and modern but comfortably offset by an open kitchen and plenty of timber and leather. From cocktails made with Tasmanian spirits to local Pinot Noir, and dishes made from foraged and seasonal ingredients, everything on the menu is carefully thought out and beautifully presented. While the dishes are focused on seasonal ingredients, we suggest trying the tempura saltbush with Green Goddess sauce and the pig’s ear and prickly ash. Vegetarians and pescatarians are looked after here, too.

Images courtesy of respective venues