Thursday, 19 December 2013

Elizabeth Food and Wine

Hobart restaurants have rapidly and creatively taken on the idea of using Tasmanian produce with a mind to promote its quality and indulging flavours, and why not? Elizabeth Food and Wine is no exception, displaying some of the most original Hobart cuisine, playfully selecting and utilising some of the most fantastic produce available. A great advantage of this place is its inclusion of a store, in which you can purchase produce ranging from honey, jams and pickles to pre-made dinners, wine and vegetables. Forming part of a network that supports local enterprise and Tasmanian produce, ESt.F&Wine offers a spacious place for casual dining in which you get to indulge in the assembly of many flavours that show off the potential of Tasmanian produce. In addition, displayed on the wall is a map of where in Tasmania the food is grown, produced and made, an excellent idea that visually captures the food by making it geographically relevant and enhancing the localism and diversity within the state.  Menus are simply set out, with each meal wine matched, no pressure to comply of-course. Some of these meals are very creative, with the use of seasonal ingredients, such as salad greens comprised of snow pea shoots and wild rocket tossed in Elder Flower dressing, now in bloom, a fresh revival of the balsamic soaked mesclun salad.

A key issue with Tasmanian produce, as with any other product in the market, is once something does well it saturates it and then becomes taken up by larger companies becoming almost like a mono-crop leading to reduced variety and limiting culinary creativity.  Until, something comes along with new and fresh ideas, and that is exactly what is displayed in the meals at ESt.F&Wine. Among the fresh flavours are smoked tomatoes, salsa verde, quince syrup, labne and beetroot jam that accompany delectable creations ranging from chicken liver confit, steak and kidney pie, pulled pork, or fried haloumi. They also have, as all good cafes do, exquisite sweets, like gluten free chocolate mud cake, rich and heavy, no scrimping on the chocolate there! Delicious coffee and excellent service. I do like this place, and on sunny warm days the windows open right up to create a street dining atmosphere. Whats not to like, try it all.  

Elizabeth St Food + Wine on Urbanspoon   

Patchwork Cafe

New Norfolk is a place that is often overlooked as a destination for fine food and the makings for an interesting afternoon out. Given its past steeped in stigma of incest in the close by mountains, and overall its little selection of eateries, its no wonder. However, if it offered a place where you could indulge in some delicious Tassie food and beverages whilst sitting in the former grounds of one of Tasmania's most notorious and misjudged collections of buildings, you would probably start to get interested in poor old New Norfolk. Forget Port Arthur or Macquarie Harbour (although completely justifiable in their own right and not to be missed), head to New Norfolk and to the Patchwork Cafe, situated in the former grounds of Willow Court, of the Royal Derwent Psychiatric Hospital.  Willow Court, steeped in urban legends, has received a lot of attention, ranging from stigma, taboo, historical interest, the paranormal, and of coarse its tragic part in the discrimination and abuse of the disabled and mentally ill exposed prior to its closure in 2000.  I must say its a strange place to go and enjoy a coffee and cake, I could not shake the fact that I was sitting in Willow Court. Although the cafe is lovely and offers fantastic food in a nice section of grounds enhanced by the old trees and green gardens, out of the corner of my eye sits the old wards, disheveled, boarded up, smashed out windows and piles of junk left from deconstruction the buildings and vandalism. In addition, it also seems to serve as a creepy grave yard for old broken down cars.  It is certainly a curious place as you can roam around the accessible sections, stealing a peek into an old ward, whilst dodging a potential hazard.  This may not be everybody's cup of tea, but I am fascinated by our history and this is an interesting attempt by some individuals to utilise the space, renewing the energy and stepping away from its jaded history.  

The cafe is located in a new building made from reclaimed timber near the Willow Court Motel (yes you read that right). It looks fantastic, simple in design, yet full of character. It is surrounded by its own little grove of shrubbery and trees that offset its location slightly away from the administrative buildings and old wards.  They offer tasty cafe savories and sweets, are licensed  and also sell home made and Tasmanian specific preserves and produce.  This place was bustling with tourists and locals, and they offer live music every Sunday of the jazz/blues genre, weather permitting, a good place to catch up on local gossip and history.

Of course New Norfolk is famous for its collection of antique shops and this also applies at the Willow Court site where you can roam the lower floor of the former nurses quarters, filled with bizarre and amazing antiques, ranging from vintage buttons, kitchenware, art and former security doors of the wards and prison, a scary site when you first come across them.  I could not help but blow out at this experience, walking around willow court looking at antiques, the rooms have a faint odour of heritage and institution, with original fixtures and hospital flooring, and with the random collection of music playing in the background, it's a strange experience. However, it is a new era and although we have been quick to judge and forget its past, this place is slowly going through a transition, preserving the older convict era buildings, and rejuvenating the area through land sale and new development.  This place was built to house invalid convicts, before it became Australia's first psychiatric institution open to the wider community and private patients. Maybe one day it will be a place to come and openly discover its rich and turbulent history, free from shame and stigma. But, for the time being this place is still a raw reminder, and as it slowly transforms, you can at least enjoy a little food and drink there.    

Patchwork Cafe on Urbanspoon