February 13, 2016 12:00am

EMMA HOPE

Mercury

 

Peacock and Jones manager Emma Devlin, left, with chef Jeff Workman. Picture: SAM ROSEWARNE

 

TASMANIA’s  produce has long been regarded as among the best in the nation — but the state’s chefs weren’t always held in the same esteem.

As local farmer, food critic and TV personality Matthew Evans said: “Tasmania was widely known for having the best produce in the nation, but the worst chefs.”

Not any more. An explos­ion of new eateries is giving the state a growing reputation as “becoming a pit-stop on the Michelin circuit”, according to a British journalist.

“In the past decade ... Tasmania has quietly earned its culinary credentials and ­become a pilgrimage-worthy destination for dinner,’’ Mark Ellwood wrote in theIndependent this week.

With 25 new restaurants opening last year in the Hobart area alone, Mercury food critic Graeme Phillips says the state is fast ­becoming a foodie mecca.

“The restaurant scene has really caught up with the produce quality,” Mr Phillips said.

“The changes in the past 10 years have been dramatic, and it seems to be accelerating.”

When Luke Burgess opened Garagistes in 2010, it put Tasmania on the map as a food destination.

It was one of the state’s first restaurants to introduce communal seating, a share plate menu and a no-bookings policy; all common practice in Hobart now.

Tasmania’s chefs are getting more respect, says Matthew Evans.

Mr Burgess, who has worked at Tetsuya’s in Sydney and Noma in Copenhagen, said we were becoming ­increasingly known for our gourmet food.

“Everyone is aware of Tasmania now, it’s got a strong brand and there’s a romantic view of the place,” he said.

Hobart’s newest culinary attraction is the “hidden gem” Peacock and Jones restaurant in Hunter St, Salamanca.

“Seeing how the Hobart foodie scene embraces a new restaurant is so refreshing,” front of house manager Emma Devlin said.

“While Hobart’s still got that laid-back country town feel it’s quite ­progressive in its food, wine, whisky, and beer. It’s all happening here and every time I walk around the city something else has popped up.”

Head chef Jeff Workman (formerly of Saffire Freycinet) focuses on local seasonal produce such as Flinders Island lamb, seafood and hand-picked fruit and vegetables.

“The chef is harvesting a lot of produce himself,” Ms Devlin said.

“So at the moment we have Jeff’s vet’s drunk mulberries. When he took his dog to the vet he noticed mulberries hanging over the fence, and we ended up with them on our menu.”

Ms Devlin said the food was approachable and refined but not pretentious.

Peacock and Jones is one of many Tasmanian restaurants listed in the Good Food Guide’s top 500 restaurants.

New Hobart restaurants such as Aloft on the Brooke Street Pier and tapas bar The Black Footed Pig also make the list.

Two Cygnet cafes — The Lotus Eaters and Red Velvet Lounge — were also recognised.

Intimate 20-seat restaurant Templo, on the outskirts of the city, was opened last year by Matt Breen and Chris Chapple and has also made the list.

“We make sure that everything that enters the restaurant produce-wise is local and as fresh as you can get. And the love that we’re putting into the food seems to resonate with diners,” Mr Breen said.

“We’ve got the most beautiful produce right here on our doorstep so if we have access to that then obviously the food that’s going to be produced from our restaurants is going to be amazing.”

Award-winning chef David Moyle made the move from the Stackings at Woodbridge to Franklin in the old Mercury building in the city and continues to make waves with his cooking.

The constant stream of new restaurants and cafes opening around Hobart is com­plemented by mainstays such as Chinese offering Me Wah, Three Japanese in Battery Point, Mona’s The Source and Salamanca’s Smolt.

The decision by Tourism Australia to pick Hobart to host the finale to its $40 million Restaurant Australia campaign in November shows how far the state’s food scene has come.

Invite The World to Dinner had 100 of the world’s most ­influential foodies including Heston Blumenthal, Alice ­Waters, A.A Gill and Sanjeev Kapoor dine at Mona which led to a stream of international publicity about food from ­Tasmania.

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