Saturday, 28 March 2015

Hallam's Waterfront Seafood Restaurant, Launceston, March 2015

A rainy, cold day in Launceston required lunch in the good company of like-minded foodophiles (I just made that word up!) coupled with the hospitable atmosphere of a reliable restaurant. I got all those requirements in spades at Hallam's.

Served by two diligent waitresses, our drinks were constantly topped up, our every need attended to, and our opinions of each course enquired about and checked on.

I was eating with well known Launceston restaurant and café identity, and food photographer extraordinaire, Cathryn Gibson, and her long suffering husband Neil. I say Neil is long suffering because every time they eat out, the poor guy has to sit patiently and watch all the food go cold as Cathryn takes artistic shots, from many angles, of all the food!

The menu is reasonably all encompassing but obviously predominantly seafood.

We chose what we judged to be a good cross section of food in order that we all might taste a variety of the dishes on offer.

Entrée was a tasting plate (for three), priced at $33, which we all agreed was excellent, except for the octopus which could have been a bit less chewy. I gather the contents of this dish vary, but ours contained three natural oysters topped with finely diced cucumber and a light (possibly ponzu) dressing, seared tuna, the aforementioned seared octopus and salmon on thinly sliced toast. Due to a mix up, we ended up getting three more natural oysters topped with a pomegranate sorbet, which we were absolutely delighted about as they turned out to be the best component of the tasting plate.

For her main course, Cathryn selected the grilled harissa calamari and banana prawns, rustic guacamole, grilled summer vegetables and coriander and paprika oil. Neil had the Spring Bay blue lip mussels steamed open in a saffron broth ($32), and I opted for the seafood chowder ($24) which contained an assortment of white fish and Spring Bay mussels and came with toasted bread.

All dishes were unbelievably good. Being a cold, wet day, I thought my choice of the chowder was a winner, but the other two meals were close to being up there.

We shared a dessert - a vanilla bean and cardamom panna cotta with honeycomb and stewed rhubarb ($13.50).

I think we could easily have sat there all afternoon, in the very pleasant ambience of this light and airy restaurant, drinking and chatting of all things food related, but I was only in Launceston for the day, and needed to return to Hobart so unfortunately our time was cut short. I thoroughly recommend a visit to Hallam's if you want a top class seafood meal in Launceston.

They're at:
13 Park Street
Phone: 03 6334 0554

 Hallam's Waterfront Seafood Restaurant on Urbanspoon
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Saturday, 17 January 2015

Dr Syntax breakfast, Jan 2015

I realise it won't be the breakfast venue on many people's radars, but I woke up this morning, as you do, with an overwhelming desire for plain old bacon and eggs for breakfast, and instead of me having to make it for everyone else, as has been the custom over the last forty years of my life, for someone to make it for me!

That instinct meant that my most favourite breakfast spot in Hobart, Pilgrim, was out of the question, as their breakfasts are way more fancy schmancy than that. I cast my mind around for the next most suitable venue, then remembered Dr Syntax in Sandy Bay Road did breakfasts on Saturdays and Sundays only from 8.00 - midday. I phoned to check, was reassured that, yes, they were still offering that service, and no, if I was coming soon, I wouldn't need to book.

My requirements were simple: bacon, eggs and a cup of tea. I also needed somewhere I could park directly outside, where I could enjoy a quiet low key meal in comfort and peace and whose food I could rely on to be, at the very least, reasonable.

I got all that in spades at the Syntax, with the added bonus of cheery, helpful and prompt service by the two waitstaff on duty.

Add to that a very subdued CD of assorted songs of the 70's playing discreetly in the background, and I was humming and tapping my way through brekky along with such luminaries as Pilot ("January"), Karen Carpenter ("Yesterday Once More"), Skyhooks ("Ego is not a dirty word") and INXS!

The meal was exactly what I wanted, in fact better, as it very rarely happens that either when you're eating out or at home, the meal is straight out of the pan and in front of you. Have you ever been at a café and the eggs have been so hot they burned your tongue? And ditto with the cup of tea? No, I never have. Most things are luke warm, and I am accustomed to that, so don't view it as at all worthy of comment or criticism, but in this case, the opposite was so, and that in itself is worthy of comment and praise!

So, I wholeheartedly endorse Dr Syntax as a venue of choice if you're just after a simple breakfast, away from the hustle and bustle of the city and Salamanca market on a Saturday morning.

My bill totalled $16. It was well worth it in my opinion.

Doctor Syntax Hotel on Urbanspoon
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Saturday, 10 January 2015

Frogmore Creek Jan 2015

Oh my lordie, lordie, lordie! Where on earth would I begin to find enough adjectives and superlatives to describe today's lunch at Frogmore Creek?

Our little gourmet dining out group decided on a leisurely lunch at Frogmore, so left town at 11.30 all primed for a 12.00 start. As I dragged my tummy, with me attached, into my house at 5.00, I decided it actually wasn't classified as lunch by then!

The food, oh the food......where to start. I took a few pics but not being a Roger Wong or Andrew Strikis, I am truly embarrassed by my pics, so would prefer not to rely on them to tell the story.

The menu is all-encompassing and way too hard to pick from so we opted for the wimp's solution: it had to be one of the three degustation options. There is a four course, a five course  ($95) and a six course degustation. We went with the middle option of five, figuring that would be fine but really in hindsight should have selected the four course, because by the time you factored in the additional pre-meal nibble (olives and a poppadum), amuse bouche at the start of the meal, the beetroot palate cleanser mid way through, then the banana 'air' dessert, then the additional passionfruit ice cream cone, it added up to ten courses!

The degustation courses vary often, depending on any guest intolerances, plus what chef sees fit to serve on any particular day, so it's futile me telling you what we had as it may well be totally different tomorrow. Suffice to say the whole meal was magnificent.

Honestly, try as hard as I could to find one single fault, I simply couldn't. The service from all floor staff was unbelievable. (I recommend all Frank staff get down there one day and experience TRUE waiting and customer service, as opposed to the very ordinary service I have received at Frank on two occasions out of three recently.)

Chef Reuben came out to our table afterwards and sat down for a chat. He is a lovely guy, with some inspired ideas for future Frogmore developments, one of which is the establishment of a Frogmore Salamanca lounge bar, hopefully to open up in June this year.

Whatever this guy does will be majorly successful because he has that passion for his trade which guarantees a quality service is delivered to all who venture inside his place of work.

Frogmore is a shining beacon of perfection in the world of hospitality in Tasmania. If you don't enjoy your meal there, I'm afraid you're off my Christmas card list, as you must surely be a fool!

Pictured below (thanks Jacqui) is the 40 hour salmon, accompanied by potato salad topped with a quail egg, fish skin crackling, seared scallop and red salmon eggs, served with their house made miso. Stunning!

Frogmore Creek Restaurant on Urbanspoon
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Thursday, 1 January 2015

And so, another year rolls around....

I've never really understood the need for a public display and celebration (or commiseration) of New Years Eve. To me it's just another day, following yesterday, with tomorrow in the foreseeable future.

For me, it's a timely occasion to reflect on life. Assess internally how you think you're doing. Suggest ways to yourself that you might want to improve your lot in the coming years. Any hobby or interest that you want to cultivate? Any friends you feel the need to quietly cull? Need to do a rethink of your work or home environment? All these things are, I feel, important to reassess at various times in your life, otherwise you are just a stagnant, boring, dull person who, at the end of their life, probably find themselves as unfulfilled as they were 10 or 20 years ago. Such a waste of valuable breathing moments!

My passion being predominantly food, it is natural I think of restaurants I want to visit, or revisit. Recipes I want to make. Food I want to experience. Those thoughts most definitely don't require me to be in the midst of a seething mass of possibly drink-fuelled craziness at 12.00 wishing all and sundry a happy new year!

I would venture to suggest that nearly everyone on the planet would wish for their fellow humans to have a good year, so consider it superfluous to actually voice that desire at that particular time.

So, Grinch Rita wishes you all a fruitful and productive 2015. Keep eating well, and frequently. Cultivate more friendships. Help out others who you observe requiring help. Respect others, and their rights to possess their own individual opinions and thoughts even if they don't correlate with yours. Be kind. Be observant. Don't take anything for granted. But most of all, have fun while you're doing it.
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