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Monday, June 16, 2014
Monday, August 19, 2013
We drove what felt like an epic five million miles to get to White Sands Estate, just outside Scamander, last week. It’s two hours to Swansea (if you stick to the proscribed speed limits). We would be staying in Swansea the night before going to White Sands, so when I booked, I asked the receptionist how long it would take to drive from Swansea to White Sands. She replied, “An hour” and added that it was about half an hour past Bicheno. So, taking her at her word, I took my powerful daily diuretic tablet (prescribed to make this human body loose fluid by urinating frequently!) before we left, in the full knowledge that it takes approximately one hour to kick in, so I had that travelling time up my sleeve as a grace period requiring little or no toilet usage!
Unfortunately, after ¾ hour, I was about to explode all over the interior of the car, and we were nowhere near Bicheno, let alone past it (Bec was driving and sticking to her 80 kph speed limit)! So we stopped at a roadside stall and they kindly let me use the facilities. We then progressed onwards for another ¾ hour, with me frantically holding on yet again! You have no idea how pleased I was when we eventually arrived there!
On first observations, this seemed like a potential goldmine. Situated in the most ideal spot right next to their own private beach, and having a putting green, swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball court, cinema, canoe lake, trout lake, children’s play area, BBQ area, games room and a variety of accommodation choices, as well as the HUGE dining room (restaurant called, most unoriginally, “Le Blanc” ‘blanc’ being the French word for white!), and Iron House Brewery. They also have conference rooms and a huge function centre so are ideally placed to cater for a wedding, in this idyllic setting, booking out all the accommodation for the wedding guests, with the function room having enough space to hold easily 100-200 people and activities aplenty for all those bored souls.
We were shown to our table, to find ourselves, in the midst of this large, high ceiling-ed gymnasium-type room (painted all white!) only one of three tables dining. I was surprised at the scarcity of diners on such a lovely sunny Sunday lunch time at this beautiful spot.
I could well understand it after we’d finished entrees and mains. Descriptive words that spring to mind include disappointing, unadventurous, ‘safe’ menu and mediocre food. Don’t get me wrong. The food was acceptable, and I couldn’t justifiably returning it to the kitchen saying it wasn’t up to my expectations, but it simply wasn’t.
Apart from bold notations on menu items which contained their various Iron House Brewery products (lager, porter, pale ale, wheat beer), there was absolutely no reference as to the origins of any other menu ingredients, which I expect from somewhere that boasts that they have “a menu that includes the freshest regional produce Tasmania has to offer”, put together by their “talented chefs”.
As starters, we had herb and garlic bread ($6), salt and pepper squid with a garden salad and aioli ($17) and confit duck leg with caramelized fennel and an orange butter sauce ($19).
For mains, slow braised lamb shoulder with crispy potato, honey roasted carrots and baby spinach ($28) and Iron House beef burger with caramelized onion, bacon, lettuce, pickle, cheese and a house made relish ($18).
Those “talented chefs” may well be qualified, professional chefs, but they will never get any further advanced in their career if they churn out tasteless food like they did on Sunday. The slow braised lamb shoulder had not one iota of garnish of any sort on it, and was the biggest hunk of meat I have seen anywhere. They could quite easily third that serving and sell it at the same price. It was, as advertised, slow braised so was tender and juicy. Unfortunately it looked so unappetizing plonked there in the middle of the plate that just its appearance turned me off. You know they always say we eat with our eyes – and I do, and this dish simply wasn’t doing it for me.
The herb/garlic bread was just ordinary slices of a French stick with herb/garlic butter on one side. That’s it. Not char grilled, not oiled, not cut thickly, not over-endowed with dripping, warm, flavoured butter or oil. Just that. If I were a chef, and had some pride in my work, I’d be ashamed to send that out.
The salt and pepper squid was cut too thickly, and the oil wasn’t hot enough when they fried it, because it was slightly soggy. It didn’t taste at all spicy either.
The service was fine, as you’d expect it to be, as the two other tables present when we arrived, departed as we were served our entrees, so the waitress only had one table to look after.
I would venture to suggest that they get a consultant in to advise on ways they can improve the whole operation, but I fear that if this is their concept of “relaxed modern dining at its best”, then getting a professional in (David Quon or Paul Foreman for instance) would be a wasted effort.
All in all, a wasted day, really. We should have just gone along to the Swansea Bark Mill, or Swansea RSL and would have enjoyed ourselves just as much, if not more.
In summation, White Sands Estate is, in my opinion, merely a white elephant!
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
According to my Pocket English Dictionary, a pilgrim is not necessarily a character from a John Wayne movie, but is, in fact, “a person who journeys to a sacred place as an act of devotion”. From that definition, I must conclude that my first journey to Pilgrim Coffee in Argyle Street last week was pre-ordained!
Just when you thought you’d been there and done that countless times in your life, along comes something that absolutely knocks your socks off and disproves everything you’ve settled in your head as being the norm.
Yes, I have had in the past, and continue to have, excellent dining-out experiences here in Hobart restaurants and cafés.
Forget any past experiences you might have had at Pilgrim (if they were negative).
Pilgrim is a café where it should be made law that as soon as you enter its portals, you hand over your electrical goods, go to your table, select your food then close your eyes when it comes out, and experience the real-life feeling of the results of excellent culinary training, passion for food product, and experience in presenting same in a such a casual atmosphere as Pilgrim.
This is a café that mentions the word ‘hipster’ on the menu, thus inferring to me that I need to be aged in my mid-20’s to mid-30’s, upwardly mobile and equally trendily kitted out in the latest funky clothes while my ears are plugged in to my headphones and iPod music, and with my mobile phone in the spare hand that isn’t lovingly fondling my glass of latte!
But I’d be wrong with my assumptions about the clientele at Pilgrim. This is actually a place that embraces everyone from old grannies (not unlike myself) dragging along their shopping trolleys (totally unlike myself!!), to the headphone-wearing hipsters of the previous paragraph.
This is a café where you won’t give a rat’s arse about who the clientele are, but will keep returning repeatedly for the epic food adventure you’ll be taken on whilst eating their food.
Most staff are from the Source, and the high-end chef-ing shows through in all the food presented.
This is no ordinary city café. This is a daytime café-style equivalent of the ilk of the old Piccalilli, or Marque IV or Gondwana. This is a café where you’ll get mouthful after mouthful of different tastes, hints and flavours of all the ingredients in a dish.
- House made crumpet with quince jam and Chantilly cream ($12??)
- Popcorn dusted with chipotle and cinnamon (free)
- Polish platske (potato pancakes), Mundy’s kassler, slow egg, pickled shallots and fresh fennel salad, sauce of sour cream, dill, mustard ($16)
- Violet French toast - brioche, dredged in cinnamon sugar (I think), Pilgrim (edible) pot pourri, violet crème anglaise and lavender foam ($16)
- Single origin cocoa waffles with salted caramel, fresh banana and hazelnut cream ($13)
Will Priestley, owner, opened Pilgrim Coffee in Argyle Street two years ago, then added to his mini empire a few months ago by securing a Liverpool Street site which was easily accessed internally from their Argyle Street shop, so you now have an L-shaped café. He has travelled the world in his quest to make, drink and source the best coffee available.
His future plans for Pilgrim include establishing a burger bar, with basic but excellent burgers available mostly for takeaway, from 11.00 am till 12.00 am. This sounds like superb competition for Maccas newest Hobart outlet which is just a block up the road in Argyle St.
I don’t want to ever read again a description of café food at a normal, unadventurous café in Hobart. I know they all work as hard as they can to achieve their version of wonderful-ness but I would love Pilgrim to be the blueprint for excellence in the city, and for it to be the norm for us to expect, AND RECEIVE, such perfection and brilliance and innovation in Hobart café fare.
48 Argyle Street
Ph: 6234 1999
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Hobart Food for Thought
- A diagnosis of terminal cancer in 1992 caused a rethink of my life and the way I led it. I resolved to seize each day and extract as much out of it as I could, however much time I had left to live. My shonky claim is that this ideology has eked out my life this long - 20 years! Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it! Eat well, play nicely and you too can survive this stressful life!
Rita's recomended best eats
Ivory (casual, Thai), Elizabeth Street, city
Environs (casual, cafe), Waterloo Crescent, Battery Point
Shoebox Cafe (casual, cafe), Elizabeth Street, city
Da Angelos, (casual Italian), Hampden Rd, Battery Point
Fish Frenzy, (casual, seafood), Elizabeth Street Pier, city
Scorchers (casual, pizzas - best in Tassie imho), Orford
Lucky Ducks Cafe (casual, country cafe), Nubeena
Red Velvet Lounge (casual, cafe), Cygnet
Piccolo (casual Italian-ish), North Hobart
Italian Pantry (casual, Italian-ish), North Hobart
Doctor Syntax Hotel (casual, pub), Sandy Bay
James Squires (casual, bar/restaurant), Salamanca Square
Beltana Hotel (casual suburban pub), Lindisfarne
Vanidols (casual, Asian), North Hobart
Republic (casual, pub), North Hobart
The Stackings, Woodbridge
Meadowbank, Coal Valley (Richmond area)
Home Hill, Ranelagh
Garagistes, Murray Street, city
Ethos, Elizabeth Street, city
My Blog List
Sites of interest
Rita buys all her kitchenware . . .
And remember - ANYONE can shop there, not just people in the trade. There are no prices on many of the items - you'll have to ask!