Monday, 20 June 2011


After many months of feeling like I was the only person in town who hadn’t crossed the Garagistes threshold, I finally managed a virgin visit there yesterday for their set menu 4 course ($65 per person) Sunday lunch.

There have been a few publicized aspects of the Garagistes modus operandi which have troubled me slightly over the months since they first opened – the main one being that you can’t book. There are those of us in life who are spontaneous, and I feel the world would be a very drab and cheerless place without their spontaneity. I personally wouldn’t like to live in a world that didn’t contain these spontaneous people. Then there are those of us (like me) who like to plan things! Shopping lists, life decisions etc. We like to know stuff in advance, if it is humanly possible!

Being able to book a restaurant on a night that is convenient to you (and your friends, if you are going to eat out as a group), with the certain knowledge that it is all locked away, a done deal, done and dusted, provides people like me with that certain satisfaction of planning and fulfilling something definite, which aligns with our raison d’etre.

It also seems logical to me that from the restaurant’s perspective it is a smart move to prefer that customers booked. Purchasing food items, rostering staff, preparing menu items before the busy service period all seem, to the planner in me, like you’re doing as much as you can to provide both you and your customer with the optimum chance for an excellent dining out experience, with less stress on both parties as well.

We were originally planning on fronting up to Garagistes on Thursday night (four of us), but due to illness, decided at the last minute to move the feast to the Sunday lunch which was the only time you can make a firm booking there.

And so it was that we entered the realms of the world according to Luke (= a literary reference for those not acquainted with the book “The World According to Garp”!)

Three of us had never eaten there before. Had we not been avid food lovers, and paid a lot of attention to the media hype at the time of Garagistes’ opening many months ago, a lot of yesterday would have gone right over our heads. The ethos behind Luke’s food is the thread. It’s organic, simple and straightforward, relying on the various seasonal tastes and flavours to work their own magic in your mouth, and on your palate.

The fact that I am passionate about trying to ensure my food has been tampered with as little as humanly possible (en route to my mouth), and is as local as I can get it, means that I am an ideal candidate for Luke’s food.

The menu yesterday comprised of the following 4 courses, with the addition of a small nibble platter of radishes and baby turnips and some bread.

*glazed and pickled heirloom turnips, cavolo nero, garagistes ricotta salata, pork crackling
*poached striped (sic) trumpeter, jerusalem artichoke puree, crisp potato, dried wild olives, flowers and herbs
*roast wessex saddleback suckling pig, apple aiolioli (sic), salt baked beetroot, pickled walnuts and mustard
*sour cherry and molasses parfait, buttermilk mousse, puffed buckwheat, almond nougatine

The heirloom turnips were slightly bitter, and the pork crackling was slightly spongy, but that is nit-picking, and I enjoyed the overall plate.

The trumpeter dish standout for me was the artichoke puree, and we wondered if Luke had a Thermomix, and had used it to get the puree as creamy as it was. The dried wild olives came in a crumbled form, resembling coarsely ground black pepper on the plate, so you actually had to lick your finger and sample them to realize it wasn’t black pepper, but the olives.

The pork (one of Lee Christmas’ babies) was a beautiful dish too, but my medication has meant that I now notice every bit of seasoning added to food, so the baked beetroot (which I usually adore), being salted, left me craving glasses of water for the rest of the day! The apple aioli was superb and complemented the pork perfectly. The pickled walnuts came in that same crumbled form as our wild olives had come in the previous course.

The dessert parfait was something you needed to try and incorporate a bit of everything on the plate into each mouthful, so you could eat the overall tastes together, instead of eating the different elements separately. I wasn’t blown away with this one, and feel it was trying too hard.

I realize many will find this review as confirmation of the fact that I am a bogan, or possess an unsophisticated palate, or that I simply didn’t ‘get it’. They may well be right. Do you want to get full physical pleasure out of every single morsel you eat in your life, or just the occasional meal? I certainly would like everything I eat to provide me with the best in nutrition, along with warm fuzzies at having eaten something which gave me great pleasure. I enjoyed my meal at Garagistes but I definitely didn’t come away feeling like that was the best and most unique meal I ever ate in my life. It wasn’t.

I respect all Luke is trying to convey and achieve. I respect his talent and expertise. I have been told that the evening menu is preferable to the set menu lunch, so feel that another visit is warranted.

 Heirloom turnips, above

 Trumpeter, above

 Pork, above

Sour cherry parfait, above


Anonymous said...

I have eaten at Garagistes a number of times of an evening and had a fantastic experience each time. Sometimes I've had to wait for a table, sometimes I've been lucky enough to get straight through to a table (obviously this depends on what time you arrive). I can understand that some people prefer to make a booking, but I think that the no booking system works very well. I have never been turned away, but sometimes, as I said, have had to wait for a table - no big deal, it's worth waiting for.

I've also worked in restaurants for many years - restaurants that take bookings. The biggest problem that restaurants experience with bookings is last minute cancellations and no-shows. This is also compounded by the fact that you may have turned many people away because you were "fully booked". What this ultimately means is lost income for a restaurant. For example, Rita, if you could have booked at Garagistes on Thursday night and then had to cancel at the last minute due to illness, do you think they would have necessarily been able to fill these seats? There is also the opposite of this - you can have very few people booked in and have heaps of walk-ins. You can never rely on bookings as being a sure indication of how a night will unfold. So even with bookings, due to the issues I have mentioned above, you can never fully plan on how much food you need to prep (how do you know what people are going to order anyway?) and how many staff you need to have on a shift. So regardless of what the general public may think, taking bookings does not necessarily mean that it is easier to manage a restaurant, food prep or staffing levels.

Although I have never been to a Sunday lunch at Garagistes, I can't comment on it compared to the meals I have enjoyed of an evening there, but I must say that the menu you had on Sunday sounded delicious and the food looked fantastic too. Might have to book in soon.

Anonymous said...

wow!!! thanks ANON 4:13 for your very thorough walk through of the ins and outs of booking tables in restaurants however I can't help but think that the overwhelming majority of restaurants in the world that take bookings would do so for a reason. Are you suggesting everybody else is wrong to take bookings and the no-bookings policy should become the norm?????

Anonymous said...

No bookings always works better for a restaurant in high traffic areas but certainly not in outer suburbs or rural locales.
The Fat Duck, El Buili, The French Laundrey, Tetsuyas and a plathora of other restaurants the world over rely on bookings and have done so for years.

Anonymous said...

This is a comment on matters of fact not an opinion.

When anyone decides to use the annotation 'sic' to make the point that someone else has made a mistake, it pays to check the facts before making the allegation.
'Striped trumpeter' is the official name of the fish so the restaurant was correct.

As for the aiolioli (sic), if that's how it was spelt it may be an error, but was it spelt that way? I've had both quince and apple 'allioli' at Garagistes several times and spelt that way on the menu. It is a perfectly legitimate word - I understand it's the Catalan rather than the Provençal spelling

Further in the story you use the term 'aioli'. Was it a unilateral decision to spell it that way or did you check with the restaurant about their spelling of 'aiolioli' (whether they meant 'aioli' or 'allioli') or did the menu description legitimately say 'allioli', like it has many times before, and the 'sic' should be elsewhere?

Much about restaurant criticism is subjective but not everything.

Anonymous said...

anon 5.24pm - restaurants can use whatever system they wish - bookings or no bookings. I was merely stating a case for the no bookings policy, so that people may understand why some restaurants choose to use this system.

Anonymous said...

Here we go-the place that divides opinions. Tread carefully any doubters, lest feel the full force of the devout

Anonymous said...

anon 7.19pm 'if that's how it was spelt' Do you mean spelled?

lemon curd said...

Anon 9.36 - I think you meant to put [sic] after your quote? :)

Anonymous said...

baha anon your full of crap, let Rita blog, I don't recall her asking your opinions - Thanks.

LS said...

I disagree with you Rita, my experiences could not have been more different. It's easily the best restaurant in the State and this includes Saffire. It leaves the pretence of Ethos in its wake, the missed opportunity that is the Source behind and other so-called top eateries floundering.

Discount Lovers Tasmania - New Daily Deals site for Tasmania said...


While you are waiting is there a bar area? Somewhere to sit down and enjoy a drink and make a night of it or you have to go away and come back?


Anonymous said...

I've been there twice and come away seriously underwhelmed each time.

dillon said...

It is very subjective. Mostly I enjoyed Luke's food, esp with their wines. My wife found the food a bit bland. A dish of vongole with a special rice porridge, I loved. My wife thought it needed something else to lift the flavours. The next week we ate a classic Italian dish of fresh vongole and cime di rapa with pasta. It was perfect, the sort of dish you want to lick the plate once you've finished. I knew what she meant. I have looked at the Noma book and the pictures really left me cold and, especially for a restaurant voted best in the world, then you look at Thomas Keller’s Bistro book and every dish makes you drool. I say cheers to variety and admire what Luke’s and Katrina are doing. Anyone with passion like theirs deserves to do well, despite where our varied tastes lead us.

Dillon said...

ps Glad you're out eating again Rita.

Anonymous said...

Dale, the New Sydney Hotel is just round the corner if you need a beer whilst you wait but try not to read the menu as the food is quite good there too!!!

Allison said...

On another note- Has anyone been to The Battery Point Steakhouse? Thoughts?
Glad you are back Rita! I've missed you!

Anonymous said...

Well of course you can sit at the bar at garagistes while you wait and have a glass of wine and check out the kitchen. Its a pretty interesting place to wait!
I'm pretty sure you can also order some food at the bar.

Great wine great food.

And had some great food at Ethos last night, both these places you have to wend your way through the menu and choose what you want. And spend what you want, feeling a bit broke, well work your way through the cheaper courses!


Anonymous said...

Alison, Battery Point Steak House is a lame attempt at cashing in on the American Steak house craze without really understanding why they work-I hate to say it but Ball and Chain, Shippies and the New Sydney do the best steak in Hobart by a coutry mile-levae the so called cheffie-chefs for dead in this department.

Anonymous said...

If Garagistes has done nothing else since opening their doors it has gotten people talking. I will admit right away that I am a fan. I love the food and the wine list and feel luckier than normal to live in Hobart where we can access food of this caliber as well as have access to a wine list like nowhere else I have visited in this country.

We don't mind the no booking policy at all. It suits us to pop in right after work on the odd occasion that we eat out on work nights. It has never been a problem to get a seat if you get there early and it seems if you want to eat a bit later you just have to time your arrival to the 6pms departures.

We were there last Sunday as well and while I chose the trumpeter, without any thought of a thermomix, as my favourite for the day my partners favourite was the glazed and pickled heirloom turnips that you found slightly bitter. That just proves how different we all are.

I really do feel that the Garagistes team has given Hobart a gift and as the saying goes 'don't look a gift horse in the mouth". Try some wines you have never heard of or seen before as you sit and ponder how something was prepared, and hopefully as you leave you will thank them for coming.

reb said...

I've only been once, for a five course lunch with matching wines.

It was perfect. Everything; the quality of the food, the matching wines and the service.

I can not understate how lucky we are to have a restaurant of this calibre in Tasmania.

ut si said...

Am in HBT in a couple of weeks with the Prof...can we eat out together at Garagistes one night (absolutely loved it all last time)
We don't like reserving table space at ut si for reasons of Anon 4:13 + bit tricky with communal tables. Have this year started doing a shared table only for groups of more than 6. Chef decides what you will eat. No choice except for the number of courses. Food placed in middle of table. Fab response so far. Love it.

Anonymous said...

I won't be going Rita. Those bereft looking plates with a little blob in the middle!
No wonder many modern places miss my money.
That trumpeter needs a starch to round it out, some nice potato galette or something.
The pork looks lonely too, maybe a little savoury rice dish or a splodge of risotto.
This kind of thing just doesn't do it for me.

Anonymous said...

Ive eaten at garagistes several times since they opened and i think its a fabulous restaurant. Easily on of the best in the state with Ethos, Meadowbank, The Source and peppermint bay.

I did really have to criticisms of the food. Firstly the value for money. i think for the price we are paying we arent really getting our monies worth. I went as part of a group of 4, we ate everything on the menu including some dishes twice and we still could have eaten a bit more.

Secondly, and i dont think im kidding when i say this, but the food is way under seasoned and really lacking that punchy flavour that the smallest amount of salt would enhace.

Anonymous said...

What is everyones opinion on the communal seating.

I personally dont mind it, i think its a bold idea and many restaurants have failed trying this concept in melbourne and sydney. I'm just afraid that us Tasmanians will soon get over concept and realise we are sitting next to complete strangers and avoid eating there all together

Polly said...

Well I am in the majority, and love both the concept and execution. The no-booking policy works well, but don't turn up at 7.45 on Sat night and expect a table.

I tend to agree with Anon @ 11.15pm, that there could me more seasoning on occasion, but they will provide salt (really good stuff for a change) pronto. On the other hand, we have had some of the best dishes ever, eg. the heirloom tomato, goats cheese and wild basil salad earlier in the year beat anything in Italy.

Katrina's service and understanding of the wine list are brilliant, and they are all genuinely nice people that have taken a huge risk, but it is paying off brilliantly.

Anonymous said...

Love Garagistes but have to disagree about Ethos being the same calibre as it. In my opinion ethos have a long waytogo about portion sizes how exxy and the unwelcoming servive you get

Esther @ "Keep Calm and Cook More" said...

Have eaten here twice now- and have loved it both times. Choose who you go with carefully however and have an open mind. The food is gorgeous, and the wines are a treat- but even more than this, their interior design is incredible.
I'm in awe just looking around the restaurant at all their attention to detail. The room just has a 'buz' about it. I could sit there all night- and have done- eating and drinking more all the while.
A truly classic Hobart venue- and about time.

(Communal dining- love it. Last time I was there, met a funny Sydney couple, who made our night all the more entertaining.)

Anonymous said...

positive is nice. don't you think

Rita said...

Happy to eat at Garagistes again with you, Colette, when you next come to Hobart. Am hanging out to try the normal evening menu.

Victor said...

We are damn lucky to have Garagiste in Hobart. The population here with the small percentage of people who can afford such an establishment is a big risk for Luke and Katrina to open Garagiste. I have never been there for dinner, but needless to say our lunch there was worth every dollar spent, Their service was top class.

That was the second time I have ever tried Luke's food, and it was a lovely experience and fantastic journey to see how he transformed himself and developed his food from Pecora to Garagiste.

I am also glad that he is not taking reservation for dinner. It is hard for such a small and special place like Garagiste to loose out on cancellation, which is ever so common in Hobart. People are so disrespectful when they booked and not show up, not even have the decency to call to cancel. People are just so funny when it comes to dining out. They think they are doing the business a favour for eating at their establishment.

That also is a terrible experience for me when I organised a breakfast forum and cater for the best food for the company, and half of the staff accepted the invite but not showed up at the forum, which ended with so much leftover (cost to the project and business). Imagine what impact this has on a real business - not only loss in revenue, but costs on produces and ingredient, and labour costs.

So good on Luke for not taking reservation for dinner.

Anonymous said...

"They think they are doing the business a favour for eating at their establishmen"
OMG, has the world gone mad?
Did I really read this last statement from Victor?
The customer is the REASON why businesses prosper or fail. I have no truck with Garagistes, in fact I've loved my dinners there but that last comment beggars belief!
Customers arent doing you a favour, they are keeping you alive!

ut si said...

Fabulous Rita. Prof's shout I believe!

Victor said...

Hi Anon 9:11, I agree that without the customers, the business is not going to survive.

But, when I said that customers think they are doing the business a favour "by" (not "for" excuse my poor English) eating at the restaurant is when they can do what they like - that is, I am referring to those customers who call and make a reservation and not show up, or call to cancel. I mean that is pure arrogance, isn't it? I think that was one of the context of the argument in Rita's review of Garagiste not taking reservation, and the debate of whether it should/should not. I am only saying there are customers out there who think so almighty about themselves; that, that is what they can do - make a reservation and not show up. That's my point. Sorry if my message came across that customers are not important for a business, which is incorrect. Customer is key to any business survival, but customer is not necessary always right. There is a fine balance between what is the right and wrong thing to do morally. If, only we can all be simple and humble folks with no "highness" in one self, life will be so much better with less angst.

Victor :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Victor for explaining that makes sense. However it does raise the isssue for me that many restaurants impose their style and menu on the customer and then complain that they aren't busy enough.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8.03am - do you not think that different restaurants are aiming at different markets? They are not imposing their style on customers. When I go out to eat, I choose a place based on whether it appeals to me - style, food, wine, atmosphere. I don't go into a restaurant that offers something different thinking that it is no good because it does not offer what every other "same" restaurant offers. In Hobart, there is a real lack of understanding that not every restaurant is for everyone - restaurateurs do actually aim for different markets of customers.

Anonymous said...

All restaurants should offer the same-hospitality and food that appeals. What I'm saying is, be mindful of the market and climate in which you are aiming to pitch your restaurant. Too many operators overlook this then complain that they were misunderstood or too ahead of the curve when they go bust

Jenn Brigole said...

I, for one, am more comfortable at being prepared when it comes to eating out. Don't get me wrong, spontaneity is always a welcome mix every now and then. I just don't normally trust people when they say they'll "order for me, and just trust them". I just got to know what to eat, and have the last say to it. :)

Anonymous said...

I cant believe that Roger and Sue off Food Tourist and the ABC are always doing the advertising for this place are they partners or something?

Anonymous said...

maybe they like it?

Anonymous said...

I heard they sell all of their wine there so of course they like it

Anonymous said...

they sell wine to alot of the top restaurants in australia if that helps.