As I have been using my Facebook Rita's Bite page, as well as the Tasmanian Food Establishments page, all year for posting my random thoughts and reviews of restaurants and food, I feel this original Rita's Bite blog has become somewhat superfluous. But re-reading many of the older posts still provides me with so much pleasure, amusement and reminiscing that I will never delete it, so here we are.....just summing up the year 2016.
It has been a big year for hospitality. So many new places have opened up, but also many have found the going extremely tough, and either sold or closed down (for instance, Ethos). Many businesses are just treading water, hoping and praying that this coming summer season will earn them enough to tide them through the very long, lean winter period ahead. I probably should also make note of the huge number of food vans that have magically appeared all over the city. A brilliant concept, and one I hope continues for eternity.
This is a huge generalisation, but I find the baton has been passed down to the new generation of up and coming drinkers, with so many venues opening which feature boutique alcohol of some kind (cider, beer, gin, whiskey, cocktails) with accompanying tapas style food or pizza to soak up the liquid of choice.
That's not a judgment. It's merely interesting to me that the focus now seems to be more on the drinking aspect of a meal out, with the food as an added bonus. The meal styles have veered away from the old silver service, heavy cream-based sauces and kow-towing waiter style of haute cuisine for that special meal out, to a more light hearted nibbles, ribs, BBQ everything and drinkies type of evening out.
As was predicted over 10 years ago, not least by this experienced and hardened clairvoyant (!!), we are now in the grip of a severe and urgent lack/dearth of experienced, keen and enthusiastic hospitality workers of all denominations (chefs, kitchen hands, apprentices, waitstaff etc) with staying power, right across the state. Derrrr! Don't get me started on this subject! The effects of shoddy, slapdash employment practices and (lack of) staff training are evident almost every day, and I have gone way past banging my head on the wall in frustration about the shortsightedness of all involved in the administration of the local hospitality industry.
As for dining out, I've enjoyed some amazingly stunning food this year, and equally had some of the most disgusting food ever as well. Right up there, for absolute gastronomic pleasure, I'd have to nominate Phuong's Vietnamese at Electrona for simple, cheap, honest, straightforward Vietnamese food (particularly pho) cooked extremely well; Pearl & Co (in the Mures complex) for that special meal cooked with love and attention to all the finer details of great food; Miss Jane (the former Flathead restaurant in South Hobart) for a more casual but excellent standard of food; Saigon Express in Elizabeth St, North Hobart for great Asian food; Frogmore at Cambridge - it naturally goes without saying that chef Ruben Koopman is right up there for precision work, perfection and creativity in the kitchen; Aloft on Brooke St Pier is my go-to for that top food and service experience you want to have every time you go out to eat; Smolt Kitchen has proven my downfall financially, as their weekly changing $55 "all you can eat" specials menu arrives every Tuesday in my email Inbox, and I vow to ignore my desire to go there and devour magnificent food, and proceed to do the exact opposite!
Then there's my old favourite for the past 25 years, Le Provencal. All the things I've said many times over the years on this blog about the good old peppered steak there still holds true for me. It was reinforced last week again. Yes it's a French restaurant, and yes, the menu reads "Filet de boeuf grille" in true French fashion, but translated into boring old English, it's still the world's best peppered steak, salad and chips, and excellent value for $39.
As I've aged, and got more soured by a lifetime of bad service experiences, I have found myself being that rude customer you always detested coming into your workplace. I'm OK with that. I've always been Ms Polite Person, don't upset anyone, be tactful in your implied criticism. No longer. I'm Ms "Did you just ask if we enjoyed the meal? Well, since you ask, actually, no we didn't.....x,y & z were wrong with it". So, restaurants be warned. I'm not sugar coating it any longer. As my daughter says, "Shit's about to get real"!
Have a fabulous Christmas and New Year. Eat, drink, make merry, play fair, be safe, spend lots of money dining out to help boost our local economy. I have done MY bit, so I need you to do yours.
Happy eating in 2017.