Wherever you turn in Tasmania – from Hobart’s top restaurants to ‘simple cafes’ or a rustic oyster shack on the beach or a vineyard’s cellar door – you’ll receive a seriously tasty welcome. These days, good food is as much a part of the Tasmanian experience as the iconic Tasmanian Devil and the awe-inspiring landscapes.
Today Tasmania has the finest restaurants to be found anywhere in the world serving outstanding food and wines with friendly, uncomplicated service. A recent growth in wine and gourmet tours, cookery schools and ‘meet the maker’ experiences means that visitors can enjoy an educational, informative experience with local experts, and a behind the scenes insight into the true meaning of ‘paddock to palate'.
Any Tasmanian experience will be notable for its delicious food. I recently received a post card from a guest on the Bruny Island Walk: "Susie, you didn't tell me Rob was a gourmet chef too!" The same applies to all the four day walks - at the end of a good day's hike you willl sit down to a fantastic home cooked dinner al fresco washed down by lots of lovely Tassie wine. A good night's sleep is guaranteed!
Gourmet B&B experiences
You don't have to try hard to experience amazing food, however. The owners of many of our lovely B&Bs (the term is deceptive!) are actually highly accompanished cooks in their own right and you will often eat a delicious dinner that is every bit as good as you will find in any restaurant. Sheoaks-on-Freycinet, Forest Walks Lodge near Deloraine, Glencoe Rural Retreat in Barrington and Mountain Valley Retreats are four that offer oustanding home cooking, always using locally sourced and often home grown ingredients. You will also have the benefit of the company of other guests and the owners in a highly entertaining and convivial setting - often the source of great tips for your ongoing travels.
Boutique hotels Islington of Hobart and Quamby Estate near Launceston are also as notable for their cuisine as they are for their gorgeous interiors, albeit in a slghtly more sophisticated setting than the B&Bs, but no less enjoyable for it - in fact, if you are celebrating a special occasion during your holiday, either would be well worth booking for dinner.
Discover the Lost Art of the Picnic
Tassie is the best place on earth to enjoy a picnic but soggy sandwiches and pork pie won't feature - at least not as you know them! The B&Bs mentioned above will all make you a walker's lunch or picnic to die for, and the gourmet picnics at Quamby are fast becoming a legend. With 150 acres of a glorious estate in which to find your perfect spot, this is the true art of picnicking. Quamby will even send you off with a guide and driver to source your own local ingredients from cheese to chocolate and of course the famous Tamar Valley wines!
Tasmanian Whisky Tours
The latest addition to the gourmand's tick box has to be Tasmanian Whisky Tours. With no fewer than nine, soon to be ten distilleries in Tasmania, from the Tasman Peninsula to the Central Highlands, it is no surprise that the island's gift for turning grass into gold has earned awards around the world for its single malts.
Whisky enthusiast Brett Steel has embraced the concept of combining tasting and culture with guided touring, and his brilliant experience, Tasmanian Whisky Tours started on 6 January 2014. Tours start at the cellar door of Lark's - owner Bill Lark is the Godfather of Australian whisky - and the tour takes visitors around up to four distilleries a day. The tour starts at 9 am and runs to 530 pm on a Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, and costs AU$185 fully inclusive of transport, tastings, tours, a gourmet picnic lunch and of course the chance to buy at discounted prices. Bookings are essential - call Tasmanian Odyssey to arrange it as part of your trip to Hobart, or visit www.tasmanianwhiskytours.com.au
Don’t expect to come back from Tasmania any lighter, no matter how much walking you may intend to do! Tasmania is a bon vivant’s nirvana. Its clean and green philosophy – there is a state-wide ban on all GM produce other than opium poppies - has helped shape its gourmet credentials, bringing a new wave of chefs interested in locally grown, sourced and organic produce to its shores. But the real star is Tasmania’s rich and fertile land and surrounding oceans that produce the juiciest seafood, the most aromatic honey, unctuous dairy produce and the finest wines in Australia if not the Southern Hemisphere.
The water in Tasmania is so pure that its salmon is the only farmed salmon in the world that does not require chemical treatments to remove impurities. Tasmania supplies over 25% of the world’s wild abalone, its oysters have a global reputation and the southern rock lobster (known locally as crayfish), is a Tasmanian speciality. Yet Tasmanians are surprisingly unpretentious about their seafood and some of the best places to sample these delicacies are the simple shacks dotted along its shores, or an al fresco dinner served under a rainforest canopy in the midst of a multi day walk, miles from the nearest commercial kitchen.
When it comes to cheese-making, Tasmania has an unfair advantage: lush green pastures combined with clean air, clear water and an enviable temperate climate. It’s not surprising then, that the Tasmanian islands produce world-renowned cheeses and dairy products. Be it hard or soft, blues or bries, cheddars or camemberts, Tasmanian cheese-makers are passionate about their craft and their product. In true Australian spirit, cheese makers in Tasmania aren’t afraid to experiment – and with the invention of the now famous ‘wasabi cheese’, it’s surely paid off.
The best things in life are always worth searching for, and the same can be said of Tasmania’s honey. The distinctive aroma and strong flavour of Leatherwood honey comes from a tree of the same name. Endemic to Tasmania, Leatherwood grows in the rainforests of the south and west of the state and has ensured a worldwide reputation for Tasmanian honey. Other honey types common in Tasmania include clover, blackberry and gum.
Tasmanian cattle is completely free from antibiotic and growth hormones. Instead, they roam Tasmania’s green (and completely chemical free) rolling hills feeding on the lush grass. This makes the resulting beef particularly tasty and Tasmania’s north-west corner is becoming justly famous for its Wagyu beef too. Tasmanian lamb and organic pork are equally revered and can be found on any self respecting restaurant menu.
Tasmania’s reputation in food lovers' circles continues to grow as the restaurants discover new (and old) ways of making the most of the state's high-quality, fresh produce. Quite simply you will struggle to have a bad meal, whether dining in one of the cities’ top restaurants, stopping at one of the state’s tempting cheese or oyster farms, or snaffling a quick snack on the hoof - such as the quintessentially Tasmanian curried scallop pie - as you continue your explorations of the state.
Tasmania’s wine is fast becoming the secret darling of connoisseurs around the world. The island’s temperate climate nurtures plump pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris grapes, producing wines of intensity yet elegance. Tasmania’s impressive wine CV is strengthened by a touch of sparkle: its grapes also create some of Australia’s best sparkling wines. But if you need more evidence of Tasmania’s wine kudos you should soak this up: Tamar Ridge’s sauvignon blanc was named the best of its type in the world by the UK’s Decanter magazine and the Bay of Fires pinot noir was also awarded the ‘Best Red Wine’ trophy at the National Wine Show of Australia.
The other beauty about Tasmania’s wine growing region is starkly clear before you even get to the bottle. The Tamar Valley, starting from Launceston, will leave you open-mouthed in wonder at the views and landscapes long before you even get as far as the cellar door and the wineries in Southern Tasmnania and The Huon are set in equally gorgeous locations, albeit quite different.
Needless to say, a self-drive around Tasmania’s wine trail simply doesn’t cut the mustard! Do yourself a favour – leave the car keys in your pocket for a couple of days, sit back with an expert and indulge! Craig Williams of Pepperbush Adventures does a brilliant wine tour, bushtucker BBQ and wildlife combo in the north, taking in the gorgeous Tamar Valley, and Premier Travel Tasmania will cover the south, or even take you on a state-wide gourmet and wine tour.
Like all islands, Tasmania has a north-south divide and what separates Tassie is ….the beer! Cascade’s is the beer of choice for southerners whilst in the north; it’s all about Boag’s. Apart from these big two, Tasmania is dotted with micro breweries creating their own unique flavours across the state including MooBrew at Mona, and Two Metre Tall in the Derwent Valley, both of which are well worth seeking out..
Tasmania grows some of the world’s best brewing barley; its highlands abound in rich peat and its water soft, clean and pure. The temperature and humidity also create a climate well suited to the maturation of fine malt whisky.
The water in Tasmania is so pure that its salmon is the only farmed salmon in the world that does not require chemical treatments to remove impurities. Tasmania supplies over 25% of the world’s wild abalone, its oysters have a global reputation and the southern rock lobster (known locally as crayfish), is a Tasmanian speciality. Yet Tasmanian’s are surprisingly unpretentious about their seafood and some of the best places to sample these delicacies are the simple shacks dotted along its shores.
Tasmania’s reputation in food lovers' circles continues to grow as the restaurants discover new (and old) ways of making the most of the State's high-quality, fresh produce. There are far too many exceptional restaurants and cafes to list them all, but ones that spring to mind as being 'must visits' and worth taking time to seek out are Stillwater in Launceston, Source at MONA in Hobart, and Luke Burgess's Garagistes, also in Hobart.
Earnest foodies might wish to invest in a good guide. Paul County and Nick Osborne’s Tasmania's Table - a food lover's guide to Tasmania's fine food, drink and restaurants is a beautiful hard-cover 400 page culinary adventure and a #1 best-seller in Tasmania for many weeks. It was officially selected as a finalist in The Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards 2010 (Tasting Australia) with six other books, as one of the world's best food guides. It profiles 50 of Tasmania’s best produce, chefs and restaurants and many producers and includes a regional provedore guide and a dedicated beer and wine guide. You will find it in bookstores. Graeme Phillips’ A Guide to Tasting Tasmania, tastingtasmania.com. is a practical and informative guide to Tasmania’s best restaurants, seafood, wine, cafes, pubs and more.