Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A Taste of My Own Medicine

Thank you to everyone who has posted comments on the HRB. In the interests of probity I'd like to share some of the emails not posted as comments to the site ...

23 December 2004 ... from Tourism Tasmania

Dear Ms Watson,

I was disturbed to read your diatribe associated with the Tasmanian Tourism Awards. Firstly, let me clarify that Peppermint Bay was awarded the Best New Tourism Development. This award is very competitive nationally and I am proud of Tasmania's entry and hope that we are in with a good chance of achieving national recognition for what is an outstanding new product.

The process involved with nominating for a tourism award is clear to both the public and industry. Nominees must be willing to put their businesses forward to be judged by a panel of their peers. It is a rigorous process and nominees are required to meet a certain standard before an award is issued. Indeed, there are a number of occasions when the judges have not issued an award because the nominated business did not fit the criteria of 'excellence'. In addition, the awards process is extensively audited through KPMG to ensure absolute integrity in process. I should also point out that the vast majority of industry awards are conducted on a nomination basis to ensure equity for all.

Perhaps it would be appropriate when attacking the industry awards to firstly check the facts with the organisors rather than promulgating misinformation and degrading the outstanding achievements of those that submit themselves for review amongst their peers.

The tourism industry is proud of its outstanding quality and we continue to collect national and international recognition for the quality of our product. We as a Tasmanian community should be supporting these businesses that employ thousands and are one of the largest contributors to the economic revival of the State.

23 December 2004 ... from "Fantasia"

Reading articles on coffee in hobart always makes me laugh.. Sometimes I think the people who are the most outspoken are the people who don't really know what they are talking about!! Anyone who claims to be a coffee lover in one sentence and then in the next sentence cannot stop raving about the virtues of Hudsons and oversized coffees is in my expert opinion a coffee ignoramus. Very similar to the customer who asks for a really good coffee and then in the next breath asks you to make it as hot as you can...Any coffee maker (and we can't call them baristas in Australia unless they have completed the very long course in Italy) knows that the minute you are asked for an oversized coffee you are faced with the issue of how to make it decently. You can use three shots of espresso so the ratio of coffee to milk is still good enough to make the coffee taste delicious. But most customers don't want to pay for the extra shots and would rather you overextracted the espresso, an no self-respecting coffee maker likes to prostitute themselves in this way. The other issue faced is that most large vessels do not fit properly under group handles so espresso needs to be transferred from one vessel to another and thus you lose the best tasting part of the coffee - the crema (something that the Timeless Way has not yet come to terms with).As for Hudsons.. It is the McDonalds of coffee and i have never ever seen any foodie stating the virtues of a quarter pounder.

As for good coffee venues in Hobart there are but a few. Sadly Retro does not live up the repuation is holds and i refuse to drink coffee there ever again after personally seeing them cook scrambled eggs with the steaming wand.T42 is ok but it largely depends on who is on the machine.. Has anyone tried the coffee at Peppermint Bay? If you get the guy with the blonde floppy hair on the machine then you are in for a real treat, well worth the travel down there. But I have to say that the best coffee I have found in the greater Hobart area in a while is at Brew in Sandy Bay. Has anyone been there yet? It is a new espresso bar and the couple that operate really seem to know what they are doing when it comes to creating a coffee. Food is also pretty good (but don't go expecting a dining experience, remember the focus in this place is coffee) and as for funky... It will really change your attitude I think.I must still try the Choux Shop as I have heard only good things... Will be happy to share my opinion one day.

27 December 2004 ... from Henry Jones Art Hotel

Dear Georgie,
Thank you for posting your thoughts about The Henry Jones on your site (which by the way has created quite a buzz in the hallways of the AHA, Tourism Council, etc!) Need to clear up a couple of details my friend…

1. I actually didn’t mean to email you previously – I was about to send you a note, but thought better of it and accidentally pressed send (!). So my apologies if it appeared arrogant, but I am pleased you interpreted it as invitation to check out the hotel.

2. The shade cloth was a shocker, but a necessary short term measure to eliminate the sun glare. The 6 large tailor made sails now in place look the goods.

3. I happily accept your other comments (particularly the favorable ones about our staff!).

Sunday, December 26, 2004

From Me to You

On Christmas Eve I thought to wish you all a Merry Christmas. On Christmas morning I thought to wish you all a Merry Christmas. And as Boxing Day rapidly approaches I’m still wondering how to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The best I’ve come up with is this, and I mean it from my heart:

May you eat the food of the gods, may you love the company you’re with, and if you drink heavily, may you fall very very softly.

I raise a glass in your honour.

GW the HRB.

p.s. Now that the worst is over, roll on January, the real days of summer!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

So Far So Good Mr Crawford

In a roundabout way I was invited to the Henry Jones Art Hotel to cast my eye and say what I dared. With a fellow ne’er-do-well I perched myself in the Atrium and settled in for the afternoon. I had in fact been to Henry Jones a few times before. When first opened I frequented the Long Bar for a few weeks. It can be a bit cramped (all popular bars are), but it looks fantastic, and I love the staff in their crisp jackets and smart attitudes. The champagne wasn’t bloody bad either. Anyway, back to the Atrium.

The first time I was there was actually for a corporate networking event. Twenty-five bucks a head and buy your own drinks. Hmmm, bloody bewdy. But not the fault of Henry Jones. On the contrary, they laid on the food thicker and faster than any of us wankers could shovel it in. So, following my “invitation” from the director (please Mr Crawford, don’t let this go to your head) me and my tawdry mate rocked up for a lunchtime nosh. We already had a bottle of champers under our belts and we were ready for a feast.

The menu in the Atrium is brief, very brief. But having just criticised Sisco’s for offering too much in their lunchtime sitting, it would be churlish of me to criticise this concise menu. We ordered the oysters. Mmmmmm, creamy and rich and fresh that day from the Tasman Peninsula (but definitely not for the faint hearted). Then we had the platter with the stupid name: A Taste of Land and Sea. Naff. But it was good and it was interesting and it made the ordering of more wine so easy (hence my inability to actually describe what was on the platter).

In brief I love the staff at Henry Jones, they are all so special and make diners, drinkers, and gawkers alike feel like they’re worth a million bucks. I’m looking forward to trying the Steam Packet, Henry Jones’ flagship restaurant. It is the namesake of a 19th century Hobart pub, which augers well.

One criticism Mr Crawford: sending an emailed business card without an accompanying message? A bit arrogant, n’est pas? Oh, and the shade cloth in the Atrium, a bit Bunnings don’t you think?

But so far, so good!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Sisco's and the Disappearing Trolley

I’d come to Sisco’s because of an ad that said Sisco’s was trying something new. A lunch trolley: no waiting, the perfect solution for the one hour lunch break. The ad promised tapis, yum cha dumplings, sushi, wraps, all sorts of bits and pieces to tempt and taunt. I knew what would happen. The famous eyes-bigger-than-my-belly would kick in and I’d want one of everything. One hour wouldn’t be long enough, one stomach not big enough. I hoped to be so excited by small plates and big flavours that I’d want to come back each day until I’d tried everything twice. So on a whim I tucked Tim Winton under my arm and climbed the stairs to small food heaven.

I took a seat. Deathly quiet, except for the incessant rat-tat-tat-tat of the ceiling fan over my head. Then it dawned on me. Not a trolley in sight. Shit.

The waitress was warm and attentive. She brought me a drink. And three menus. Oh dear, where was the trolley? There was the standard lunch menu (really the dinner menu), there was the fish specials menu, and there was the crayfish specials menu. I craned my neck and gave my eyeballs a thorough 360 degree workout. Where’s the trolley? Panic rose in my throat. The waitress patiently explained: they tried the trolley for a few weeks. But no-one came. They needed to prepare three trolleys at a time. But no-one came. “Maybe Hobart’s not ready for it, cos no-one came”. Hobart’s not ready? I’m ready! Instead of leaving in a huff I ordered the prawn bisque.

It was nice enough, the bisque. It came rich and red with a prawn cake and a whole prawn wrapped in silk-like pasta threads. But I couldn’t help feeling an ongoing sense of disappointment. I wanted the trolley. But beyond not getting my own way I was disappointed in Sisco’s for not keeping their money where their mouth was.

Sisco’s has a mixed reputation. I’ve had stunning meals here and abysmal ones in equal measures. Hurrah to them for trying something new, boo to the patrons (myself included) who were too slow to grab the chance, and boo to Sisco’s for being too quick to punish us for our tardiness. Any new venture is an expensive risk. Maybe it was a risk worth persisting with. Maybe it was just what Hobart needed. And then again maybe it was crap and we are all better off not knowing.

I was about to scoff my coffee and leave, but then I noticed the recently-arrived table of middle-aged women quizzically eyeing their three menus … “Um, what happened to the trolley … we booked here a month ago specifically because of the trolley …”. I rose and paid my bill. The woman taking my money was the 'boss' of Sisco’s. I thanked her for the lovely bisque and the excellent service. But then, grabbing the bull by the horns I told her how disappointed I was that the trolley was so short-lived, I told her what a good idea it had been and that she should have persisted. But her attitude said it all:

"We’d have three people on a table wanting the trolley while the fourth person would want something off the dinner menu. People would ring up wanting to know what it was all about, what was on the trolley, would it fill them up, how many courses were they allowed, and so on. It was all too hard. Hobart’s not ready for something like this."

Maybe you should try again?

"No, I can’t be bothered."

I felt outraged.

I’m tired of feeling punished by restaurant owners with this attitude about Hobart and its diners. It was clear to me that due to their own impatience and poor menu control Sisco’s was bound to fail with their lunch trolley. But Sisco's obviously doesn't understand this, so in the interests of patiently explaining the problem I’ll use simple words:

  1. Most restaurants have a different lunch menu from their dinner menu, diners expect this.
  2. At lunch time, don’t give people the dinner menu to order from. Boring.
  3. To give a new lunch idea such as the trolley the best chance of success, don't give diners the option of ordering from the dinner menu. It's lunch time, diners will deal with this.
  4. If diners need educating about your new lunch option, be patient and teach them what it means. If you have no patience with this personally, have another staff member deal with telephone enquiries. Given that you are rarely open for lunch, people will be curious and the onus is on you to be patient.
  5. Don’t bitch to local diners about Hobart “not being ready” for your brilliance. It is graceless and leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Pier One

Pier One at the Casino is Hobart’s premier waterfront restaurant and bar. It says so on the menu. We were there for a Christmas function. Dozens of faxed menus had been inspected before a consensus decision to book. But imagine my surprise when the staff acted as if we’d poohed our pants when we first rocked up. Sneering waitresses who looked pissed off already.

I was less than impressed when our waitress tried to “up-sell” by offering flat bread for the whole table (i.e., pizzas … why can’t they just call them pizzas?). I suggested people could order their own. When she thought I wasn’t looking, she asked someone opposite me the same question. I looked her in the eye and repeated my original suggestion. Surly look. Maybe I really had poohed my pants.

I ordered two entrées and got on with the serious business of enjoying some wine. I sat with my back to the rest of the restaurant looking out at the water. Nice view, but the novelty soon wore off as my gastric juices began eating through my stomach lining in anticipation of food. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Gee, must be packed, I thought. Nope, not even half full.

Finally my entrée arrived. Half a dozen natural oysters. Mmmm. Tasty. Tasty in the way oysters shouldn’t be. Not off, but had that “sitting in the fridge a few days” piquancy. Ever the optimist, I ate one more and then one more, searching for a nice one. Fool. And then we waited again. And waited. I felt sorry for those at the table who had foregone the entrée, imagining the state of their stomach lining. At least my foul oysters were staving off the gastric acid.

Bored and hungry we approached the bar to order more wine. Ahhhhhh, above the bar like a beacon shone a bottle of Craigie Knowe. And it was the 1999 vintage. Ooooohhh, this could perhaps make up for everything. “We can’t sell it too you. We’re out of stock”. But I’ll just have that one, the one up there. “No we’re out of stock.” But it’s just there! “We’re not allowed to sell it to you”. Right. Now I was angry. I sat and sulked and waited for my bloody next course. I scowled over my shoulder from time to time, silently willing that bottle of Craigie to fly to my side. But when I looked again it was gone. Spirited away and hidden! Right! Now I was furious and sulking. But sulking in silence because I didn’t want my Soft Shell Crab to be spat on.

Finally the food arrived. The Soft Shell Crab came as a quarter of a small crab wrapped in an attempt at wonton-style pastry. It was surrounded by a slick black moat of black bean sauce, which was unbelievably strong and salty. The crab wasn’t oily, but tasted like it had been cooked in the same oil as last week’s fry-up at the Mustard Pot. Now I felt sick. This was not going well. I spent the rest of the night feeling queasy, and not even a Red Corvette at the Birdcage Bar could save me (what was I thinking?). At four in the morning I awoke feeling decidedly unwell and lay awake until dawn feeling pissed off.

Pier One … Hobart’s premier waterfront restaurant and bar! My arse!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Welcome to the Intrepid Traveller

I would like to take the opportunity to welcome a new visitor to the site, who is also a visitor to Hobart. The anonymous comment was posted today, and it highlighted for me that it is not just the cynical chattering classes of Hobart who despair over food and service quality here. Our Victorian Visitor complained thusly:

Bless you Ms W - just come across your site today and it is long past due that the whacks be laid in. We visit Tas 2 or 3 times a year, Hobart usually in there, and have come to despair of eating out in your fair city. That's not to say that the raw produce isn't fantastic. We make pilgrimages to the Hmong gardeners, the Wursthaus, the oysterers [surely the French have a name for it - huitrines?] with the sole regret that we don't have a kitchen of our own to hand. But eating out? It's merely a necessity to be borne until we get the goodies home. I guess it's not that the food is fairly conventional and the service is erratic, but that the prices being asked are out of keeping with the content. If all I can get in Hobart is ordinary food I'm prepared to pay ordinary prices, but Sydney prices? All that said, Hobart doesn't have the monopoly on poor service. I had read much about The European in Melbourne and finally got there a couple of weeks ago. Won't be back. I'm too old to put up with the kind of crap that used to be de rigeur at the Black Cat in Fitzroy.

In my earlier days I spent quite some time at both the Black Cat in Fitzroy and The Galleon in St Kilda. The service in both establishments was legend. You know the sort: hennaed hair, Brains glasses, sour look, and superior attitude. But the coffees were good and it was kind of cool to pay someone to make you feel inferior (why do you think the Dominatrix is such a sought after service provider?). These days though, it is not cool for staff to think that the Soup Nazi a la Seinfeld is a model to aspire to. And it is deplorable that visitors are left wishing for their own kitchen to make the culinary aspect of their Tasmanian travels more palatable. We all know that we have excellent produce and wonderful locations. In summertime, where better to sip champagne by the water in the summer sun. In wintertime, where would you rather be sipping on a gutsy red in front of the fire when there's snow on the mountain and the sky is that dazzling blue? Our chefs and our restaurant owners should be experts in maximising the assets we have here. But alas.

To add salt to the wound, see Graeme Phillips' article in the Sunday Tasmanian (Sunday 5 Dec, 2004) for an illustration of the depths some establishments are stooping to: frozen fish and mis-truths about produce availability. Naughty naughty naughty. We think we know who won't be on Santa's list this year!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Is the Spirit of Christmas a Single Malt?

I have somehow managed to manoeuvre myself into the fabulous position this year of having numerous Christmas party clashes. Each occasion involves really good friends, treasured current or former work colleagues, or just damned attractive cut-throats, so no single option stands out as a better offer. They all involve dinner, and not a bloody one of them is the "pop in for a little while" type. Worse: there are "activities" planned (shudder) to keep us busy, to distract us from drinking too much, to stop us snogging the boss and photocopying our bits. Activities. What a stupid bloody word and what a stupid bloody idea at Christmas! Why can't I just turn up, get pissed, and stagger off into the dawn like the dishevelled Scrooge that I am? I don't want to go bloody go-karting, boot-scooting, bowling, or bungy-jumping. And what is it with holding me to ransom by not handing out the Secret bloody Santa until the end of the night? Ooooooh, better not go to that other Christmas party for dessert, you might miss out on a chocolate penis from Santa!

I know I should feel blessed that I have so many friends who want to share my company at Christmas ... NO THEY DON'T ... THEY'RE JUST HOPING FOR THEIR OWN BLOODY CHOCOLATE PENIS! Well hell I say, go buy your own and leave me out of it. But no, it would be bad of me not to go, I would be forever hounded by the ghosts of Christmases past/present/to-come maddeningly chanting in my ears: You have to go, it's Christmas. So, is this the true spirit of Christmas in this post-modern age: Obligation? (Look out, I'm hearing a bunch of comments being tippee-tapped away as I speak) Obligation to family and friends, obligation to buy presents, obligation to credit cards? And obligation to not let me get completely, tit-flashingly pissed. Truth be told I never really get that drunk (collective sigh of relief), but this mad and desperate spree of Christmas parties leaves me breathless with the overwhelming sense of duty they inspire. It leaves me hanging out for January, the real days of summer where we can bask in the laziness of holidays, barbecues, backyard cricket, and madcap spontaneous get togethers. Where simple things like cicadas and aeroguard, sandy fish and chips, and a sunburnt nose mean so much more. Where our friends and family gather because they want to, not because they think they should. Where photocopiers and go-karts breathe a collective sigh of relief ... until next year.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Simple Pleasures

I have slept today away in the fitful slumber of one with head and lungs full of unpleasantness. I have dreamt of drowning and woken myself coughing. Throughout this eventful illness (I’m sure it’s consumption) I have been blessed with great advice. Day 1: A hot toddy (brandy and … I forget the other ingredients, never really got past the brandy); Day 2: Spiked orange juice (juice of 3 oranges and 1 lemon, leatherwood honey, 2 disprins, and a slug of brandy). Tasted like a bad cheap cocktail at a wedding, but did me some good I’m sure, especially when I followed it with another brandy. Day 3: Liquid Echinacea three times a day in water. This is my least favourite option. Firstly I have no Liquid Echinacea (easily fixed tho), secondly it doesn’t involve brandy (easily fixed too). But it just sounds too darn sensible!

Anyway after waking and launching myself for two hours into Tim Winton’s ‘Cloudstreet’ (what a magic dusty way with words), I finally roused myself from my chamber, showered, fed the cat. Straight for the tea and toast. Smothered in leatherwood honey (the toast, not me). And now I’ve got the biggest, loudest, most irrational craving for butter chicken. Or potato cakes. So why is it that when we’re sick and snotty all we crave is simple pleasures? You could come flouncing in here with your horn of plenty overflowing with crays and champagne, and all I’d be asking is “but where’s the toast?”. I dare say I would even turn my nose up at a Craigie Knowe Cab Sav (gasp!), saying “can I have a cup of tea please?” Some days life has a way of putting things into perspective.

Anyway, seeing as how I’m all fey and wan and unable to dine with orgiastic abandon this weekend … I call upon the HRB sprites to away! away! and return with tales of joy or woe to stuff our heads with nonsense (beats snot anyway).

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Athena and the Minotaur

It's the first day of summer. It's grey out there, there's a chill in the air, and I'm getting a cold …

Oh and it’s official, I’m going straight to hell on the back of a Minotaur, cos here I go with some gossip. It’s a tale of classic Greek foes facing off in a silent assault on service standards in Hobart. The combatants: Athena’s (lovely location on the pier) and Mezethes (great atmosphere in the old Mr Wooby’s spot). Both serve classic Greek food with not a little focus on seafood.

Confronted, as I was, by a new acquaintance in Barcelona (the bar, not the city), I was left mouth agape by the tale she told of her experience the previous night at Athena’s (the restaurant, not the goddess’ house):

“We were kept waiting for our food for two hours, we were really patient but finally we got a bit annoyed, but when we complained to the man and asked for a free drink as compensation we were told … ‘I’m not saying sorry for anything, I didn’t do anything wrong’. We thought this was a bit rough and wanted to complain about his bad attitude … but then we found out this guy was the owner!”

Wow! Stunning ennui from someone who obviously doesn’t feel the need to ensure repeat business!

The irony of this story is that on the night in question I was bound for Mezethes with a gaggle of raucous 30-something women, with whom I’d been drinking for the previous couple of hours. We were late, we were loud, we tried not to be obnoxious. We broke glasses, we spilt drinks, we sang loudly with the musicians roaming the room, and a diner at another table (quite rightly) shot in our direction a “Look at Moiye”. We had a fabulous time, the food was okay (yeah, I know, just okay), but the service was warm and hospitable and friendly and accommodating. It was as if the only thing that mattered was us having a good time. Such a different experience to my new acquaintance’s encounter with the management at Athena’s … and so much cheaper!

I went to Athena’s when they first opened, hoping for an experience akin to the exquisite Greek seafood I encountered years earlier at Nick’s in St Kilda. I was so under-whelmed by the seafood and by the service at Athena’s that it has never occurred to me to go back. Similarly, whenever I speak with anyone else who has dined there, I hear a similar tale.

But that’s okay, cos by the sounds of it, the management of Athena’s is doing just fine with one-off diners. They seem to be quite happy to leave the repeat business to Mezethes.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Get a Life

How do some people manage to get their faces in the paper? I pondered this question as I supped on a late and leisurely yum cha at Sen’s this afternoon (despite an average reputation for take away, Sen’s has a good range of freshly prepared yum cha – I continue to mourn the passing of the yum cha trolleys, but the food is good, and staffed mostly by Asian students the service tends to be changeable but today excellent). Anyway, back to the faces in papers issue. My interest was piqued by an article in the Sunday Age’s magazine “Sunday Life”. It promised to tell me the secrets of “what makes an eatery worthy of a repeat performance”. But alas, aside from obviousisms such as consistently good food and warm professional service (hmmm where have heard this before?), the article focused on annoying profiles of “The France-Soir Fans” (Melbourne), “The Inner-City Experimentalists” (Sydney), and “The Flavour Addict”. Wealthy (one must assume) hedonists who were keen to avoid cooking at all costs. The Experimentalists (oh, please!) were so radical as to refrain from installing a proper kitchen in their converted Sydney warehouse (must do wonders for the re-sale value) because they eat out six nights a week. The Flavour Addict ate out most days at The Pier, where staff have “catered to their quirks” such as self-applied salad dressing (how radical) and helping his wheel-chair bound wife (I’m sure she would slap me if I referred to this as a “quirk” of hers). I found this article to be more about the attitudes and personalities of some diners than anything to do with what makes a restaurant great. To me much of the pleasure in eating out is the search for the great meal, the ‘great time’. I’m not sure how I would feel if I reached the zenith of my search and lazily repeated it every night. It sounded such a hollow pursuit to me. Sure I’d eat out every night if I could, and I’d eat great food at home every night if I could, and I’d hold or attend great dinner parties every night if I could. And I’d be just as happy with some nice soup and crumpets every night. And isn’t this the point? There is so much to be enjoyed, so much to be experienced and tasted. Rather than envying these poor buggers who eat in the same establishment restaurants night after night, I felt pity for what this article portrayed as a profound poverty of spirit of culinary adventure.

GW the HRB

Friday, November 26, 2004

How To Be A Bitch

Instructions for being a good Bitch: Don’t reveal your sources, don’t blow your cover, and don’t let it go to your head.

Time for a bit of cloak and dagger work. I’d love you all to get out there and take on the world. Think a restaurant needs a slap? Add a comment to this site (anonymously if you prefer). If you want to email a comment to me, please do so and if it’s appropriate (i.e., doesn’t ask me out on a date, doesn’t incite racial hatred, doesn’t support the other G Dubbya) I will add it to the site. I promise to protect your identity, your integrity, and your right to freedom of speech. Just remember, if you put your name on this blog, don’t go booking into restaurants under the same name! Use mine and let me know what happens! Hobart is after all a small town and there are always those in the know (believe me, I know!).

Get out there and have a great weekend!
GW the HRB

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Money Shot

I’m a bit tired and sunburnt tonight, so forgive me while I have a bit of a tanty. But, why is it lately that main course dishes let me down so? I have had countless entrees that have thrilled me to the back palette with innovative flavours and design. Yet time and again I have been uninspired by main course menus and thoroughly under-whelmed by main course flavours and textures. Do restaurants have separate chefs designing their entrée courses? Is the domain of main courses the elephants’ graveyard of the kitchen, the knackers yard of the sad, bored, and bereft? Or is there a Main Course Gulag where short, stumpy, hairy, be-warted chef-trolls slave away in chains?

Worse still, the truth: The main course is the money shot. Let the chefs have their head with the entrée, but make sure Nanna is satisfied with her main. PLEASE! Give me credit for some intelligence! Don’t expect that a ridiculous amount of something-mash is going to excite me. It won’t! Don’t expect me to dutifully order an entrée and a main just cos that’s what I’m supposed to do. I won’t!

I have stopped ordering main courses. I’ll leave them for someone else to be disgruntled with. From now on I will order two entrees because the sheer volume of food in most mains is gratuitous and offensive. Or I will order an entrée and a salad because they are the most interesting items on your menus. But most perniciously, I will only order an entrée because you don’t deserve over twenty bucks for a plate of boredom!

GW the HRB

Monday, November 22, 2004

Little Georgie and the Dragon

It was early. I was bleary-eyed and tousle-haired. I stumbled into Sal's take-away asking for some change for the voucher machine. It was Sunday, the helpful girl behind the bain-marie reminded me, not necessary. Phew. I staggered ahead along the corridor that runs from Sal's take-away into Sal's restaurant, expecting them to be open for breakfast. They weren't. Hmm, oh well. But as I stretched out my hand for the door to the quarry she emerged. A fire-breathing dragon. In Sal's. Seriously!

"ARE YOU RIGHT, MADAM?" it roared, "WE'RE NOT OPEN YET". Poor wee peasant-girl Georgie Weston, caught in the fiery gaze of the dragon, was frozen with fear. "I was just going to meet a friend..." … "THIS ISN'T A THOROUGHFARE" belched the dragon "... for breakfast", stammered little Georgie. I tried and tried to explain that my friend was meeting me by the fountain before we broke our fast at either Sal's or Machine, depending on who was open. But the dragon continued on and on and on, roaring over the top of me "BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, THOROUGHFARE, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH". Its face flashed from red to purple to a really ugly green. Georgie began to feel very very small, not at all like a grown-up empowered consumer. Suddenly, from somewhere behind her ear, Georgie’s guardian angel whispered: “You are the customer Georgie, you have the power”. And then from somewhere deep down in her boots, Georgie found a little glimmer of courage. She straightened her back, she stood a little taller, and she faced up to the dragon. She fixed it with a withering gaze of her own and declared "But we won't be dining here now! Thank you". And with that she turned confidently and with dignity, she took hold of the door handle and walked calmly and proudly into the warm sunshine of the quarry, while the dragon gargled and gurgled and spluttered behind her.

Meanwhile, a stalwart of the Hobart tourism scene was seen sipping his well-earned latte from a perch outside The Parthenon, unaware of the legend of little Georgie and the Dragon. He'd had his own history with Sal's and had a point to prove. In a fitting display of peacockishness, he was overheard to declare to Sal's management: "That's right mate, we're over here cos your service sucks".

Maintain the rage my friends!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

A Peek Into Another World

Like Alice through the Looking Glass, so did Georgie Weston step gingerly into the world of literature this evening. I attended a book launch for a writer I did not know. The editor of the Tasmanian Times (www.tasmaniantimes.com) was acting as the "introducer" for the author and was introduced by a third man wearing a leather jacket and Greek sailor's cap. With my trusty glass of wine in my hand the irony struck me: This is like the scene from Bridget Jones' Diary when Mr Tits-Pervert needed Bridget to introduce him before he could introduce the author! Far be it for this humble writer to criticise literary protocol (I'm sure this is traditional, polite practice at such events, not a comment on individual's egos), but it made me chuckle. The introducer (Linz to some, Tuffin to others) was true to his reputation - fine words, sharp wit, good grace. The local author in question, Geoff Dean, previously unknown to me (not that that's saying much), impressed with his verve, his style, his painterly words, his sensitivity, and his hat. His book is called 'The Literary Lunch: Selected Stories'.

In attending this event, I was humbled to think that this site is a baby step into this world, and that if you are reading this I am in some way reaching out and bringing you into my world.

Nothing to say tonight about food or about wine, just wanted to say thank you listening.

R.I.P. Mr Roos,
GW the HRB

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Tasmanian Tourism Awards Dirty Little Secret

We should all be aware by now of the dodgy nature of some of the ‘gold medals’ emblazoned on bottles of wine. But I was stunned to find out a little known ‘dirty secret’ behind the Tasmanian Tourism Awards. Congratulations to all the winners and all that, but BLOODY HELL, I was shocked!

Before I proceed, let me tell you I really do like Peppermint Bay (www.peppermintbay.com.au). I haven’t tried the fancy shmancy restaurant yet, but I think The Local (i.e., the pub-esque bit with the funky tables) is pretty darn good. Cheap pizzas (reputedly “ace”) and pretty scrummy seafood chowder (take note Rockerfellers), most meals are around the $10 mark (even their very good steak is only $16 or so), and there's a cozy little lounge area like something from a 1970s knitting catalogue (in a good way!). So, I was not surprised by PB’s recent gong at the Tas Tourism Awards. Well done PB, well done Simon Currant, job well done, gong well won. … But did I mention BLOODY HELL.

You and I would think that to win an award for outstanding professional excellence and tourism magnificence, one must be nominated right? WRONG! The awardees APPLY for these awards. They fill in screeds of paperwork and try to meet selection criteria etc etc and then cross their fingers. So, I hear you say, that's a surprise. But hey, Peppermint Bay still won on their merits and that's really great. Except that in their category, Peppermint Bay was the ONLY APPLICANT.

So in the interest of consumer education I pass along this little tid-bit to encourage educated decision making by locals and tourists alike. Don’t be lazy. We’re getting better at reading the gold labels before letting them trick us into thinking the “Wandin Valley Croquet Club’s Quaff of the Christmas Party Award” is equivalent to a thumbs up from the hard core wine fraternity. So let’s get equally canny about the subliminal influence exerted by potentially empty tourism awards.

But well done Peppermint Bay, keep up the standard. And as I lay me down to sleep, I pray you won’t become complacent.

GW the HRB

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Defamation ... Have I Left My Diary on the Bus?

Now I don't know about you, but I've always been a note taker. I'll write on buses, on planes, on serviettes, on keno tickets. You name it, I've probably written on it. Even wrote on someone's willy once, but that's another story. Anyway, being a prolific documenter of all that passes before my gaze and between my ears, I've been rather partial to the diary. I used to have a wall calendar that I used as a diary when I was 13. Until I started bitching about my family it served its purpose rather well. Then I had the little lock n key diary. How pathetic are those locks? I've had diaries hidden under mattresses, behind beds, under undies, everywhere. But I've never lost a diary. And here's the thought that struck me at about midnight the other night after several 9th Island's (sparkling of course).

Is a blog like leaving your diary on the bus?

Well some would say no, a blog is written with an anonymous faceless audience in mind. But isn't a diary. Doesn't every 13 year old girl dream that the boy she hankers after will read her words of love and come sweep her away on a brilliant steed? Doesn't every angry angsty teen hope secretly that their father/sister/teacher will read their rantings and be impressed/flabbergasted/devastated? I suppose the difference is we don't go about leaving our diaries on buses on purpose. Although who did I think I was kidding with that calendar?

So why is this relevant to the HRB? Well a very wise soul who knows such things wondered if the old GW might be setting herself up Leo-Schofield-like for a legal smack on the arse. So I got to thinking ... could a restaurant sue me for this site? Well your honour, surely a bad opinion is based upon a bad experience. And surely all intelligent readers of the HRB (note: all readers of the HRB are highly intelligent, I know this to be fact), anyway, surely all intelligent readers of the HRB would be wise enough to know not to take ol' Georgie Weston's say-so that a restaurant sucks?

Dear readers, I trust your intelligence and your integrity. If you wonder if my opinion is representative of a pervasive problem in a restaurant, or if it is simply MY opinion of ONE bad experience ... go forth and test your particular hypothesis. And let me (and His Honour over there) know your verdict.

So much for blogging briefly ... you may now return to what you were doing.

GW the HRB

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

When is a Scallop Not a Scallop?

I’ve been having a very hard time with my conscience this week. I bullied a friend into complaining about a bad wax job that left button grass plains sprawling across her legs. Eventually she proudly declared that having complained (politely and constructively), the proprietors of the house of wax sought her advice on what could have caused the problem (she thought inadequate lighting), and they are attempting to rectify same.

So, to my conscience. The self-same friend is now bullying me to make a complaint about a meal I had not long ago at Rockerfeller’s. The trouble is, I’m finding it really hard. Especially as time has passed, and I’m not as angry today as I was.

The scenario: Business colleague visiting from interstate. I had not been to Rockerfeller’s for a very long time and was hankering for an excuse to go back (it’s the fond memories of the affogato that gets me every time). So off we went, with visions of coffee and ice cream and frangelico dancing before my eyes.

The problem: Firstly, the large antipasto platter bore none of the promised seafood the menu had led me to expect (unless you count tiny bits of smoked salmon inside nori rolls – which I don’t). Secondly, the seafood chowder (quite delicious) came with a very 70s looking piece of home-made garlic bread (not nice) and bullets. Yes, there were bullets in my chowder! Who’d have thought? I was told they were scallops, but I know what a scallop looks and tastes like, and I certainly know the feeling of a juicy scallop exploding in my mouth. Scallops these were not. Bullets, that’s what they were.

Anyway, so I’m still battling the task of writing a polite, constructive note of criticism to the dear folk at Rockerfeller’s. How will they ever know there’s a problem if I don’t tell them? Maybe they too suffer inadequate lighting and need only to be informed. How else could anyone mistake a bullet for a scallop?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Complacency is Catching

I’ve been doing some research to provide you with some alternate points of view, thinking perhaps we have been off on a Tas-Bash rant of late. I’ve been reading the Tasmanian Times (www.tasmaniantimes.com) letters page this morning, and began to dread becoming Mr Roos or Ms/Mr KB (read: ranting and/or bitter-&-twisted). So I resolved (1) to keep these blogs brief and to the point. Then I jumped the link to the Review Hobart site (www.reviewhobart.com). Goodness me, what a pretty site. Unfortunately the reviews of Bangkok Wok and Island Café seemed to me, how-shall-I-say … naff? Please forgive me, but the reviewers came across as if they were trying to prove that they really are good writers, and these reviews really are just a hobby. (Cue images of eager-beaver writing students dressed as Sugar Plum Fairies). Well, hey, nothing wrong with that, but surely the point of a review site is to review … not to promote. So then I resolved to (2) maintain this site’s initial intention … spew forth with seething, burning, indigestion-inducing rage at being force-fed expensive, lazy, tourist-food.

So. Yesterday, I was speaking with an acquaintance in the hospitality industry about this very issue. I said: blah, blah, blah “so complacent”. She said: “Have you tried Lickerish?”. I said: blah, blah, blah “yeah, it’s alright, but …”. She said: “Yeah, but it’s the best out there at the moment”.

And I rest my case Your Honour!

GW the HRB

Friday, November 05, 2004

Are We Just Snobs?

For one reason and another I found myself in NoCRo this morning (i.e., North-of-Creek-Road, alright, Glenorchy). As I pulled up outside Banjo’s in Main Rd (it was EARLY, nothing else was open!) I got to thinking about my lovely banter yesterday with Jamey about coffee. Banjo’s was very busy for so early in the morning, people buying their kids school lunches (!), buying the paper, buying coffee. It was crowded inside and raining outside. Anyway … as luck would have it, the woman behind the counter was too busy to serve me and called for assistance from the staff out back (i.e., the bakers and their apprentices). Oh my goodness, I thought to myself, I am about to be served coffee made by a baker. Should be interesting. So, the coffee was duly ordered from the medieval minstrel, I mean baker. It wasn’t a latte, it may not have even been skinny milk, and when I lifted the lid, if I hadn’t seen its preparation with my own eyes, I would have wondered if it was even coffee. Naturally my thoughts turned to Jamey’s witticism about the Perth truckstop’s International Roast and hot milk. Did it serve me right? In my very best Carry Bradshaw voice I heard myself ask: Are We Just Snobs?

Surely there are decent restaurants with many a loyal local patron in the northern suburbs. (And I will slap anyone who suggests Moorilla). So I pulled out my trusty 2005 phonebook (always carry one in my back pocket), in search of potentially divine dining in the northern suburbs, and this is what I found. First I was assaulted with the visual audacity of Mure’s full-page technicolour ad (featuring a cluttered table bearing some kind of seafood scrum). But it gets better. Very next page … full-page Drunken Admiral ad featuring a daggy empty pine table setting (mmm, definitely gets my appetite fired up!). And on and on with full-colour full-page ads ranging from the sublime (no, actually I made that up) to the ridiculous (they were all ridiculous). And then I saw it … like a shining beacon of hope. Nosh Pit. Homestyle Cooking. A La Carte & Buffet. Children Welcome. Regular Entertainment. New Norfolk.

Now, for all I know, Nosh Pit is some kind of New Norfolk slang for arm pit. But the thought of a buffet plus children plus entertainment has sent my heart all aflutter. I’ve heard good things (from a very unreliable source) about Verandahs in New Norfolk, and the Bush Inn does do a fairly traditional counter meal (remember those?). But for Glenorchy, the locality guide in the phone book only lists the China City Restaurant (Dine In & Take Away). Or there is the Hilltop at Granton (“… an intimate restaurant, stunning river views, great food, personal service, no parking worries, and a conference and function centre for 20 to 200”). I wondered if there could be a hidden, secret place, where the locals know how good the food is, how great the service is, and where everyone knows your name. I wondered if there was a place where it was warm inside and the food made you squeal with child-like delight. I wondered if I should put my prejudices aside and explore the northern suburbs with gay abandon. And then I thought, how could I possibly cover all the options alone? So, dear readers, I beseech you, go forth and discover. Go where no HRB has gone before. Discover the northern eateries and let me know what you find.

I double dare you.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Aaaaaahhhhhh ... Coffee

Ok, so coffee seems to be the topic du jour (see comments from Barry and Jamey). I’m okay with that because I am a coffee addict. Yes I am. I’m addicted and I’m proud. Not as addicted as some, but an addict nonetheless. Addicted, addicted, addicted! Now that I’ve got that out of my system …

Ok. Hand’s up who hates the bitter taste of bad coffee coupled with burnt milk? Thought so. I’ve had really bad coffee at Sticky Fingers (what was I thinking?) and Harbour Lights (on the waterfront), and lots of very average coffee from Sals (Salamanca), Kafe Kara (gasp!), and just about every restaurant in Hobart. Although I’ve equally had great coffee at each of these establishments and at Zum and T42. If you’re not after eggs (sorry Jamey, but it’s not always about the food), then Machine Laundry Café is rather fab. But don’t even mention Maldini to me … I’m still suffering the trauma!

So where does the HRB go for a coffee when the craving really hits hard? Firstly (and I know you’re not going to like this one), Hudson’s (gasp! choke!). Sorry. I know the whole paper cup thing is an issue for some, and I am risking my credentials flying out the window (oops, too late, there they go), but I have never had a bad coffee there. However, the whole serve-yourself, fight-the-mums-for-a-seat, try-to-talk-over-the-gaggle-of-Collegiate-girls thing is jarring to the nerves (added to a caffeine jolt, that can be just dangerous!). So the alternate haunt?

Barcelona. Yes, yes, yes, I have gone completely mad. But they literally have the BIGGEST coffee cups on the planet. I swear it’s true. AND the coffee in those buckets is actually good gear. Now I know I said I was a coffee addict, but coffee GLUTTON is more like it. Coffee in a bucket gets me all excited (actually, that added to a caffeine jolt probably isn’t safe either).

Take away coffee? Well yes there’s Hudson’s there too. OR you could do something out of the ordinary and go to the Backdoor Café (in the atrium behind Rockerfeller’s). Good coffee. Seriously good coffee. And tell the proprietor Julie your name just once, and she’ll remember it for life! And of course, you can then sit in the atrium and enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

GW the HRB

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


It would appear that I have picked at the scab of dissatisfied diners everywhere. See the recent comment from SJC below (a spray well worthy of the Hobart Restaurant Bitch of the Year Award)! There is a saying among people who apparently know: People in Hobart won’t complain, they just won’t come back. Well, get angry I say! Complain until your spleen will vent no more! Share the load with other like-minded, thinking souls and you shall be set free! Bugger not going back – tell wait staff if they are rude, tell restaurateurs if their restaurant could do with a kick up the butt, and for the love of all that is Holy – tell them if their menu is a carbon copy of everyone else’s! And then tell them that you WILL be back and you WILL expect an improvement!

That ought to get them thinking (one would hope).

GW (The HRB)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Drink Drive, Bloody Idiot

A wee thought occurred to me this morning about how to do two good deeds for humanity in one fell swoop.

Firstly, hype about Tasmania's wine industry is a little out of control at present. And lets face it, we're not experiencing spectacular wines across the board (what wine region does?), however we are seeing a spectacular preponderance of cardboard cutout wineries ... do we really need to pay so much for wine just to pay off the business loans taken out by small wineries in order to compete with Home Hill in Ranelagh (admittedly a magnificent building). Case in point - Meadowbank (another fairly substantial building, wonderful view, great play area for the kids). The sparkling (Mardi) is a lovely drop. Subtly sweet honey hues. However ... $43 a bottle??? Come on!!

Secondly, we all know the perils and idiocy (and temptations) of drink driving. There was a wonderful advertising campaign a while back that said "If you drink and drive, you're a bloody idiot". Even Chopper Read got in on the action - chest bared, tattoos in all their bic ink glory, touting the range of injuries he had sustained in his alter ego as criminal thug (because now that he's an author that makes him a good guy, right?). Anyway, Chopper goes on in the ad to say: "If you drink and drive, you'd better not end up in prison" (subtext: "with me").

So, to the point of this entry. How do we avoid falling for the hype of Tasmanian wine and wineries, source the good gear (wine wise), and at the same time reduce the horrific road toll???? My solution ... drink Craigie Knowe's sumptuous Cabernet Sauvignon (if you can, dig out the 1999 vintage - fairly brought tears to my eyes!).

How does this solve the above range of problems? Well, the attitude of Craigie's skilled artison of a vintner/vignon/winemaker/creator of great grog, John Austwick, is simple, spend the money on making a great wine, not a shiny winery (his rustic barn filled with vats and barrels and beakers and test-tubes is testament to this). In addition, John was once a maxillo-facial surgeon and he tells tales of the horrors of being called in to operate on accident victims in the 1970's (pre-seatbelts!) . Stop and think about that image for a minute (not pretty, is it).

So, drink Craigie Knowe (cos it's a bloody good wine) and while doing so, remember the 1970's John Austwick (pre-winemaking) operating on bloodied faces. That ought to help avoid the temptation to drink and drive (wouldn't want to be a bloody idiot, now, would you!).

Monday, November 01, 2004

A Little Seafood Spray

Well here I go. Less than 24 hours since the site came into being and I’m away with a bit of a spray. First, let me say I am not going to pull punches on this site. Names will be named – it is my intention to be firm but fair. However, this will hurt you much more than it will hurt me!

Living in the land of milk and honey, one can be forgiven for expecting two things. Milk. And Honey. So, on an island one can perhaps be forgiven for expecting two things. Seafood. And knowledge in its preparation. (Although we do have lots of cows and bees, so I think we may just squeeze into the milk and honey category too!)

Now hear this: The nineteen-eighties are over!

Fish live in water, that does not mean they are equally at home being drowned in sauces! An old adage handed down to me by the late great Ida O’Malley reads: if you can’t smell the fish in the fish dish, something’s off! Well, all right, Ida probably never really said that … but she would have if she’d thought of it first.

So, back to naming names. How is it that Prosser’s and Mure’s consistently win so many seafood awards? And why is it that so many Hobartians love Kelley’s. I don’t know the answer – except to say that the Holy Trinity of Divine Dining (food, service, ambience) is not evident in these three establishments. They are each in their own ways a bit like a wonky wheelbarrow spilling seafood chowder about the garden.

Granted, Kelley’s seafood treatment isn’t bad. But is it me or are Ken Done tablecloths and poorly framed photos of the owner/chef/whoever surfing really going to make me feel better about the bill at the end of the night? AMBIENCE … You have a lovely, historic cottage in which to weave your magic. Don’t be so lazy Kelley’s and co (cos you’re not alone in this crime!).

As for Mure’s and Prosser’s … that’s just an appetiser. I’m going to save them up for later. Digest the above, give me your feedback, and maintain the rage!

Happy dining!

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Having Had a Gut Full

There comes a time when we've all had enough. Enough to drink, enough to eat, enough of other stuff. It's come to the point now where the hype of Tasmanian food and wine should be called to account. That is the point of this page, and I hope you'll bear with me as I take you on a journey of pissing and moaning about the state of affairs in my fair city. Hate to be negative, but hey, that's life. I'm also hoping to 'stir the possum' (as someone once said to me) and get those in lala restaurant land thinking about things other than the lint in their navels and the length of their wine lists. Fingers crossed that by the time I'm finished, they'll think twice before using the terms 'jus', 'rosti', and 'confit' with such abondon.

Bon appetit!