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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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!