Saturday, 7 September 2013

Ethos Eat and Drink - creativity and symmetry

Google Maps is a lifesaver.  A bit melodramatic?  Maybe, but it's certainly pretty handy when you are in an unfamiliar city, it's dark and you are running a little bit late for a reservation at a restaurant and you have no idea where you are going.  I've always been terrible at directions and forget about the ability to read a map, I am hopeless.  I recently found myself in Hobart with an early dinner reservation and unusually for me I was running a bit late.  I had a booking for Ethos Eat and Drink and it was in a part of town that I had never been to and it was dark and I have to say that the street signs are infuriatingly missing in Hobart.  Anyway, thanks Google Maps, you got me there on time.

When I was looking around on the 'interweb' for a restaurant for dinner, there were a number of restaurants that excited me, many of which were recommended over twitter (thanks again Lani). Unfortunately my choices were restricted somewhat by the limited opening hours of restaurants in Hobart, they seem to be a Wednesday to Sunday affair in the capital of Tasmania.  Nevermind, I still had a few great options to choose from and I was particularly captivated by the approach to the menu at Ethos Eat and Drink, so it became an easy choice.

There are a couple of really interesting things about Ethos Eat and Drink, first of which is the age of the building in which the restaurant is housed.  The oldest part of the restaurant was constructed in 1820 and served as the stable yard and carriageway of the Old Hobart Hotel.  The second is their approach to food, which is to source all of the foods from local producers, where produce is delivered in small batches the day it is sourced, a fact that owners Ian Todd and Chloe Proud are, well, proud of!  Their approach is to treat the pristine produce with minimal intervention and respect.  The approach has certainly worked well for them, they have a loyal following and a coveted chef's hat from the Australian Good Food Guide.

Once Google Maps had informed me I was at my destination, I was at the beginning of a very old looking underpass, that would have passed as the stable entrance, back in the day.  It was brightly lit in the gloomy Tasmanian evening and held the promise of great things, which was confirmed when I traversed the 'tunnel' and came to an equally old courtyard that encompassed a very modern looking enclosure to the restaurant, the juxtaposition was incredible.  I was warmly greeted by the staff and led through the restaurant to my seat, which transformed from the modern facade to a much older dining area that had lots of lovely rendered brick and felt warm and welcoming.

There is no set menu at Ethos Eat and Drink, at least not in the traditional sense.  I was presented with a list of several dozen ingredients and simply asked if I was allergic to any of them, then told that the menu changes daily depending on what fresh produce has been delivered.  Once I indicated that there was nothing on the lovely looking list that frightened me or that I was allergic to, the kitchen set to work to get my eight course degustation menu under way.

First to arrive and not officially part of the eight courses was an amuse bouche of jerusalem artichoke with creme fraiche.  The artichoke was sliced incredibly thin and were lightly fried to create chips and covered a dollop of lightly flavoured creme fraiche.  The small bit was like a piece of art on a specially designed plate that framed the beautiful looking amuse bouche.  The crunchy chips blended beautifully with the smooth cream underneath.  There was a little bitterness and sweetness mixed in here which tantalised the tastebuds at the promise of more to come, exactly what a great amuse bouche should do.

Out shortly after the amuse was the first course which was oyster and fennel agrodolce.  The Bruny Bay oyster was one of the largest I have ever seen with fat succulent flesh that was fresh and tasted of the sea.  The fennel and agrodolce puree was an interesting blend of sweet and sour, but very subtle and did not take away from the freshness of the produce.  I was again struck by how beautiful the presentation was for such a simple dish.

Continuing the trend of simple yet stunning looking dishes was the quail egg with pickled zucchini and flowers.  There was a wonderful symmetry with the round plate, zucchini and quail egg, with contrasting and organic flowers to add a little chaos to the plate.  The quail egg was sourced locally in Frankston and was hard boiled, which surprised me somewhat as I was expecting a warm and oozy egg.  The fact that it was hard boiled actually enhanced the dish by not mixing the flavours of the egg over the lightly pickled zucchini.  The contrasting flavours of the sweet egg and the zingy zucchini was lovely and left me wanting more.

When you talk about simplicity on a plate, you are surely talking about the next piece of art that was delivered.  The port terrine with preserved lemon and chickweed was very different from what I was expecting, but in hindsight was perfectly attuned with the whole meal.  The terrine was salty pork at its absolute best, good on its own, but when I mixed in the tart flavour of the preserve it was amazing. The pork sourced from the Ethos local supplier on Bruny Island was was made primarily from the pig heads.  I really like this dish, but it was not my favourite of the night.

That honour went to the next dish of slow cooked duck egg, leeks, black garlic and a carrot chard. The duck egg was slowly cooked at 60 degrees and was so perfectly cooked that when you cut through the duck egg, it didn't ooze out but retained a jelly like consistency but was still soft and gooey.  What elevated this dish was the carrot chard, which had such an intense flavour when mixed with the duck egg yolk it almost made me weep.  The combination of all of the flavours on the plate were best when combined on one fork, so the balance was about as perfect as you will ever see.  I could hear the discussion about this dish around the restaurant and it was clear I was not alone with my thinking.

With a meal of this nature, you want the dishes to get better and better, so it was hard to see where Ethos could go from such an amazing dish.  As it turns out, the next dish of house made charcuterie with mustard and pickled fennel was my least favourite dish of the night.  I'm not entirely sure if it was because the previous duck dish was so good, or it just didn't measure up.  Included in the dish was five week old beef that had been rubbed in pepper, aged pork loin a salted and minced pork rosette.  Each of the meats were OK, but I have had some very special meats recently and these were a bit let down.

Fearing that Ethos Eat and Drink had peaked early, I was worried about the next dish.  Of course my fears were unfounded with a lovely looking and very tasty lamb loin with lamb's tongue lettuce and chimichurri.  The lamb was again sourced from Bruny Island and was cooked expertly to a perfect pink and was sweet and delicious.  The lamb's tongue lettuce was more than a play on ingredients, it really worked well with the sweet pork loin and the zingy chimichurri was the icing on the cake, just a wonderful dish and it was pushing for my second favourite dish of the night.

Last of the savory courses was an interesting dish.  Visually it was the most dramatic and beautiful dish of the night, very contemporary looking.  However, the bay trumpeter with celeriac, radish, kohl rabi with baby carrots didn't  quite hit the high notes of the rest of the meal.  I think the main issue was the seasoning of the trumpeter, which was a bit bland.  I have never had trumpeter before, so I don't know if its a strong flavoured fish, but there was not a lot of flavour coming from the fish itself.  The remainder of the plate was filled with fresh and tasty vegetables that seemed out of place with the bland fish.  I think a different fish would have elevate the flavours to match the visual appeal of the plate.

I was completely stuffed by the time the dessert was delivered and I wondered if I would be able to eat it all.  Luckily it was a fairly light course and the apple sorbet, miso sponge, cumquat and biscuit ended up being a great way to finish the meal.  The miso sponge was slightly burleed, which gave an interesting texture and flavour to the cake.  The apple sorbet was sharp and very refreshing on the palate and was a good way to cleanse the palate at the end of the meal.  The cumquat was very sharp and a bit bitter and I regret eating it all in one go, it was a bit much.  While the dessert was great, I can't help wondering if something a little sweeter would have been a better way to finish off the meal.

I was completely taken aback by my experience and meal at Ethos Eat and Drink, it was simply something I was not expecting.  The quality of the food did not surprise me, Tasmania should and could be considered the fresh food bowl of Australia, but I was surprised by the creativity and quality of the meal.  I'm not sure why I am surprised as there are great chefs and great ideas about food everywhere and with an abundance of amazing produce, it's only natural that Hobart would have top quality chefs.

I really loved the service on the night too, with my waiter being very informative and clearly passionate about the food that he was bringing over.  I received very detailed descriptions of the food, the location the food was sourced from and even details of the people who supplied the food.  All of the staff were very friendly and clearly loved working at Ethos.  This really helped enhance the vibe in the restaurant, which had old world charm mixed in with cutting edge food preparation.

It was a shame that I only had such a short period of time in Hobart, it's clear that there are some interesting and creative goings on in the area.  While my time was short in Hobart, I was extremely happy with my selection of Ethos Eat and Drink, it's right up my alley with their thoughts about food, great flavours and very creative approach.  I will certainly have to come back again some time with SC and hopefully this time, I won't need Google Maps to find my way back!


The rye bread was made on premises and the butter was hand churned.  You could really feel the love when eating the rye bread
The main dining area was warm and cozy 
Many of the light fittings in Ethos Eat and Drink were made from old bottles
The kitchen crew were hard at it
The front part of the restaurant had low ceilings and really felt like an old building
At the end of the tunnel was the Ethos courtyard, which was an excellent blend of old and new
Ethos Eat Drink on UrbanspoonEthos Eat Drink

1 comment:

  1. Looks Incredibly fresh, love the photos and presentation of the food


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