Friday, 6 September 2013

Smolt - My Hobart Experience

Hobart is just about as far away as you can get from Brisbane, excluding Perth of course, and I recently had cause to visit the capital city of the 'Apple Isle' for a whirlwind 24 hour period.  There are not a lot of direct flights to Hobart from Brisbane, but I was lucky enough to score a direct flight that would leave me with enough time to grab a late lunch.  So the question any reasonable foodie will ask in a situation like this is 'where do I go for lunch?'  

There are quite a few lovely looking restaurants in Hobart, but there is not a big blogger scene in the city, so I didn't have as many points of reference to do some research.  Of course I did a little bit of a poll on Twitter and had a few good suggestions (thanks Lani) but most of the great restaurants in Hobart are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.  Not being able to chose the day of my visit, it was a Tuesday and I had to deal with the hand dealt to me.  While I was somewhat limited, there were still some great options available to me and I had to decide on one.

There is a really cool area on the harbour at Hobart called Salamanca Place, which is well known for its Markets and shops, so I thought that this would be a great place to start looking.  Salamanca Place consists of rows of old sandstone buildings that were formerly warehouses for the port of Hobart Town, now converted to restaurants, galleries and 'ye olde worlde' shops.  I have to say its really cool looking and there is nothing in Brisbane that really compares, in fact it really reminded me of the Rocks in Sydney.

One of the restaurants that had caught my eye when doing research was Smolt; partly because of its unusual name, partly because of its great looking menu but mostly because it had a chefs hat from the Australian Good Food Guide.  The menu at Smolt has is heavily influenced by the amazing produce that is available in Tasmania and clearly focuses on seafood.  In fact Smolt is actually another name for a juvenile fish, so it was not a surprise to me to see the Smolt website prominently displaying swimming fish (albeit digital fish).  The lunchtime menu at Smolt also diversifies into gourmet pizzas, but there would be no pizza for me for lunch, it would be fish all the way.

While there were some interesting looking entrees on the menu, none was more appealing to me than the slow cooked octopus, which came bathed in a tomato broth and toasted sourdough.  I generally love octopus and I was keen to see how it would be prepared and presented in the southernmost capital in the country.  Smolt had taken a slightly different approach to some of the other restaurants I had been to lately by using both the tentacle and the 'head' of the cephalopod.  For some reason I was a bit squeamish when I took my first bite of the octopus head, the pieces looked just a little weird.  I soon hit my straps though and any apprehension I felt was dispelled by the expertly cooked flesh.  There was a subtle flavour of the sea still present which added a freshness to the meal.  For me, the best part was definitely the tentacles which were more familiar to me but I also really enjoyed soaking the toasted sourdough in the tomato broth.

Unsurprisingly, Tasmanian proteins featured heavily on the mains menu but I really wanted something that spoke of the 'Apple Isle' so I chose the grilled tassal salmon, faro and du puy lentil braise, chimichurri with chorizo and herb salad.  The dish was quite visually appealing in a messy and carefree way with lots of interesting colours contrasting on the plate.  The salmon itself was well cooked, but I found that it lacked a little bit of seasoning, so was just a little flat on the plate.  The chimichurri added a little bit of spice to the meal and worked well with the salmon but the element that gave the dish character was the chorizo.  The chorizo was cooked in an unusual way, it almost looked as if it was dehydrated yet still retained its moisture, it was weird, but it really added lovely flavour.  I wish there was more chorizo and less of the lentils, which I've never been a fan of.

It was late in the afternoon and I still had to find a place to visit for dinner, so decided not to grab some dessert with lunch and I was actually feeling pretty full from the first two courses.  I was sorely tempted by some of the lovely looking sweets, but sanity prevailed and I reluctantly asked for the bill.

I was surprised that it was so quiet in the Salamanca precinct, I had arrived for lunch at around 2:15pm and it seemed as if there was no one around.  Smolt still had a couple of people in the dining room, so I can only assume that it might have been busy with business people for lunch and the last few were reluctant to head back to work.

I loved the fit out at Smolt, which was both very natural and very modern, while still retaining some of the charm of the local area, which was clearly a historical area.  There is a more formal dining area down the back of the restaurant, along with a more casual dining area out front that would be ideal for a breakfast setting.

I got pretty good treatment from the wait staff, but the place was mostly empty so I would have expected pretty good service.  In fact, I really enjoyed my meal at Smolt even though there were some minor issues with seasoning of the fish.  It was part being in a new state and a new restaurant but mostly enjoying a nice meal on my own.  It seemed that the solitude of being in Hobart matched my mood of the moment and led to simple contentment.  Maybe there's something more to this southern state after all.

There is the old Simpsons quote "Don't fill up on bread" which I should have followed, but it was just so fresh and delicious I polished it all off before my entree arrived
A different view of my octopus
There was slightly too much of the lentils for my liking but the chorizo was lovely
The view from my seat
The largest group of people in the restaurant were right next to me.  It looked as if they had had a few of these
I just really loved the light fittings in Smolt
It was definitely quiet in the kitchen and it didn't take long for my meals to arrive
A nice modern look to the restaurant
Cake for the afternoon coffee crowd
A great spot to enjoy a coffee or breakfast 
A modern building amongst the old style buildings.  I liked the dichotomy 

Smolt on UrbanspoonSmolt

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