We’re all creatures of habit, and when it comes to food Karen and I are no different.
Cold nights and lamb roasts, Christmas day and barbecued prawns, early morning post long-haul flight Hungry Jacks…. Sometimes you’re not looking for anything fancy, you simply yearn for the familiar.
Last weekend we managed to achieve both!
Some may say it’s the poor man’s cousin to birthdays, wedding anniversaries and even name days, but we’ve always found the time every year to celebrate our ‘going out’ anniversary.
Highschool camp, muted voices so as not to arouse the suspicions of the patrolling teachers, smuggled bourbon, I’ll say no more… but 20 years on it’s still a special memory and a special day. So to celebrate we thought we’d revisit an old Hobart favourite of ours, Monty’s on Montpelier.
Monty’s has never let us down, but we’d heard that the business had changed hands recently, so we weren’t really sure whether the standard would be as high as the last two or three times that we had eaten there.
In the end we had nothing to worry about, and to be honest the standard has actually risen over the years!
From the warm welcome we received upon stepping through the old timber door, to the two homely fires crackling away at either end of the converted homestead, to the impeccable service throughout the meal, there wasn’t a single thing with which we could find fault! Those of you who have been following this blog from the outset will know that I’m not afraid to wax lyrical regarding any real (or perceived) deficiencies in a dining establishment, but in this case I was at a serious loss!
Being such a special occasion, and knowing I didn’t have to drive us home, we decided to lash out and take ourselves on the culinary journey known as Monty’s Tasting Menu…with matched wines!!
Eight courses, six wines…this was one epic journey of the senses!
It obviously tasted divine, but where this menu elevated itself above the masses was in the inspired presentation and the clever interplay between textures and aromas. So often these days people seem to value quantity over quality, but to me that’s such a one-dimensional view of food. Food isn’t just a source of sustenance, in the right hands it has the potential to become something greater; a piece of art, an artist’s muse, a religious experience. It doesn’t necessarily need to break the bank either. As I discovered at Rin recently, simple foods invested with care and attention can be just as emotionally fulfilling as the most expensive silver service.
In this instance the dishes were small, yet each was a piece of art in its own right. When you look down at the dish in front of you and you literally catch your breath, momentarily reluctant to disturb the symmetry and beauty with your crude knife skills, you know that you’ve unexpectedly transitioned from the mundane to the extraordinary!
We both thought the first dish was a fantastic start to the evening, yet in hindsight it turned out to be our least favourite. Please bear in mind though that the term ‘least favourite’ is relative only to what was to follow! On it’s own it would still stand head and shoulders above most others.
Dish 1: Cauliflower mousse, spiced pork scratchings and keta.
Keta? It’s a type of salmon originating in the cold waters of Alaska and Russia, but in this case they had used the roe (eggs) from the keta to adorn the mousse. The tiny bursts of salt interspersed with the savoury pork scratchings and smooth cauliflower made for a very unique start to the meal!
Unfortunately the photo I took of this dish was very average, so rather than sully the experience, I’ll leave it to your imagination instead!
Dish 2: Atlantic salmon pastrami with grapefruit, lemon, yoghurt and red cabbage slaw
Wine 1: 2012 Clemens Hill Sauvignon Blanc, Coal River Valley, Tas
Seriously, how good does that dish look?!!
The deconstructed nature of this dish allowed us to mix the various flavours into whatever ratios took our fancy. Silky smooth salmon offset against the sharp citrus of the grapefruit and the crunchy tang of the cabbage…I didn’t think this could be beaten, but it ended up being my second favourite dish of the evening.
Dish 3: Terrine of confit chicken & smoked ham hock, cauliflower piccalilli
Wine 2: 2012 Parallax Organic Riesling, Penna, Tas
Another exercise in presentation, the vibrant colours of this dish were simply stunning. While the confit chicken and ham were like velvet on the palate, for me it was the sourness of the cauliflower piccalilli (relish) that gave this dish real punch.
The wine was also very good. I hadn’t heard of Parallax Vineyard, and it turns out that they are one of very few (if not the only) certified producers of completely organic wines in Tasmania. Located on only a couple of hectares near Penna, this tiny winery only produces a pinot noir and a riesling, but what they lack in variety, they more than make up for in flavour!
Dish 4: Jerusalem artichoke soup and pickled trompettes with white truffle oil
Wine 3: 2011 Stoney Vineyard Pinot Noir, Coal River Valley, Tas
Deceptively simple and lacking the visual impact of the previous dishes, quite surprisingly this was the highlight of the Tasting Menu for me. I’ve never come across such rich, deep flavours in a soup before.
This dish was also an exercise in brilliant wine matching. To my palate the pinot came across as being a few years away from full maturity. Yet the warm artichoke and hearty trompettes compensated for these deficiencies and you couldn’t help but feel that this was a perfect match!
Dish 5: Roast Blue Eye with banana prawns, shallots, spring garlic and black sesame
Wine 4: 2010 Barringwood Park ʻNorthbankʼ Chardonnay, North West Tas
By this stage the wines were well and truly starting to kick in! What stood out for me in this dish was the rich, dark and earthy sesame paste underlying and binding together the sweet Blue Eye and the tiny prawns. Great contrasts in flavour.
Dish 6: Wild Clover lamb, parsnips, red onion & caper, ras el hanout
Wine 5: 2008 Morningside Cabernet Sauvignon, Tea Tree, Tas
Honey I shrunk the roast!! With a rosy centre and caramelised crust, this was a perfectly cooked piece of lamb. If you could imagine your mum’s best roast of all time, compressed down to miniature size, then this is what you would get! Good old fashioned meat and two veg, spiced up with the North African ras el hanout, this seamlessly combined the familiar with the exotic.
A rather amusing anecdote regarding the wine served with this dish. I could have sworn that the waiter informed us that the Cabernet Sauvignon came from the Fern Tree vineyard. Now I had never heard of such a vineyard, and those that live in and around Hobart will know that Fern Tree is not exactly renowned for its sunny aspect and warm climes…quite the opposite in fact! I expressed my surprise to the waiter but no contradiction was forthcoming, so I was left to ponder the hows, whys and wherefores over the rest of the meal… It was only after getting home and sending the proprietor an email to confirm the wine selections that it became clear that in my obviously half-sozzled state that the waiter had actually said ‘Tea Tree’, not ‘Fern Tree’! Now that made a whole lot more sense!
Dish 7: Liquorice and mint
Such an odd combination of flavours, yet the perfect palate cleanser! A super smooth and minty ice cream, perched on top of a mountain of liquorice flavoured crumbs…so strange and so good!! I could have eaten this all night!
Dish 8: Peanut butter, chocolate & bananas
Wine 6: Campbells Rutherglen Topaque, Rutherglen, Vic
What a bizarre dessert! This was by far the richest and most filling of all the dishes presented throughout the night. I was a little concerned at first because I wasn’t getting any peanut butter flavours at all, but I suspect that in filling the glass bowl that it must have settled on one side, because as I moved my way through the bowl I suddenly struck gold! So creamy and smooth, the nutty goodness worked brilliantly with the classic combination of chocolate and bananas.
A sensational way to finish the night…and no, we won’t indulge in the cheese platter than you very much! These Two Clowns need to have a glass of water and a lie down…
Monty’s went above and beyond in all aspects of this meal. Service, presentation, ambience, flavours, wine matchings; it was all flawless.
Despite the gloomy economic outlook for the state, Hobart’s food scene has blossomed over the last couple of years. With this has come a consistent and very welcome increase in the quality of meals being presented to the paying public. This clearly presents a challenge to those well established businesses such as Monty’s, to either push themselves to greater heights, or to risk mediocrity and an unfortunate fall back to the rest of the pack. Monty’s has clearly taken on the challenge, improving their standard across the board while at the same time representing simply incredible value for money.
It may be hard to believe, but you’ll pay more for a meal at many of Hobart’s pubs than you will at Monty’s, with a la carte meals coming in at only $30-35. I challenge anyone to nominate better value anywhere in Tasmania!
In short, you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures if you fail to visit Monty’s at least once in your lifetime!
Taste – 5/5
Menu – 5/5
Atmosphere – 5/5
Service – 5/5
Value – 10/5
Overall – 5/5
I haven’t done a round up yet, so here goes:
Best breakfast in Hobart: Pilgrim
Best lunch in Hobart: Frogmore Creek (formerly Meadowbank)
Best dinner in Hobart: Monty’s on Montpelier
Do you agree? I’d love to know what you think!