Tasmania is a funny old place when it comes to social profiling.
At a national level Tasmania has forever been grist for the comedian’s mill. Whether it’s being left off maps of Australia, accusations of overly close familial ties or being ridiculed in verse for the suggestive shape of its coastline, Tasmania cops a lot of flak.
You’d think that would bring us together as a State wouldn’t you? Banding together in the face of adversity to stick it up those bloody ‘Mainlanders’?
Take a closer look and you’ll find that not only is Tasmania considered a National outlier, but even within its borders the class divide is stronger than ever. With an imaginary line drawn east-west through the State, there is a distinct Northerner vs Southerner battle being waged within the war. Heaven help you if you order a Cascade draft beer in Devonport, I suspect you wouldn’t leave the pub alive! Likewise, ask a Hobartian what they think of Boags and they’ll wax lyrical on the unique faecal qualities of the water sourced from the Tamar for their ales (it isn’t by the way, it actually comes from the St Patricks River…but why let the truth get in the way of some good-natured discrimination?!).
Political history? I’m sure even most Tasmanians wouldn’t be aware but in the very early days of colonisation Tasmania was actually split into two ‘countys’ either side of the 42nd parallel (somewhere between the quaint townships of Ross and Campbelltown), Cornwall in the north and Buckinghamshire in the south. I doubt it.
Geography? Back in the day a journey between Hobart and Launceston was no stroll in the park, and with that divide must have evolved (devolved?) at least some element of ‘us-vs-them’? Possibly.
Human nature? Most likely!
I can’t speak for Launceston, but dig into Hobart’s social tapestry and, as I’ve alluded to on more than one occasion already, you’ll find an illusionary ‘flannelette curtain’ providing a north/south skirmish within the battle within the war, separating blue collar Hobart ‘north-of-Creek-Road’ from the toffs on the south side. Don’t believe me? Just check out the price of real estate!
With this in mind, I’m sure you can appreciate that for a couple of Hobartians like ourselves (from the Eastern shore no less!) a trip north is an adventure in itself; a metaphoric journey into Tasmania’s dark heart…
Whatever would we find?
Danger? (some would say braving the Midlands highway is enough excitement for one lifetime)
Romance? (Google Translate tells me that “Would you be so kind as to indulge my predilection for conjugal relations?” north of the border translates to “Hey love! Wanna root?”)
Tales of yore…? (do they even speak English? After my earlier Google Translate attempts I would suggest not…)
How about one of the finest restaurants that these Two Clowns have yet experienced in Tasmania?!!
Brisbane Street Bistro in the dark heart of Launceston is exactly that.
Located inside an old brick cottage, its unassuming façade doesn’t give much away. Step inside though and you will be transported to another world altogether.
Marrying traditional French cuisine with Tasmania’s fresh and seasonal produce, chef patron Terry Fidler has created an atmosphere of unassuming and refined elegance. The wait staff were attentive from the outset, acknowledging our desire to start slowly with a couple of pre-dinner drinks before bringing us the food menus later in the evening. It sounds easy, but so many venues seem to be in such a hurry to get you seated, take your drinks order, take your food order (preferably at the same time as the drinks order), serve it up, clear the table, NEXT! Not so at Brisbane Street Bistro.
While I’m sure the six-course degustation ($95 food only or $155 with matched wines) would have been incredible, we took the a la carte option this time, starting the evening with some soft bread rolls, a patty of butter that was simply divine, and a delicious cauliflower soup amuse bouche.
Appetiser consisted of a plate of Lease 65 oysters for myself ($21 – three natural and three Vietnamese), and the ocean trout confit with avocado mousse, sesame crust and pickled beets ($19) for Karen.
I found the natural oysters to be faultless, however as is so often the case, the Vietnamese version with its sweet and spicy lime dressing couldn’t compare, being just a little too sweet for my liking. You’d think I would have learnt by now that oysters should only ever be eaten natural!
The confit trout was rich, smooth and full of clever contrasts. A great appetiser to start the evening.
Entrées continued in fine form. The Parisienne gnocchi ($21) sounded really interesting to me, consisting of a single hand made choux gnocchi filled with braised beef shin, truffled potato foam, red wine jus & micro herbs.
Karen went for the warm mushroom salad ($20) made with sautéed farmed and local exotic mushrooms, Tasmanian black truffle, toasted brioche, and a parmesan crackling & custard.
Gnocchi is very rarely on my radar, but such a combination of ingredients couldn’t be resisted and assuredly delivered. The braised beef shin was as tender as you could hope, and would make the perfect dish for a frosty winter’s evening.
My photographic skills let me down with the mushroom salad, but that’s ok because it too was delicious! An odd combination of flavours that I haven’t experienced previously, yet the tiny explosions of flavour from the truffle and the soft bite of the parmesan complemented the fresh mushrooms perfectly.
By this point in the meal our bottle of red, on top of the pre-dinner drinks, on top of the pre-pre-dinner cider we had consumed on the way had well and truly kicked in! (so much for us Southerners setting a fine example in the restrained consumption of alcoholic beverages!)
I’m sure there were subtle nuances present in our mains, but all I know is that they tasted fantastic! A Persian spice crushed venison loin with a salad of roasted beets, pumpkin, labneh, and a quince jelly and green peppercorn jus for Karen ($39), while I ordered the grilled 42 day dry aged yearling beef porterhouse, with house cut fat chips, with both bearnaise and bordelaise sauces ($42).
The venison could not have been cooked any better. Rare to medium-rare, soft and totally satisfying. Again, a faultless dish.
My steak had also been cooked perfectly, however I did find the sauce to detract from the steak. Personal preference more than anything I guess, because I know some people rave over a good bearnaise sauce. The bordelaise sauce on the other hand was rich, full of depth and was a perfect companion to both the chips and the odd piece of unsullied beef.
No matter how much savoury food you manage to consume, there’s always a tiny corner with room for dessert!
I tried the rich callebaut chocolate terrine, with orange anglaise, peanut butter icecream and coffee tuille ($19), while Karen had the sticky apple pudding accompanied with caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream ($19).
And yes, I did finish off that red wine before starting on the dessert!
What a great way to finish the meal. I love my chocolate and Karen loves her puddings (and vice versa!). The peanut butter icecream had to be the star of both dishes in my mind though. Creamy, with the occasional piece of crunchy nut, it was just incredible.
We ventured north with trepidation, only to be blown away by the level of sophistication and elegance presented by Terry and the staff at Brisbane Street Bistro.
If you’re ever in town, don’t pass up the opportunity to dine at one of Tasmania’s best restaurants, just don’t order a Cascade Premium!
For more information, drop by their website here.
Alternatively, you can sign up to their Facebook page here.
Flavours – 9/10
Menu – 8.5/10
Ambience – 10/10
Service – 10/10
Value – 9/10
Overall – 9/10
Online presence – 8/10