It’s been a number of years now since Garagistes opened it’s doors to much fanfare and wide spread acclaim. In that time I have looked on with ill-concealed envy as countless others have gushed, swooned and applauded the efforts of chefs Luke Burgess, William Gleave et al.
As a gastronome I am deeply ashamed that it took me so long to get there.
The reason? A previously restrictive ‘no bookings’ policy for all diners. In other words, you had to rock up early, join the queue, and hope they didn’t fill up too soon. It may suit some, but for us out-of-towners it was always a bridge too far.
Thankfully, earlier this year the rules were turned on their head, with Garagistes switching to an online booking system. Without any excuses remaining, we quite happily signed ourselves up for their obligatory 5 course degustation for the princely sum of $90pp. Matching Japanese sakes could have been ordered for an additional $45pp, but we weren’t feeling that way inclined on the night.
If I was to sum up our dining experience in a single word, it would have to be ‘dichotomous’. A tale of two parts.
The first? The food.
Astounding, unique, inspired, innovative, challenging…the superlatives are endless and, ultimately, insufficient. There were ingredients on the menu that I had never heard of, let alone tasted! Lovage root? Meadowsweet? Uni?
Setting themselves apart from almost every other venue in the State, there were techniques being demonstrated that added an extra, uplifting dimension to each dish.
Each dish was absolutely unique, with some fascinating flavour marriages. I won’t regale you with the details of each, but of particular interest to me was the apple sorbet with celeriac milk crisp. Enigmatic, evocative and timeless. I loved it!
Considering that the menu is constantly changing to showcase the seasonal produce on offer at any particular time of the year, it’s also unlikely that some of these dishes will ever be seen again! Fleeting memories, recalled with much fondness…
The second? The ambience.
It couldn’t be more at odds to the food!
The phenomenon of the ‘long table’ is not new by any means. In fact, you could argue that it is the original dining experience! Family and friends joining together after a day in the fields, sharing the fruits of their labour. Children playing hide and seek amongst the trestle legs. Much laughter and story telling in abundance… In modern times the ethos behind the long table can be tied to claims that it breaks down the social barriers, promoting community rather than the individual, and encouraging a more egalitarian dining experience.
All very noble, but for these two introverted diners it cast a pall over what was otherwise a memorable dining experience. I know I’m not going to enjoy myself when it’s easier to engage in conversation with my neighbour than my wife across the table (some may be quite happy with such an arrangement, but I wouldn’t be so bold as make a claim like that on a public blog…I’m sure I wouldn’t survive the day!).
Perhaps if the table had been a little narrower? Perhaps if my neighbour had been seated a little further down the table? It always comes down to personal preference, and in this case, unfortunately, it wasn’t ours.
Our experience at Garagistes was a tale of two halves; one inspiring and an absolute joy, the other a grey mark on what was otherwise an amazing experience.
At its essence, the food should always be the star of the show, and the team of chefs at Garagistes certainly excelled in showcasing Tasmania’s produce in the best possible way. For that, they deserve every accolade.
I would also be remiss in not mentioning the service we received during our meal. It was faultless. Friendly and welcoming, with a fantastic knowledge of the various dishes and individual ingredients on offer. What really set it apart for me though was the question from the wait staff very early on regarding the level of lighting at our seat, and whether it would be sufficient for photographic purposes. To be honest, the lighting was not conducive to quality images, but it was also clear to me that we couldn’t sit anywhere else and so I didn’t make it an issue; but just the fact that they even asked was a massive credit to their holistic approach.
It’s unfortunate that Garagistes is currently on the market. While a change in ownership may result in a deviation from the long table approach, it’s also likely to come with other more fundamental differences in the dining experience. All we can do is wait and see, and try their food now in the event that it exists no longer!
If you’re interested in trying Garagistes and would like a little bit more information, drop by their website here.
They do also have a Facebook page here, however there haven’t been any updates since inception.
Flavours – 10/10
Menu – 10/10
Ambience – 3/10
Service – 10/10
Value – 9/10
Overall – 8.5/10
Online presence – 5/10