Please, keep reading as Joel is a chef that deserves recognition, but we do need to let you know that there have been great changes afoot at Pearl + Co. that mean our experience is most likely not representative of what they are now providing. The team has changed significantly, the menu has been simplified and their target is now more mainstream. It was great while it lasted, and thanks for the memories!
First there was The Glass House.
Shortly after came Aloft.
And just like the youngest of three siblings, along comes Pearl + Co., knee high to an ant yet fiercely determined to escape those two long shadows and make their own mark on Hobart’s world-class waterfront.
And you know what? They’ve done it in spectacular fashion!
The location has always been attractive. The lower floor of the iconic Mures building brings water views and a proximity to Hobart’s fishing heritage lacking by others.
Yet sadly, that potential was never fully realised by Orizuru, the debatably high-end sushi bar positioned there for many years.
It’s a very different story with Pearl + Co.! Word of mouth has been slowly building throughout the year, and things have really kicked off with the recent arrival of a new Head Chef to their kitchen.
So, who is Joel Pead?
With sunlight streaming through the tall glass windows, fishing boats gently rocking in the periphery, cocktails were on our mind.
How is it that no matter how many masculine libations cry out to be sampled, I always end up with something in an obscenely garish shade of pink, green or blue?
I blame the pop rocks!
How could I say no to one of my all-time favourite childhood indulgences, fizzing and crackling with every little sip? The umami of the cocktail world! It was called The Geisha’s Slipper and it was superb.
Karen swore her Pea Green Boat was even better. Just as green, almost as sweet, yet sans pop rocks…so I can’t agree.
While we didn’t realise it at the time, this unique twist on a cocktail was actually an insight into what was to come over the following seven courses.
Degustation menus are dangerous. More so when matched with wines! I still look back on a multi-course monster served up by the now defunct Marque IV more than 10 years ago as the epitome of excess.
Was it 10 courses? 12…? Who knows. By the end of the ordeal all I can remember is feeling like I was carrying an anvil in my belly and cotton wool between my ears. The food was great, as was the wine…but I very quickly learnt it IS actually possible to have too much of a good thing!
Pearl + Co.’s degustation ($75pp) proved inspired.
The opening dish set the scene perfectly yet, for me anyway, the most unexpected way possible.
Quinoa. Love it? Hate it? I’ve always been ambivalent, however this delicately balanced and exquisitely presented combination of beetroot, quinoa, scorched orange, hazelnut paste, Meredith goats cheese and beetroot mousse opened my eyes to how sublime this ingredient can be in the hands of an expert.
The fragile seeds had been coaxed into a state of light and fluffy bounce, the most pleasant base upon which to dabble in the accompanying tartness of the scorched orange, the sweet beets and cutting tang of the chevre (an extra squirt or two would have been simply perfect). And then just as you think the show is over, the hazelnuts decide to make a late appearance, adding body and finality to what was the first mouthful of many.
Again I say, who is this Joel Pead?!
It took another few courses for the first hint to come to mind.
Beef tartare, confit egg yolk, truffle mayonnaise, rye toast, shaved black truffle.
It’s the little things in this dish that really stood out. The confit egg yolk a clever twist on the traditional runny yolk and the razor thin slivers of truffle adding a subtle yet necessary mustiness. The precisely prepared raw beef a delightful consistency and the occasional crunch of toasted rye providing a welcome deviation from the traditional.
Vanilla poached prawn, cocktail sauce, wakami, kimchi and yuzu gel. A divisive dish. Was the yuzu a step too far…? One embraced it, the other shook hands instead.
40 degree confit ocean trout, ginger and wasabi red cabbage, lime yoghurt, black olive caramel and grapefruit.
Such a unique combination of ingredients. The contrast of the rich, velvety trout with the acridly sharp grapefruit and wasabi crunch was pushing some really interesting boundaries.
As evidenced by the yuzu in the previous dish, Karen has always had a love of the tart and sour, and in this case it was no different. While I was finding it hard to reconcile the cacophony of flavours in front of me, Karen was in her element!
Personal palates always come into play when so many ingredients are in motion, so it isn’t surprising that these tiny points of contention arose during the meal. Yet this is what makes dining out so much fun for us!
‘Fun’ was the perfect word for what we had experienced thus far. None of the dishes taking themselves too seriously, yet with classic flavour combinations at their core.
“The layers, the complexity. Pushing the boundaries and making you think about what you’re eating,” I said to Karen. “It reminds me so much of the meal I had at Frogmore!”.
As I wandered the floor between meals, taking the occasional photograph, I passed the kitchen and Maylis, our most attentive waiter for the afternoon, asked if I’d like to step inside the kitchen and take some closer shots of our next dish being prepared. Are you kidding?!
Joel was in the zone, tweezers in hand, delicately placing and dusting all manner of tiny ingredients.
“So what’s your background Joel,” I asked as he moved from dish to dish. “Have you worked locally?”.
And it was no surprise whatsoever when he responded, “Have you tried the food at Frogmore Creek? I was a chef there for a few years working with Ruben Koopman.”
It all made sense. And what made it even better was that Joel had clearly taken the foundational techniques and mindset espoused by Ruben and made them his own. While the similarities were evident, there was a maturity and a perspective on food that was entirely Joel’s.
So often when you read a menu you simply assume that it’s a formulaic ‘join the dots’ of ingredients and flavours known to work well.
While this is true, it’s an interesting insight into Joel’s unique approach when you realise that every single dish he plates up has been inspired by a particular event or cherished memory that he and he partner have shared together.
On leaving the kitchen Joel also dropped a little bombshell on us. “You’re the first members of the public to try this dish. Let me know what you think!”
Seared scallops, smoked leek , charred pickled onions, burnt onions.
We might have been first, but we certainly aren’t going to be the last!
We thought the quinoa was good. This dish took the meal to a whole new level!
Like a cozy log fire, delicate smoky tendrils drifting and wafting across our senses. Enveloping and then, just when you thought you’d had enough, retreating gracefully. The plump, sweet scallops lasted no time at all.
Equal parts simplicity, love and bravery, we both agreed this to be one of the finest dishes to be found in Hobart.
While nothing could top the scallops, as we transitioned to dessert the surprises kept coming.
Do aerated chocolate and crystalised violets take your fancy?
Or perhaps some apple gel, frangipane and burnt honey ice cream?
Consider our palates cleansed and minds refreshed!
As we look back over those three incredible hours it’s clear that while Joel’s influence on our opinion of Pearl and Co was significant, it was actually only half the story.
The other half was Maylis.
Front of house, waiter, bar tender, sommelier, manager… We’ve already mentioned the cocktails, yet it was in her wine matchings that we could see her true talents shine. Still raw and a little bit rough around the edges, yet showing not only genuine passion, but an uncanny knack of reading a dish and accentuating its best aspects through inspired selections.
At times we were dubious, but at every single opportunity she delivered exactly what was needed.
And not only that, but she was great company throughout the afternoon. Unafraid to share a little of her own background, service experiences, aspirations and frustrations…she was the perfect host and an absolute credit to Pearl + Co.
Concluding thoughts on Pearl + Co.?
It’s pretty clear isn’t it? Pearl + Co. may be one of the new kids on the block, but they are already making the best possible mark on Hobart.
It is no exaggeration whatsoever when we say that Joel, Maylis and the rest of the team are delivering one of the most creative, balanced and inspiring dining experiences that you will find anywhere in Tasmania right now.
And besides…they’ve got lime green pop rocks and nothing can top that!
We were guests of Joel and the team at Pearl + Co.. As always you can rest assured that this remains a fair and balanced account of our meal, with all opinions remaining our own!
You’ll find Pearl + Co. at Victoria Dock, on the ground floor of the Mures Building. If you’re staying in town then it isn’t going to be any more than a 10 minute walk.
For more information and their latest breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, including degustation, drop by their website here – Pearl + Co.
They also have a strong social media presence on Facebook – Pearl + Co. on Facebook
Bookings can be made online or over the phone, and opening hours are:
Monday and Tuesday: 11:30am to 10pm
Wednesday to Sunday: 7:30am to 10pm (that’s right, breakfast is an option!)
If you’re looking for venues in and around Hobart delivering a similar level of quality, then we recommend you consider:
- Aloft – Modern Australian with a pan-Pacific edge
- Templo – Classic flavours of the Mediterranean presented with style and simplicity
- The Glass House – Some of the best cocktails in Hobart, with small dishes that make your taste buds sing
- Osteria at Stefano Lubiana – Sublime Italian presented in one of Tasmania’s most iconic wineries
- Franklin – Combining one world renowned chef together with the freshest Tasmania seafood
- Frogmore Creek – Ground zero for Hobart’s culinary renaissance