Tonight AJ and I are travelling up from Hobart to the Northern Tasmanian city of Launceston. With an engagement party to attend in the later hours of the evening we thought we'd sneak in a bite to eat at a restaurant called 'Bellini'.
Situated in at the Launceston seaport, the restaurant shares it location with Silt, Mud and a few other Launceston gems. Being a rather chilly Tasmanian night, there weren't too many folk about - regardless, there were a few in Bellini and surrounding restaurants.
Walking around the seaport you are surrounded by boats and a view of the North Esk river. Through the restaurant's glass doors you enter a contemporary fit out. Polished concrete floors, exposed wood walls, local artist's paintings on the walls and a seasonally decorated theme throughout. The floors do create a reverb effect and it could be noisy so it would probably not be the best for an intimate dining experience, however I'd expect the restaurant would be excellent for a whole venue experience for a special occasion.
After a 2hr+ drive and AJ having worked most of the day we came prepared with our appetites. We were seated promptly and handed our menus.
The Drinks list: a very limited selection of tap beer. However, this is contrasted by an extensive bottled selection from Australia, Italy and New Zealand. There are also traditional cocktails, wine by the glass, a great red and white variety including a solely Tasmanian Pinot selection.
The Food: Being a 'Contemporary Italian' style restaurant there is much on offer including the traditional pizza, pasta, antipasto and main courses. Tonight AJ and I decided to go for an entree and a main.
We began our evening with the Bellini antipasto platter.
Marinated black olives, toasted bread, red capsicum, capers, cured beef with horseradish sauce, smoked salmon, steamed mussels in tomato broth, pickled octopus, artichoke, salad.
The platter was a great start to the night. There is really nothing else like rich antipasto to get your tastebuds going and this was no exception. The beef was tender and left you wanting an entire plate of it. The salmon was moist and flavoursome. The other components were tasty but weren't so amazing to be set apart from the others.
The next course AJ had was the Pork Belly.
The skin was crispy like any pork belly should be. The flavours were nice, but unremarkable to me. AJ thought it was amazing - moist and delectable. The fennel salad was neither here nor there - did not elevate the flavours in the meal. The sauce on the plate detracted from the richness of the pork.
I had what I thought would be a rather boring Chicken Parmagiana. And boy was I wrong.
On my plate was a succulent breast of herbed chicken with ham, cheese and rich tomato sauce. Underneath lay olives, mushrooms and roasted tomatoes. On the other side of the plate was a neatly stacked pile of golden and crispy polenta chips resting in a pesto sauce. This was accompanied with a salad of lettuce, tomato, red onion, capers and red marinated capsicum.
This was definitely not your ordinary counter meal 'Parma'. The attention paid to the careful cooking of the chicken was immediately noticed. This was easily a 250+ gram piece of chicken that would have taken care to get right. It was seasoned with pepper, herbs and bread crumbs and presumably deep fried to a caramel brown colour. The chicken was placed on a selection of marinated olives, roasted tomatoes and mushrooms that added to the rich tomato flavour.
The polenta chips were amazingly crisp and light gold in colour. The green pesto was a welcome addition to contrast the rich tomato from the chicken. It was tangy but not overpowering - a well balanced construction.
I was very happy with the service, the front of house staff were friendly, genuine and welcoming. The quality of the food at Bellini is definitely worth trying. There are plenty of other options if you want a more traditional Italian dining experience - pastas, risottos, pizzas, etc. We left full and satisfied.
If you're ever in Launceston - be sure to give these guys a go - I know we'll be back.
Friday, 27 April 2012
After a busy week at work I felt like a few drinks and some tapas for dinner. So off AJ and I went down to the 'Mill'. This was my third visit to the Mill so I thought I'd finally share my thoughts.
'The Mill on Morrison' is a relatively new (opened in the last 6 months) addition to the Hobart waterfront area. For those who know Hobart, it's right near the 'Telegraph Hotel'. The restaurant shares its position with some other businesses (Endota Day Spa and a few professional offices).
As you walk up the steps you'll notice an eclectic collection of high and low tables, a grand piano covered in from memory looked like newspaper/magazine print, a long bar, cookbooks on bookshelves - it's a trendy setting that you could go with friends, family/kids, colleagues, etc.
Seated immediately (pays to book ahead) AJ and I found ourselves in the back room (although we've also been in the main restaurant area). This is a 3-4 storey chamber where exposed wood and building footings reveal the history of the location. It can get a little cold because of its roominess but that is aided by some radiant heaters.
On our table, we find what looks like paper placemats. But if you've been to the Mill before you'd know that those are your menus (when you flip them over). Keen to see what's on offer this time (the menu changes quite regularly) we were happy with what's on offer.
The drinks 'folder' is no pushover. An extensive selection of tap beer, wine by the glass, spirits, teas, coffees. The first pages reveal both traditional and modern cocktails at standard prices. Then come the beers (local and imported) & ciders. If you're the designated driver you'd be happy with 75ml or 150ml servings of their 'by the glass' selection - which is very convenient if you don't want to commit to a particular style of beverage over the night. There are of course wines by the bottle - a great range with a lot of Tasmanian wines on offer - and even some boutique large format choices for beer aficionados.
After a few minutes of perusing the menus we had decided our fates and selected the following: From the $5 selection - mini bruschetta & two serves of the arancini. From the $10 selection - fried squid & lamb meat balls. From the $15 selection - the beef brisket and the 'special' (not on menu) smoked pork ribs. We also ordered a side of beer battered fries which I'll return to later.
On past visits to the Mill we've been met with a menu that featured more seafood. Heading into winter, the menu has taken a direction of warmer, heartier fare and that isn't something I'd complain about. In any event, past favourites of mine (that are presumably on holiday) have been the pork belly with pea puree and the lamb cutlet with olive tapenade.
Within minutes the food arrives - often you'll spend more time browsing the choices then waiting with grumbling stomachs. First up - the mini bruschetta.
Two thin round pieces of toast with goat's curd, lemon oil and a black olive. It was very tasty - but more of an amuse bouche to me.
Next came the arancini and the fried squid.
The arancini at the Mill tend to change regularly - tonight's filling was vegetarian (zucchini and pumpkin). Like a good arancini, it was crunchy and piping hot and made a good partner to the beer I'd ordered.
The fried squid comes in a light batter, and with a thin coating of lemon jam. It is a beautiful little dish and I could eat platefuls. These are delicate .5cm wide straight squid pieces, not boring squid rings. Also, none of that stretchy membrane left on the squid to make you wonder what the chef was doing throughout their apprenticeship.
Next came our brisket, ribs, chips and meatballs.
Having watched 'Man vs Food' over the last two months (give me a break, MKR finished and Masterchef is yet to begin) - I've been salivating over the thought of slow-cooked meat that falls apart when you give it a menacing look. Much to my delight, served on a wooden board with a zig-zag of homemade barbecue sauce is a generous piece of tender and flavoursome beef.
Then came the opportunity to throw all class out the window as I cut up the smoked pork ribs into fingers for AJ and I to share. Returning to caveman ways, we tore through the flaky and smoked pork that was moist and delicious. Conveniently the staff at the Mill think ahead and provide a hand cleansing dish so that their patrons don't leave looking like they've regressed to child-like eating habits.
Finally the meatballs. And I leave the best to last. AJ and I have had these before and I'm convinced this dish should be made into a pasta. Juicy spiced lamb in a rich tomato sauce with yoghurt makes a great savoury finale. Now, this is where the beer battered chips come into play. There isn't much to say about the chips - they are well cooked, hand cut - and an excellent tool to mop up the tomato sauce that remains.
The good thing about tapas is if you order well you shouldn't have any leftovers and you may even have room for any sweets on offer. We come to restaurants knowing we are going to sample the desserts and with the Mill you leave extra room for a reason.
Big kids and kids alike will smile with wide eyes with some excellent sundaes on offer. Like the tapas menu, these change often too. We opt for the peppermint & chocolate sundae and the hokey pokey & apple sundae. Both excellent choices. There are some more adult options for instance if you enjoy limoncello.
On a side note, for those who don't enjoy making decisions the restaurant is more than happy to pick for you. And for those who enjoy more substantial meals there are mains to share and even larger single meals.
A well thought out concept, an experienced kitchen and front of house team - the Mill is a welcome addition to the Hobart restaurant scene. After finishing our sundaes we are two satisfied diners and will return again on the next revolution of the menu.