By JOHN ROZENTALS
TRAVEL: 28 NOVEMBER 2016
JOHN ROZENTALS revisits some favourite Hobart dining haunts and reports that's all well on the tooth in Australia's southernmost metropolis.
I remember going to the opening of Prossers on the Beach, in the swish Hobart beachside suburb or Sandy Bay, in 1986, when the premises were occasionally shared with the people who ran the annual Sandy Bay Regatta and I was Features Editor of The Hobart Mercury.
It’s hard to believe that chef and proprietor Stuart Prosser is this year celebrating his restaurant’s 30th birthday.
I wouldn’t suggest out loud to Stuart that he’s aged, but, hey, three decades have passed both of us by. I’ll just say that he’s still very much a larrikin, perhaps a bit of a ladies’ man who loves to flirt, just a little bit.
He’s also still a very good chef, one who keeps a weather eye on the food scene and very much knows what’s happening and, even in the absence of Michael, his cocktail-mixing whiz of a brother who used to be maître d’, still runs a tight ship indeed.
Mures Upper Deck, right on the Sullivans Cove waterfront, virtually right in the centre of Hobart, must have opened at about the same time, maybe just a bit later, as part of major development by local fishing and seafood gurus George and Jill Mure.
George passed on a few years ago, his wife Jill is very much retired, and the business, including the Upper Deck, has been run for some years by their son Will and his wife Judy.
The Astor Grill, a classy, elegant restaurant and haunt of many trendy local businesspeople in Hobart’s CBD, was already well established in the city when I arrived in the mid-1980s and its steaks already legendary.
I remember its current proprietor, Rocky Doniz, as an affable, highly efficient young maître d’ with the world at his feet. He’s obviously followed his passion for the establishment and equally obviously relishes running the show.
I revisited all three of these top-flight Hobart eateries on a recent trip south, just for old time’s sake, of course, and can report that they’ve all aged gracefully and still offer fantastic food and service.
There were people who suggested that the Woman with Altitude and I were heading to the wrong establishments in the city to really judge its culinary development, and that we should have been trying out some of its more cutting-edge restaurants.
Perhaps they had a point, but we were really happy to have chosen where we did. All three restaurants showed exactly why they’d stood the test of time, and why locals in the know kept heading back to them, especially for special occasions when they demanded the very best.
The biggest physical change was at Prossers on the Beach, where Stuart has incorporated the deck into the dining room and can comfortably take quite a few more diners.
The concentration on the simple preparation of the freshest of seafood is still there, with extraordinary care of choice of sauces, in dishes such as grilled local scallops, served on the shell with a sauce of mushroom, lemon and dashi, and one of Stuart’s signature dishes, blue-eye trevalla with prawns and scallops in flaky pastry, served with a tarragon-infused hollandaise, makes them menu items to die for.
Apart from the quality of its seafood, the main feature of Mures Upper Deck has always been its location smack bang in the middle of Hobart’s waterfront amid what is a mix of cityscape, harbourside tourist activity and a working dock.
Think comparisons with Sydney’s Doyle family when you think of Hobart’s Mures. They own their own fishing boats and run their own fishmongering business so there’s really no excuse for not presenting the very seafood and, from my experience, historically and of quite late, they rarely fail to deliver.
The seafood laksa is a departure from normal fish-restaurant fare but it’s a byroad certainly worth wandering down a delightful combination of mussels, scallops, premium fish, squid and prawns, just smothered in a sauce of shitake mushrooms, chilli and fresh herbs, and served with rice noodles.
The last thing that comes to mind when I think about Hobart’s Astor Grill is change and being wrapped in the familiarity of its walls recently was certainly a comforting experience.
The restaurant is located on the ground floor of a mid-city private hotel and the décor is all about wood-panelling and art deco. It’s simply gorgeous.
My advice is not to try to be too adventurous here. All menu items are spot on, but the pick always has been the delectable char-grilled steak. Take your pick of eye fillet, scotch fillet or porterhouse, mostly grass-fed but also grain-fed, I reckon the best of it from Cape Grim in Tasmania’s forlorn extreme north-west.
Then have it seared to your liking and served with homemade sauce of your choice. Heaven on a plate.
And if you have space, finish with the Belgian chocolate espresso moelleux, asoft-centred dark-chocolate pudding served with espresso toffee ice-cream.
The 10-minute preparation time will give your stomach some chance to settle after the steak.
IF YOU GO
Prossers on the Beach, 19 Beach Road, Long Point, Sandy Bay, phone 03 6225 2276, visit http://www.prossersonthebeach.com.
Mures Upper Deck, Victoria Dock, Hobart, phone 03 6231 1999, visit http://mures.com.au.
The Astor Grill, 157 Macquarie St, Hobart, phone 03 6234 3122, visit http://astorgrill.com.au.
Mures Upper Deck seafood laksa … a byroad certainly worth wandering down.
The Astor Grill … specialty is delectable char-grilled steak.