Garagistes is a trendy restaurant in Murray street Hobart (though it bills itself as a wine bar). In fact, it is so trendy it doesn’t take bookings. If you want to dine at Gargistes, you need to get there early, or be prepared to wait. The staff will take your phone number and give you a call when they can fit you in, and in a clever marketing ploy will suggest you pop around to Sidecar, a bar owned by the same people, where you can have snacks and a beverage while you wait. Of course you don’t have to go to Sidecar, you can do whatever you please!
I don’t know how the good people of Hobart feel about this no booking policy but those of us from Melbourne are quite used to this phenomenon (Mamasita, Chin Chin, Golden Fields etc) and when J and I decided we should try Garagistes when we were in Hobart recently we knew what to do.
And that was get there early.
Garagistes opens at 5pm and we were dropped off at the front door at 5:30. There was no queue and we were able to score the last two seats at the bar. There looked to be a few spots left on the communal tables but that was it. There are five communal tables, each seating 20 people, and the night we were there five bar seats were also in operation (I have since seen a photo on another blog site that showed six seats at the bar).
The menu is designed to share (as is common these days) and in a another common theme, lists the ingredients of the dish without any other explanation of the dish.
We quickly ordered a gin and tonic each. The gin is from the Lark Distillery just down the road from the restaurant.
We ordered a selection of dishes and waited to see what would come out.
J started with the steamed bruny island oyster and 8 year old cider vinegar emulsion.
He didn’t particularly like these, he prefers his oysters raw or Kilpatrick.
Next out was the smoked wagyu tongue yakiniku, shungiku glaze, grated turnip.
One lonely skewer. I think the person who took our order could have explained the nature of this dish for us, as we would have ordered at least two if we knew what to expect. It was very good though, tender with good flavours.
There was more meat, with the smoked pastrami and fermented turnip stem.
The best pastrami I have ever eaten.
We then had the special of the day, whole quail with a black pepper and lime marinade.
The only way to eat a whole quail like this is with your fingers so we dug in. I am a huge quail fan but didn’t rate this dish, I didn’t think the marinade worked with the delicate quail flesh.
Somewhere in here we finished our drinks and J asked for the menu. He was in the mood for sake, but there didn’t seem to be much by the bottle so he asked the staff member behind the bar what they had. He was told they didn’t have anything by the bottle and the bottles were at Sidecar. I then leant over and said what about this one that says it comes in 330ml? “Oh, yes, I forgot we had that one” was the reply, and it was promptly brought out from below the counter. This was the same person who could have explained the wagyu better.
It wasn’t the style of sake J was after but beggars can’t be choosers. After we finished the bottle we went back to the G&Ts.
When we were deciding what to order J sasked if I wanted the fried pigs’ ears and sweetbreads, sauce gribiche. I said no, imaging whole ears crumbed and deep fried on a plate. Yuck. Thankfully I changed my mind because these were amazing. And didn’t look like ears at all!
I really liked the contrast between the crunchy batter and the soft sweet flesh.
I had mentioned to J that I had read that the chawan mushi was good. So we ordered it (Chawan mushi, poached spanner crab, periwinkles, puffed buckwheat, sea urchin). However, I didn’t realise that J had no idea what chawan mushi was (despite eating it on more than one occasion, he didn’t know the name of it), or that he didn’t actually like it, and nor did he read the description on the menu of what was in it. He said if he had he would not have ordered it. It did have a lot of seafood in it, but I managed to eat around that and just scoop up the lovely rich custard. J said this dish was too fishy even for him, so I can imagine the face I would have pulled if I had tasted some of the seafood bits.
After not getting dessert at lunch J was keen for something sweet. There were two desserts on the menu, so naturally we ordered both.
The first was crème fraiche ice cream, roasted quince, walnuts, walnut milk, tuile biscuit.
And the other was smoked crème caramel, Jerusalem artichoke cake, local hazelnuts, apple cream.
Unfortunately, we didn’t like either of them. They were too savoury for our tastes and we didn’t finish them. I thought some of the flavour combinations were a little odd as well.
I love that Hobart has something like Garagistes and despite some staff hiccups and some flavours we didn’t personally like, as the menu is always changing I would go back and try something different.