Garagistes, Hobart

In Habitus 18 we explore Tasmania, and as Belinda Aucott discovers, a big metal roller door in downtown Hobart is hiding an oasis for food lovers

03 Feb 2012

Garagistes has earned its stripes by serving local produce in a slick and sexy operation. The dimly lit kitchen and oversized bar create minimal warehouse space that immediately puts one at ease.

“We let the ingredients speak for themselves,” explains sommelier and operator Katrina Birchmeir  of the philosophy driving their food design– “every ingredient on the plate is there for a reason – be it colour, acidity, crunch, saltiness, bitterness. The earthiness of the glazes, on the hand-made plates all adds to the overall aesthetic” she says.

Putting the local flora and fauna first is all part of the restaurant’s unique ethos. Their originality and commitment to fresh produce has impressed critic. This year chef Luke Burgess was recognised by Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine awarded him the accolade of ‘Best New Talent 2012′.

Springing out of a town like Hobart, Garagistes’ owners and operators haven’t just captured the hearts of tourists either– they also have a local cult following, and invite regulars to stand at the bar and drink wine while they waited for a coveted spot at a table.

“Without specific figures, it is hard to say about the number of locals versus visitors,” says Birchmeier throughtfully.

“I think that it would be a pretty even split. However at various times of the year, like summertime, and on weekends there are definitely more interstate visitors coming through our doors,” she says.

 

The interior concept  - which appeals to mainlanders, was created by local architect Paul Johnston, while co-owner Kirk Richardson selected the material palette and undertook the fit out.

“We had chairs custom designed and made by Dieu Tan in Sydney and the tables were designed and made by local woodworker Evan Hancock. The design of the plates was a collaboration between Ben Richardson and Garagistes, they are only made from local clays and glazes,” Birchmeier said.

The local spirit that oozes from every pore of this restaurant might seems like no brainer in pristine Tasmania, but it’s the execution that sets Garagistes apart. From the life changing Bruny Island Oysters to the ceramic plates, one gets the sense that the magic stems as much from the network of suppliers as  it does from the people in the room.

“Local relationships are extremely important to the operations of Garagistes,” enthuses Birchmeier.  One of our suppliers, Paulette Whitney of Provenance Growers specialises in growing and foraging for many edible natives here in Tasmania and we have nurtured strong relationships with many other people who grow fruit, vegetables and herbs. Many are now specifically growing produce for Garagistes like local butchers, fishermen, and the Hammond family who rear grass-fed Wagyu just for us,” says Birchmeier.

With the promise of wild fruits, and local game don’t worry about the wine list being limited to just Tasmanian drops. The list has also been carefully planned and given a brush of the ‘au naturale’ philosophy.

 “The concept behind the wine list is to focus on natural wines. These are wines crafted from grapes that are grown either organically or biodynamically. Although there are some winemakers leading the charge in Australia, to focus on a more artisanal, chemical-free and additive-free approach to winemaking, the majority of the wines on our list are from Europe as there are more producers there making wine with the ‘natural’ philosophy in mind,” she says.

But the piste de la resistance, regardless of what you know about food and wine, surely must be the Bruny Island oysters in Apple Cider Vinegar Emulsion and Lemon Balm– a mysteriously beautiful dish.

“The Bruny Island oysters are slow growing Pacifics found in cold, clean waters. The creaminess of the oysters is due to the variety  - Pacific –  but also steaming the oysters as we do at Garagistes, which changes the texture of the flesh to make it more soft and creamy. Additionally the apple cider vinegar emulsion has a certain creaminess to it, as well as acidity, which heightens the texture and sweetness of the oyster,” explains Birchmeier.

Find out more about Garagistes here.