You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

In Southern Tasmania, Great Food and Rugged Appeal

The New York Times logoThe New York Times 15/11/2016 By HANYA YANAGIHARA

It’s only a 90-minute flight from splashy Sydney, but the Australian state of Tasmania feels much farther. Part of the island’s haunted, otherworldly mien might be attributable to its geographical and atmospheric particulars: It is, after all, the country’s last defense before Antarctica, and its extreme southerly position means that for much of the year the land is shrouded in a crepuscular light.

But Tassie, as it’s locally known, also suggests a metaphorical darkness. Originally settled by Aboriginals 40,000 years ago, it became notorious when a British penal colony was established in 1803; eventually, almost half of Australia-bound English convicts were sent there. The island was known for the colonists’ brutal, near-total destruction of the Aboriginal population, the majority of whom were slaughtered, interned or killed by diseases against which they had no immunity.

Sign Up For the Morning Briefing: Asia and Australia Newsletter

For these reasons, mystery has long surrounded Tasmania, but recently, the very things that made the island seem inaccessible — its raw, lonely, tree-smothered landscapes, almost half of which are nature reserves; its sparse population (just 518,000-odd people on a landmass half the size of England) — have given it a new life as a destination for hikers and the food-obsessed. These days, the areas in and around Hobart, Tasmania’s capital, are gaining notice for their restaurants and local producers: A trip to nearby Bruny Island is like visiting a locavore’s Disneyland, with a notable community of energetic cheese-, beer- and chocolate-makers.

And speaking of Disneyland: Everyone here, from innkeepers to hops growers, is quick to acknowledge that the real force behind Tasmania’s emergence on the libertine’s trail is David Walsh, the eccentric multimillionaire gambler who in 2011 opened the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart. The museum, which juxtaposes a massive lead-and-broken-glass Anselm Kiefer sculpture with highlights from Walsh’s collection of Roman antiquities, is both gleefully bonkers and utterly idiosyncratic. The result is an institution that feels as improbable — and as refreshing — as southern Tasmania itself.

STAY

Satellite Island

Rent out this lushly forested 76-acre island and you get everything — the three-bedroom main house, with its squishy sofas and wood-burning stove, decorated in cream-hued linens and with branches of coral; the two-bedroom boat house, perched on the dock overlooking the bay; and the canvas tepee sheltering a queen-size bed — all to yourself. The Melbourne-based owners have transformed a family retreat into a getaway that fulfills every private-island fantasy; if requested, its helpful manager will light bonfires, dive for lobster and sea urchin and shuck freshly harvested oysters.

MONA Pavilions

The main reason to stay in one of MONA’s eight stand-alone suites — most of which have double-height ceilings, verandas and sleek décor — is the five-minute walk to the museum. This means you can be first in line to see (and smell) Wim Delvoye’s notorious “Cloaca Professional” (a machine that generates feces once daily) or, more agreeably, James Turrell’s “Amarna, 2015” gazebo. There are also two on-site restaurants, and Hobart is a short drive away.

EAT

Aloft

Housed in an airy, light-filled atrium overlooking one of Hobart’s piers, Aloft’s sophisticated but unpretentious fare highlights the island’s produce. The menu is always changing, but might include a slab of unctuous caramelized pork belly with black garlic and vermicelli, or savory custard with chunks of spanner crab and flecks of lovage.

Franklin

The seafood-heavy plates here recently included gnocchi-tender hunks of octopus, crowned with feathery fennel fronds; and grilled kingfish with iceberg-lettuce salad. The restaurant, just as beautiful and unassuming as the food, is a garagelike space in the center of Hobart with towering windows, cement floors and simple Scandinavian modern furniture.

The Agrarian Kitchen

Founded by Rodney Dunn, a former editor at one of Australia’s most popular food magazines, and his wife, Severine, this cooking school, housed in a 129-year-old former schoolhouse, takes the farm-to-table approach seriously. Their gardens provide virtually all the raw ingredients, from herbs to pork, for instruction. Small groups of students learn how to do everything from grind corn to stuff sausage to can peaches during daylong sessions.

Bruny Island Cheese

One of the gourmet pioneers on Bruny, an island southeast of Hobart, this small-scale producer uses almost exclusively local ingredients: The milk for their renowned raw cheese comes from a farm just a few miles away. Make sure to visit the new on-site brewery as well as the aging room, where shelves are stacked with dozens of wheels of the company’s signature hard, grassy curd.

Get Shucked

It may not look like much — a small shack with a few benches indoors and outside — but who needs fancy design when you have oysters this fresh? This Bruny Island oyster farm (the beds are just across the road) sells briny, addictive Pacific bivalves year-round, along with local beers and wines.

Daci & Daci Bakers

This tiny bakery in downtown Hobart offers a daily selection of expertly made croissants, pastries and bread, but it’s the orange-coconut-and-almond cake — dense, moist and fragrant with anise — that approaches perfection.

SEE

The Maker

If Rei Kawakubo lived on a sheep farm, she might design the sort of clothes that you’ll find at this Hobart boutique: drop-shouldered, deceptively simple tunics and fisherman-inspired pants made from silky, draped wool. There’s also a lovely selection of earthy ceramics and brass jewelry made by local artisans.

More from The New York Times

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon