During our travels through Tasmania’s Southern Wine Region, we also came across several interesting towns.
Richmand Tasmania is located in Tasmania’s southern wine region. It is an 1820-era town with a large number of colonial-era Georgian buildings and structures. Among the most notable are St. Luke’s Church, the Richmond Arms hotel and the Richmond Bridge, the oldest still in use.
We also saw, but did not have a chance to visit (since it is only open by appointment) another very different type of historic site in Richmond. Sprouting up from the fields of the tranquil countryside is a huge radio antenna—a deactivated NASA tracking antenna that was moved to reinstalled near Richmond in honor of Dr. Grote Reber, a University of Tasmanian professor who built the first big-dish antenna specifically for mapping deep space radio frequencies, is considered the Father of Radio Astronomy”. The eponymous museum, which is dedicated to Reber’s work, as explained in the brochure, examines not only his efforts in radio astronomy, but also in electrical-powered transportation, the carbon dating of aboriginal settlements and the patterns created by growing bean plants.
We also happened upon a couple of interesting food tasting opportunities in the Richmond area. While wine tastings are plentiful in Southern Tasmania, food tastings are less so. We did, however, find two Richmond-area creameries at which we were able to sample cheese. One of these also makes and tastes its own chocolates. These tastings were at Coal River Farm, which grows fruit and berries and makes its own cheese and chocolates; and Wicked Cheese Company, which tastes its cheese and sells locally-made chocolates from another company. We especially enjoyed Wicked’s triple-cream brie and thought its 12-month cheddar would fare nicely with additional aging. We also enjoyed Cole River’s triple-cream brie and two of its chocolates, the white and a “blonde”-a combination of white and milk chocolate that we never before had.
Oatlands was used as a convict waystation and, contains the largest collection of colonial buildings in the country. The Carrington mill is the most impressive of these. This lovely, fully-restored 1837-era windmill is the only working 19th-century windmill in Southern Hemisphere. And working it is. It is still used to process locally grown wheat that is sold to artisanal bakeries.
Settled in 1821, Ross has the third-largest concentration of historic buildings on the island, is known primarily for the artistic designs of its convict hand-carved limestone bridge. It also has some lovely buildings including Man O’ Ross hotel, the City Hall and Post office.
We, however, found the Tasmanian Wool Center to be the most interesting. Although we have become accustomed to seeing sheep grazing in most vacant fields, the center explained the history of sheep farming in this area and how it grew to supply the rapidly growing demand of British textile factories. And, just as Port Arthur’s industry grew on the bargain labor from the men’s penal colony, this area flourished on the cheap labor of 12,000 British women (over the 50 year history of the factory from 1803 through 1853) who were sentenced to Australian prisons for crimes ranging from petty thievery to murder. Given the disparity of the crimes, women were separated into three primary classes–punishment, crime employable—which determined how they spent their times.
It discussed the vital role these women played in sorting and spinning the wool and explained the wool classification system, with opportunities to feel the differences.
There were even displays that honored particularly productive rams and showed and explained the awards that were given to winners among different types of wool.
And not incidentally, the drive among these towns is incredibly beautiful—open fields, rolling hills, occasional forests and lots of sheep. So tranquil that one is tempted to stop, have a glass of wine and take little nap under a tree.
South Tasmania Restaurant
As always, food played into our days in Southern Tasmania.
Felons Bistro, which is located in the Port Arthur Penal Colony visitor’s center was our second choice in restaurants during our night at Port Arthur, since our first, at the Stewart Bay Lodge, was closed. If we knew ahead of time what we would have been in for, it probably would have been our first choice. We not only got a chance to retaste (not to speak of actually drink) Bream Creek’s 2012 pinot noir, but we also discovered and had a chance to drink its 2015 chardonnay. We were so taken that we bought a bottle of each, most of which we ended up taking with us to enjoy the next evening. We enjoyed the food as much as we did the wine. Dinner began with a dozen Burnie Island oyster, half natural (which had soft texture but a nice briny, minerally taste) and half tempura (with very light breading, just as we like them) with wasabi mayo. We followed this with an introduction to a wonderful new fish we had never heard of: Tasmanina Blue Eye (a firm-fleshed, large flaked ocean white fish with a mild taste) that we had grilled with piperade (a Basque-inspired mix of peppers and onions) and lemon caper butter sauce. Then a pot of steamed Spring Bay mussels with coconut-lime-ginger broth (which was okay, but not as rich or creamy as we would have preferred) and bread.
Frogmore Creek Winery Restaurant, where we stopped after a tasting for two beautifully plated and very good dishes: diced sashimi of tuna, trout and scallops with picked cucumber, flowers, herring roe, wasabi cream and crostini; and chargrilled scallops with spanner crab, pureed avocado, asparagus, crispy serrano ham and vanilla cream sauce made with sparkling wine. All this and a wonderful view of the valley to boot.
Riversdale Estate French Bistro. More of a fine dining restaurant than a bistro, both the menu and the food beat expectations. We had two entrees, both complex preparations, and both well executed. Our dishes were twice-baked crab and gruyere soufflé with chive beurre blanc and asparagus; and sautéed braised quail and mushroom en croute with celeriac puree.
Dunalley Waterfront Café and Gallery, where we thoroughly enjoyed both a tasting of Bream Creek wines and a lovely lunch. While the wine tasting is discussed in our Southern Tasmania Wine post, our lunch consisted of two dishes: Boarfish (a lightly-flavored, moderately flaky ocean white fish) that was lightly pan-fried in a little butter; and a heavier, but very nice seafood pie with Tasmanian scallops, Boarfish and prawns in a light cream sauce with potato-gruyere crust.
Franklin, one of the premier restaurants in Hobart, were we had a very mixed experience. We both enjoyed our small bites of chicken liver parfait with pickled beetroot and Tom similarly enjoyed the lamb saddle with radicchio, cauliflower and dried grape agrodolce (although the dish had at least as much fat as it did meat). Joyce, on the other hand, was much less pleased with her wood-roasted octopus tentacle with smoked pepper and wild fennel. Although we both thought the octopus was especially tough, she thought the dish was over-spiced. (Tom, however, appreciated the spicing.) Our real ambivalence came with the service. Although we were both impressed by the sommelier (who, after hearing what we planned to order and assessing what we were looking for, recommended a locally produced 2014 Sanscrit cabernet franc), the wait to place our orders and especially to receive our food was interminable. The service by the wait staff, meanwhile, bordered on non-existent. How could it possibly take two hours to order and receive pre-prepared bites (the chicken liver, which came very quickly) and plus one additional dish (one entrée and one main, which we asked to be served at roughly the same time) apiece?