The Aløft dining room fills with a thousand dancing points of light as the sun glances off the Derwent River near Sullivans Cove in the heart of Hobart. Two floors up on a floating pier this modern restaurant has one of the best waterside views in the nation. The philosophy and aesthetics reflect the modern Scandi trend of eating locally using only seasonal local and, sometimes, foraged food. This is blended with a cuisine that is trans-Asian. That may sound confusing but the food at Aløft is as delicious as it is reassuringly accomplished.
The first dish hits our table pleasantly soon after ordering. Sprigs of saltbush dipped in tempura and deep fried are delicately salty-savoury and perfectly foiled with a sauce gribiche made with lovage. This one dish says it all: Asian-inspired using local produce, perhaps foraged. Head Chef Glenn Byrnes understands both the ethos and the aesthetics of fine food, having been a photographer who changed course, working at Vue de Monde and Taxi before moving down to Hobart. The Scandi-influenced furniture adds to the cool trans-global atmosphere while the angled wood-lined walls give a below-decks maritime feel. It could be a discordant mélange but it comes together like the smoothest jazz.
A steamed oyster with kim chi emulsion and sesame oil follows. Slow-cooked lamb breast with fermented garlic and deep fried Brussels sprouts creates a darker European note that is counterpointed by a prawn and turmeric wafer with finely julienned apple – a play on som tum thai or green papaya salad – apple instead of papaya, nasturtium instead of betel leaf. Local. Seasonal. Asian-influenced. It feels as if your favourite Malaysian amah has moved down to Tassie and started cooking fresh from the farm veggie patch.
Just over a decade ago the idea of dining down in Hobart was not a prospect to consider. Almost overnight, that changed for Tasmania’s capital. Sydney chef turned Rodney Dunn opened the Agrarian Kitchen cooking school in 2008. His workmate Luke Burgess from famed Sydney restaurant Tetsuya’s had also moved to Hobart and took over an old garage in the heart of Hobart shortly afterwards. Named Garagistes it was shockingly new and influenced chefs from all over Australia. Other chefs followed and a new wave of restaurants opened their doors. Garagistes closed in 2015 but its legacy continues.
Pier One, Brooke Street, Hobart, Tasmania
Tel 03 6223 1619