Sidecar, just north of the city centre, is one of Hobart’s newest and coolest hangouts, where the city’s beautiful people come for an innovative menu of tapas for both lunch and dinner. Try the pan-fried mushrooms with toasted pumpkin seeds from the Huon Valley in Tasmania’s south, or scrumptious wagyu hotdogs from beef in the island’s northwest. There is also a perfectly chosen international wine list as accompaniment.
Garagistes, just next door, is the hands-down hippest restaurant in town. At shared tables in a trendy warehouse conversion, head chef Luke Burgess (who had posts at Tetsuya’s in Sydney and Noma in Copenhagen) serves up a surprising artistry of dishes: roast saddle of aged lamb with kunzea, fried saltbush, grilled lettuce and milk curd or wood-grilled king tiger prawns with eel dashi shiitake, puffed wild rice and basil. The creative food is accompanied by a globe-roaming natural wine list.
To round off the tour of Hobart’s new cool, head to North Hobart, the city’s most eclectic and most culturally diverse suburb where newfangled street art meets working-class grunge, and just about anything goes. The Republic Bar has long been an institution for drinks and live music on the main Elizabeth Street strip, which is jam-packed with restaurants, from Thai to Turkish. For eclectic art, visit the Bett Gallery, which exhibits and sells some of the country’s finest young talent. And do not miss the State Cinema. You could pop in just for a coffee or to browse the bookshop, but better, take in an alternative or foreign film in one of the six intimate cinemas at this classy art house spot.
For a city of its size (population just 210,000) Hobart has a magnificent constellation of festivals. The coolest of these has to be MONA FOMA – MONA-led alternative music performances (mostly free) held in converted warehouses by the docks every January. It is a mix of classical, blues-grunge and cutting-edge experimental, with past performers including Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Grinderman and Philip Glass. The festival is curated by American Brian Ritchie (of Violent Femmes fame) who now calls Hobart home.
Contrast this with the four day Festival of Voices – held every July, the dead of winter. Either listen to a wonderful variety of voices – from choral to jazz to gospel – or sculpt your own voice at workshops and even add it to the festival choir that crescendos around a vast bonfire into the darkest nights of the year.
If theatre is what you are after, plan your trip for Ten Days on the Island, a celebration of island culture that sees performers (from Tasmania to Iceland to Hawaii) create theatre that is so perfectly alternative-creative and effortlessly down-to-earth-cool that it has found its natural home in the new, hip Hobart.