Cally Lyons, who I am lucky to count as my second Tasmanian girlfriend, has a lot in common with Greg Ramsay, owner of Ratho Farm, who ‘hired’ me to come and cook pop-up dinners of American Southern Food at Australia’s oldest golf course in February and March. Beyond being charming, well-spoken, and delightfully cheeky, both of them are also great connectors of people.
In fact, shortly after I got back, Greg Ramsay put me in touch with a friend of his from his early 2000’s Scotland days, whose Wisconsin and Illinois golf course chain, Oliphant Golf, I have been tracing from links to links this summer, writing website and marketing copy and working on my short game.
Just like Greg, when Cally hears someone needs or wants something/someone in their lives, she tucks that information away, where her mind will continue to turn it over and over like a puzzle piece, until she happens across its interlocking solution. A Brisbane import, unabashed foodie and former chef-owner of a catering company, she was the perfect person to arrange a gastronomic introduction to Hobart, Tasmania’s capital city. (I also want to thank Mary Ramsay, Greg’s mom, who, early in my stay, made me a thoughtful list of the best Hobart groceries.)
Cally and her husband Richard own and operate two levels of accommodation at Rathmore House, in Hollow Tree, not 15 minutes from Ratho, in the rural Tasmanian Highlands. They live in the 1820s sandstone homestead where there are 5 lovely and upscale bedrooms on offer. Six rooms are available in the newly revived Shearer’s Quarters & Cooks Cottage, complete with barbecue and firepit, which I’d call “polished rustic.”
I first met Cally when she brought mainlander friends to tour Ratho and she and I hit it off immediately. Once she heard I was interested in interviewing local chefs and food artisans, she set about creating a girl’s day out for us that was highly informative and deliciously fun.
I’m grateful that she did, because two of the food artisans we met went on to become interview subjects for a travel piece I’m currently writing on foodie Tasmania: Diane Rae, founder and director of Granvewe Cheeses, and John Zito, who this year opened a Hobart Harbor location for Nutpatch Chocolate and Nougat, bringing his world-famous Kettering confectionary much closer for his regulars.
While Cally and I were chatting with John (and struggling to settle on which chocolates to buy), he suggested I also speak with Masaaki Koyama, whose Geevston sushi shop very quickly went from an oddity that bemused his rural Huon Valley neighbors to an absolute destination dining fixation, with lines that routinely exceed Masaaki Sushi’s capacity and hours. Some are locals who have come around to Chef Masaaki’s vision, but they’re joined now by foodie pilgrims from Mainland Australia and beyond.
If you are visiting Hobart for the first time, you could do much worse than tracing the same route we took.
- Claremont House – This Italian-influenced Victorian mansion and gardens is the only stop on our tour that wasn’t principally a foodie stop (though I’m told that its restaurant Bilton’s Wed.-Sun. 10a-4p brunch/high tea is fantastic, which comes as no surprise since the mansion’s owner, Joel Van Sanden, is a chef). The Claremont’s 5-acre hilltop location, and all the sweeping panoramic water views that comes with, would be worth the highly reasonable prices for lunch on their own. But what Cally brought me to Claremont House for was something even more rare and precious: a proper billiard table. My Chicago 8-ball and 9-ball teams will soon be competing for the chance to go the national APA finals in Las Vegas in August. I had wanted to stay in practice but couldn’t find a single pool hall in Tasmania.
- Moorilla Winery @Mona We didn’t actually taste wine here, but we did drive
through the grounds of the Museum of Old and New Art, which is very close to Claremont House and a must-do in Tasmania. They were in the process of harvesting what might have been pinot noir grapes.
- Jackson and McRoss New Town – First real food stop, and a bit still on the fringe of Hobart. It’s in a beautiful area just outside the central downtown, which looks turn-of-the-century British. We split a beautiful lamb and vegetable pie here.
- Sweet Envy, in the middle of the CBD was next, a cake and pie shop I do sometimes find myself longing for.
- Daci & Daci was next up — we actually browsed this place,
went to the waterfront and then back up to end the day of eating with a beautiful Morrocan lamb mince sausage roll and Russian salad, a personal weakness of mine.
- Grandvewe Cheese and Nutpatch Nougat at Brooke Street Pier are both singular places to taste and to buy some of the tastiest local master artisan cheeses and chocolate candies and truffles I’ve had anyplace in the world. What’s more, in the re-use, re-cycle, value-add spirit of Tasmanian producers, Grandvewe also makes vodka and dessert liqueurs from the sheep’s whey that would ordinarily be discarded after the cheesemaking process. It’s unique – and delicious.
- We attempted, just a bit too late, to check out Pigeon Hole Bakery, which we had both heard great things about. EDIT: This just in from a Hobart foodie: “There are two shops in Hobart with almost the same name, but across town from each other. Pigeon Whole Bakeryand Pigeon Hole Cafe. It’s no wonder they spoke of one and linked the other since I often get them mixed up too. They were likely thinking of the cafe as the bakery is only a shop with a bench.”
I can’t thank you enough, Cally! I look forward to our next foodie adventure together.