When I first arrived in Hobart six years ago, I fell in love with the small harbour city immediately. I have always lived near water. First, when I was born in Penang – an island on the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia. It is a small island of 294 sq km, compare to Tasmania of 64, 519 sq km – the main island. Then in 1993, I immigrated to Sydney, which is one of the most beautiful harbour city in the world. However, Hobart is very different. She has her own charm and uniqueness. She is small, quiet and relax. There never seems to be a rush.
Though I have lived in Sydney for 7 years, I found the city busy, congested, noisy and always in a rush. Hobart is just the opposite. It is relaxing here. Time is at its slowest. Well, for me. Hobart’s waterfront is one of my favourite spot in the city. It is easy to park and walk around. The waterfront is almost interconnected to few point of interests – central CBD for shopping, the historic Salamanca to browse at art galleries, restaurants and cafes and historic Battery Point.
The waterfront is generally nice and quiet throughout the year, except Saturday morning when the island’s most famous market – Salamanca Market, is held and part of the street is closed. And, when the waterfront hosts its annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, and the Taste Festival of Tasmania for one week between 28 Dec 2009 and 3 Jan 2010. It is one of the best time to visit Hobart. In the past, I avoid going to the waterfront at this time of the year. It will be extremely busy with visitors from overseas, interstates and other part of Tasmania. Everyone seems to flock to the waterfront at this time. But, the perfect weather gives me no excuse not to visit the waterfront – to enjoy the festivities and to look at the yachts.
It was a perfect day. Many yachts have finished the race and berthed at the waterfront. There was a cruise ship, Diamond Princess. There was an air of festivities. There were people everywhere, Camera in one hand, just like me. Clicking away. It was the busiest time I have ever seen at the waterfront. The population must have doubled with the cruise ship passengers and crews. The funny thing was – even the waterfront was crowded, I was never stressed or rushed. I felt relax. I was taking my time strolling along the waterfront. Paced myself and enjoyed the beautiful day.
That was my first place of interest – the finishing point of Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race. I continued with my walk towards Salamanca Place. I was thinking maybe I should try the Taste.
I have only been to the Taste Festival twice – once for the new year eve’s party when I first arrived in Tasmania. It was awful. The weather was freezing cold and windy on 31 Dec 2003. The food was, I thought, expensive and average. The fireworks was nothing to rave about. The entertainment was so-so. That was my memory of my first Taste.
The second year, I decided to try again on a normal day. Again, my memory was not too good. It was extremely hot in the tin shed venue. It was, in my opinion, a horrible venue with poor ventilation and inadequate shelters and seating. The food was not memorable either. So, I vow I will never go back to another Taste.
But I was wrong. The perfect weather has invited me to the Taste once again. I was early, which was good. There was a long queue at the top end of the venue. I walked towards the bottom end. It was almost 11 am, the opening time. There were only ten people at the bottom end. I guess most visitors didn’t realise there were two entrances.
This third time I was splendidly surprise, after 5 years! It had improved. The Taste was better organised. There were good selection of food and wine stalls. Some stalls provided a choice of small plate for taste and a larger plate. I was happy to be given the options.
When the gate was opened, I walked in casually. No pushing. Nothing. I walked to the nearest food stall – The Thorpe Farm Produce. I read about the produces and Ploughman Tasting Plate in Rita’s Bite. I had to try it.
Thorpe Farm’s ploughman tasting plate – venison sausage, lamb kofta, highland cheese, toasted bread, onion pickled. The size was just the right size for me. Only for a taste, which was what I was after. A great start to the Taste for me.
I continued down the shed. Good selection and choices. Then I came to Flathead – a seafood place in South Hobart, which I have been thinking of dining there but never got around to do it. So this was a great opportunity for me to taste the freshly cooked Tasmanian produce. This stall won an award for its creativity of using the local produce. I chose a tasting plate of Char Grilled Pirate Bay Octopus with Greek Salad.
The portion size of the tasting plate was just right and well priced. The octopus was char grilled perfectly. It was tender and had a lovely charred flavour. It was a beautiful dish. And, I couldn’t resist but had to try the Thai fish cake. Got one at $2. It was perfect – moist, tangy and flavoursome. My only disappointment was – I asked the guy that took the order the type of fish used. At first, he said it was blue eye. Then, said it was flathead. So I asked whether it was blue eye or flathead. And, his response was both! He got me confused. All I can guess is it was a local fish – but, was it blue eye or flathead or both? Anyone?
After two tasting plates – I was getting quite full. Also, quite thirsty. But I didn’t want a wine because I had to drive 60 km to get home. And, I am not a good drinker in day time. I get tipsy too quickly. I had one last stall in mind. The stall banner, display shelfs and bright red vibrant colour kept coming into my mind – the raspberry stall. Yes, the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm. That was my next and final stop. The stall won the best concept stall award. The display was visually effective and pleasing.
There was a long queue. I couldn’t let the crowd deterred me from trying this final taste. I waited and got myself a small Raspberry Sundae. All I can say was. It was very, very good. I was like being transported into the land of raspberry world.
That was my best experience of the Taste. Forget about the tin shed venue.
And, guess what. I went back there again on Saturday with my partner. It was busier than the previous weekday. It was the busiest time ever because it was on the same day as the Salamanca Market. We parked the car quite far, at the Cenotaph and walked. Glad we did that. It was nice to walk after the food at Taste. Once again, it was no rush. Easy. And a happy experience for both of us.
Glad to be in Hobart at this time of the year.