“Vibrant, innovative, and full of potential” is how Sarah Hirst describes Tasmania’s food and wine scene.
Sarah – a former journalist who worked in Melbourne, Canberra and internationally – and her husband, Mark, have spent the past seven years in Tasmania, establishing their iconic café and providore, the Lilydale Larder and Leaning Church Vineyard, both of which truly showcase Tasmania’s gastronomic scene in all its delicious glory.
Sarah, who was born in Tasmania, believes the island state has experienced a change of mindset when it comes to local produce.
“In the last decade we have seen a real shift in the thinking of Tasmanian producers,” Sarah said.
“It used to be that we exported our best produce, now we’re keeping some for ourselves, and to share with the thousands of visitors touring Tasmania who want to taste our wine, food, whisky and cider; as well as meet the characters behind our award-winning produce.
“While exporting is still important to producers, there’s also an acknowledgement of the great need to service our local restaurants.
“It’s about authenticity – being able to meet the farmer who still has mud on his boots, who then pours you a glass of his wine and serves you beef produced from his farm.”
A far as the future of Tasmanian food and wine goes, Sarah said she’d like to see more producers’ stories told, and more regional teamwork.
“While we are all really busy developing our own businesses, we could all benefit from collaborating on a more regional level,” Sarah said.
Sarah chairs the North-East Rail Trail Board, the group behind a project that captures her desire for regional partnerships and creates linkages between local producers.
“One-hundred kilometres of railway line from Launceston to Scottsdale will be pulled up and turned into a walking and cycling trail,” she said.
“It will allow tourists to sip and savour their way through the region, while experiencing the beautiful scenery Tassie has to offer.
“Funding has now been awarded and we hope construction will start in the next six months – we expect that some of the trail will be in place by Christmas.
“When you look at similar trails in Canada, New Zealand and around Australia it has had a positive effect on the region instantaneously.”
And while the rail trail project is all about providing newcomers with the best Tasmanian food and wine experience, Sarah also makes time to savour the superb produce on her doorstep.
“I like simple food, it doesn’t need to be complicated, just let the ingredients speak for themselves,” she said.
One of Sarah’s favourite dishes to enjoy is duck pancakes with an Asian sauce and slaw, which has been on offer at the Leaning Church Vineyard cellar door this summer, matched with Tasmanian Pinot Noir.
“Pinot Noir is one of my favourite wines as it’s so diverse and goes with so many different foods.
“You can match it with duck and venison, and it’s also perfect with fresh pink fish like salmon and ocean trout.
“But most of all my favourite Pinot Noir match is Toblerone. Pinot is my chocolate wine – it’s the perfect end to a long busy day.”
Sarah’s top Tasmanian to-do list
“All of these restaurants showcase the best of Tasmania’s produce” – Sarah said.
Mud Restaurant – a fresh and modern eating establishment in Launceston with spectacular views of the marina and North Esk River. The menu features an eclectic mix of cuisines from around the world, think miso glazed lamb ribs, pickled Vietnamese slaw, wasabi aioli; and twice-cooked Chinese crispy chicken, soba noodles with soy dipping sauce, peanuts, lemon and chilli salt.
Geronimo – located in the heart of Launceston, Geronimo boasts a modern and funky feel. On the menu you’ll find plates that are designed to share, including: braised lamb ragu, carrot puree, potato gnocchi, Cavolo nero; and a range of gourmet wood fired pizzas.
Cataract on Paterson – Cataract on Paterson lives by the principle of ‘fresh local’, proudly supporting Tasmanian farmers by sourcing produce from locals and farm gates. The menu changes regularly in order to take advantage of the produce each season. Throughout autumn, shallow fried dukkha crumbed Tasmanian camembert, served with a house made apple and port paste; and pan seared Tasmanian scallops with rich garlic and thyme bread sauce, served with lavosh and micro leaf, tantalise the taste buds.
Lost Farm Golf Course – perched atop a coastal dune, the Lost Farm Restaurant and Lounge promises an unforgettable dining experience and spectacular views of the course and coastline. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.
Harvest Market in Launceston – this market is open every Saturday from 8.30am—12.30pm at 71 Cimitiere Street, Launceston. Feast your eyes on Tasmania’s freshest seasonal produce, organic dairy and artisan bread and pastries.
Lilydale Village Market – at this quirky community market in Lilydale, a beautiful rural village 25 minutes’ drive north of Launceston, you’ll be treated with local entertainment, a bar with local brews such as beer on tap, spirits and wine, local craft, food and community stalls.
With two young children, Sarah and Mark are well versed on where fun can be found for the whole family.
“It’s great family fun, you can all do some exercise and then enjoy a local feast.”