Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Tassie Ethos of eating and drinking

Posted by Jan

We were just a little bit tired when we checked into our hotel in Hobart but I couldn't quite contain my excitement for our dinner booking. A short walk away from the hotel we spotted a little signboard signalling our destination - Ethos Eat Drink.

Hidden down a little laneway, Ethos Eat Drink, Elizabeth Street, Hobart
We wandered down the brick-tunnelled corridor and were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful, genuinely rustic venue amid a vegetable garden. Showing some serious Tasmanian heritage, the Ethos dining space was constructed in the 1820s and its surrounds all date back way beyond the 'rustic chic' trend.

Rich with Hobart history, the restaurant retains strong links to its past with story-filled bits and pieces all around the venue, while it is very strongly linked to the Hobart of today with its focus on locally-grown produce.

Homegrown herbs and vegetables
Ethos offers set menus for dinner sittings, made up of whatever is in season and arrives in small batches at the restaurant on the day.

I opted for the eight course as opposed to the six once I learnt that the extra dishes were going to be charcuterie and cheese. I am, after all, a meat and cheese type of girl.

Jacob's Ladder Amber Ale and gin with house tonic water
We skipped the matching wines in favour of our usual: for him, a local beer in Jacob's Ladder Amber Ale from Van Dieman Brewing and a gin and tonic for me. A novel surprise was that Ethos make their own tonic water, bringing that Tassie touch to a simple G&T.

Jerusalem artichoke chips and crème fraîche
As an appetiser we first received Jerusalem artichoke chips stuck into a blob of crème fraîche. The curled, skin-on chips were thinly sliced and great with a light crunch.

Jerusalem artichokes are typically winter vegetables that I don't often cook as they are such small knobbly creatures and require patience, but I'm glad to have learnt a simple and delicious new way of cooking them.

Fermented apple, apple and miso puree
The next dish of fermented and fresh apple with miso purée and both herbs and vegetables from Ethos' own garden was a mouthful of sweetness, saltiness, crunch and softness.

As we were to discover, each dish at Ethos was made using just a few ingredients, together on a plate in a way that still allowed each flavour to shine.

Confit shallot, leek custard and fermented strawberry
The rather curious dish of leek custard with confit shallots and fermented strawberry was almost too pretty to eat.

I'm usually wary of shallots as I find they can overpower flavours but the whole dish was delicate and yet another example of multiple flavours and textures all in one mouthful.

House made charcuterie
When the shared charcuterie board arrived I was in food heaven, and missed most of the waiter's descriptions.

I know that the terrine was moist and beautifully seasoned and that the rilettes were just the right texture of tender, but it was the cured meat that stole the show. I couldn't quite figure out what cut of porky goodness it was but the excellent proportion of fat to meat made each bite just right.

Dover mussels, dry aged sausage, pickled red cabbage and baby carrots
Ethos' version of a surf and turf was probably my favourite shared dish of the night. I really appreciated the thoughtfulness of pairing simple vegetables of potatoes, carrots and tangy pickled red cabbage with smoky mussels and a salty, spiced sausage.

The flavours of each ingredient could either stand by itself or be eaten together in a wondrous land and sea combination.

Ox tongue, beetroot puree, rapini, pickled onions and cauliflower
While for some there's something about tongue that's just a bit like chewing a tongue, I adored the ox tongue dish and probably ate more than my fair share.

This was my first experience eating rapini raw, which has a slightly bitter taste as with most green leaf vegetables.

Slow cooked pork, broth, kale, spring onion, leek and pickled kohlrabi
Most other diners had started earlier than us so I'd seen bowls of the slow cooked pork arrive at their tables and smelt its earthy scent. This dish could have been my favourite but I found the pork just a bit dry. I did however slurp up all my broth and eat all my vegies.

The problem with multi-course menus is that I tend to overeat on the earlier dishes so by the time the mains/proteins arrive, I'm just too full to eat them. I also blame the bread.

Cheese course
More bread showed up as an accompaniment to the soft goat's cheese, served with a sweet fruit paste and preserved cherries to mellow the saltiness of the creamy, white cheese.

Fresh fig, fig puree, sorrel sorbet, chocolate shortbread, rhubarb syrup and buckwheat
No one was surprised that I barely ate the dessert of figs with sorrel sorbet, but I wasn't too sure about the chocolate shortbread which was just a bit too hard. The sorrel sorbet was a pleasant palate cleanser and tasted as green as it looked.

Bottle chandelier in the dining room
We were pretty much the last diners in the place when we finished but not once did we feel rushed. I did feel bad though and forgot to take a picture of the Tasmania's oldest plumbed toilet (circa 1900, viewed through a glass wall) on our way out.

I like and admire that Ethos uses traditional methods of fermenting, pickling and curing in the food they serve. Ethos is a great representation of the movement by chefs to serve seasonal local produce in a simple, less fussy way - and in a completely, through and through Tassie ethos.

Ethos Eat Drink on Urbanspoon

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