Franklin encapsulates much that's great about Hobart today. It's a celebration of local culture and nature held against a backdrop of industrial surfaces worn to smooth warmth by time and use. A place where a person can sidle up to the bar for a beer and a lamb rib daubed with the leatherwood honey and fennel pollen chef Analiese Gregory picked up on her way to work. Or settle in at a timber table for linguine enriched with sea urchin, scattered with fronds of that same wild fennel. Or for the garfish plucked from local waters that Gregory expertly coaxes to succulence in the Scotch oven and sauces with oyster butter and chive flowers. Possibly with a glass from Forbes Appleby's bold and exhilarating wine list. Franklin is a restaurant in its element, a joyous place where a diner feels blessed to be part of the dance rather than a mere spectator. Get amongst it.
30 Argyle St, Hobart, (03) 6234 3375, franklinhobart.com.au
There's alchemy in the former asylum turned into one of Tasmania's most essential gems. It's the rare marriage of history and modernity seen in the dining hall's mix of pressed metal ceilings, lino floors and avant-garde chandelier, in the Australian drinks program that favours the brave, and in Ali Currey-Voumard's menu that spins gold from the nearby Agrarian farm grounds. The spare aesthetic spreads to the plates, where wood-roasted heirloom tomatoes, house-made stracciatella and sourdough triangulate perfection and puffy potato bread from the wood oven serves as a platform for pizza, Tassie-style, with sliced potato, mussel cream and herbs. The buzz has attracted a team of waiters par excellence. They'll wisely recommend you stay for dessert, where a slice of rhubarb and strawberry pie with thick cream is the ideal farmhouse favourite.
11a The Avenue, New Norfolk, (03) 6262 0011, theagrariankitchen.com
With maybe 20 seats and barely nine dishes on the blackboard, Templo is about concision. Dish descriptions are terse, sometimes to the point of obscurity. The words "Gnocco fritto" only hint at the pleasure of lush folds of cool mortadella meeting hot puffs of dough, while vegetarians ordering "zucchini, romesco" might be thrown by the addition of blood sausage, but it plays off the almond and red pepper sauce beautifully. Chicory is not mentioned in "hanger steak, Taleggio", yet its bitterness is the foil that makes the harmony between the cheese and beef. Happily, every dish is explained in detail by engaged staff, who suggest apt picks from the wine list. The sole dessert offering – bignè di San Giuseppe, puffs of fried choux filled with milk gelato and strawberries – demonstrates that focus and generosity can go hand in hand in the tastiest of ways.
98 Patrick St, Hobart, (03) 6234 7659, templo.com.au
The masterstock pig's ear, thin strips fried and seasoned with prickly ash salt, has quickly become a Hobart classic. The addictive snack is ordered across the board at this grand venue perched on the end of Brooke Street Pier, from the seats at the bar soaking up the open kitchen's clang to the tables embracing full-frontal views of the Derwent River. By name and design Aløft reads Scandinavian, but in the eats it leans modern Asian. Sometimes it's subtle, as with the fermented garlic aioli adding its funky backbeat to fried school prawns, or sparkling kingfish sashimi with a herby dressing crowned with tempura saltbush, one of many locally driven notes integrated seamlessly. Thin, smoky slices of char siu pork neck jazzed up with charry pickled cucumber bristling with Sichuan spice and a Shaoxing emulsion are more geographically assertive. Lofty heights indeed.
Brooke St Pier, Hobart, (03) 6223 1619, aloftrestaurant.com
There's a lot going on here. As friendly, name-tagged staff explain, Landscape takes its name from the canvases by English-born painter John Glover that adorn the dark and sombre main dining room. The kitchen, meanwhile, is focused in part on the Argentine grill, fired with timbers from the Tasmanian Cask Co. The menu is just as busy. You can have cucumber and gin sorbet with your oysters, or a lobster on your steak. But it eats better than it reads. Octopus might be a little rubbery, but the flavours of sweet potato, harissa and preserved lemon frame its charriness with flair. Crab and Moreton Bay bug folded through oddly soft bucatini are overwhelmed by a sweet tarragon butter, but Angus Scotch is grilled and seasoned with adroit care. Close with a confidently unadorned, nicely bitter crème caramel, or dive back into the hefty wine list.
23 Hunter St, Hobart, 1800 436 797, landscaperestaurant.com.au
Smoked eel folded into golden fluffy blini. Taleggio oozing from brioche spiced with caraway. The pleasures of Fico are many and varied. Italy is its lodestar, but it's an Italy of imagination as much as it is of the experience of chefs Federica Andrisani and Oskar Rossi. Japan is an influence. With its dashi base and seaweed, "sushi alla Italiana" might have Nonna reaching for the rosary, but the carnaroliis cooked a nutty al dente, a savoury wave across the plate, the equal of any risotto in the land. Sweet saucing undercuts pork and 'nduja ravioli, but linguine with smoked butter and mussels shows the house-made pasta at its restrained best. The room? More cosy than dynamic. Desserts (smoked-milk ice-cream, tarragon and blackcurrant, say) are as snappy as the service and wine list are admirably expansive. Fico: it's where Hobart wants to eat right now.
151 Macquarie St, Hobart, (03) 6245 3391, ficofico.net
When the chef is growing a good whack of what he's putting on your plate in his garden, you know he's going to treat it right. And chef Craig Will, who exercises his green thumb with herbs, cucumbers, eggplant and more, doesn't disappoint. At dinner, beneath the rustic beams of this 19th-century flour mill, he works this and local produce into clever couplings of classic and challenging. Your meats will be cooked in a familiar way but flavoured with unexpected twists, many with an Asian bent: Japanese barbecue sauce adds cool-factor to quail, and thick-cut sheets of kombu and a miso emulsion wake up duck. The wine list is a paean to Tassie's best – you'll find local rieslings, pinot and fizz or, if you really made a night of it, a Bloody Mary made with local Hartshorn sheep's whey vodka when you pop back in for a pork and kimchi omelette for breakfast.
2 Bridge Rd, Launceston, (03) 6331 4153, stillwater.com.au
8. Dier Makr
Is it a wine bar? A fine-dining experience? Or have you wandered into a chef's home by mistake? The name (taken from a Led Zeppelin song) serves as both warning and invitation: you're at our place; relax and trust us. The changing "set menu" is a blackboard of nouns (there's also a minute bar menu for walk-ins), but you're not choosing so it hardly matters. Instead, scrutinise the idiosyncratic wine list or tour the wine room, where volcanics jostle against German blends and Russian reds, then sip as your surprises are served. "Lettuce, oyster" sees fresh lettuce with grilled oysters, crisp chicken skin and oyster cream. "Raw beef, anchovy" combines skirt steak and perfectly judged creamy anchovy dressing. Between efficient and charming courses, the chef and staff test, taste and debate. It's a joyful dinner party, with anyone who wants to join the fun.
123 Collins St, Hobart, (03) 6288 8910, diermakr.com
9. The Source
"Those, madam? They're the vagina bowls. I believe David and Kirsha used them at their wedding." At the Museum of Old and New Art the outré is part of the everyday, and the restaurant is no exception. A sunny day can grant relief from the oddly staid quality of the curtained dining room; take a glass from the dazzling wine list on the balcony, and watch the chooks and free-range art lovers on the lawn below. Dishes can be ornate, flavours are mostly true. There's depth in a mushroom masterstock under abalone, greens and daikon with crisp chicken skin an inspired addition, while green olives and sake butter update the fennel and orange accompanying a juicy hunk of blue-eye trevalla. Spiced pineapple tart wants for tropical oomph (this being Tasmania and all), but The Source still sends diners back into the Mona playground sated and stimulated nonetheless.
Mona, 655 Main Rd, Berriedale, (03) 6277 9904, mona.net.au
10. Me Wah
Who'd have thought that a rice-paper cone filled with sautéed rock lobster and diced vegetables could so brighten a cool autumn night? It's an entrée-sized reason why Me Wah has been rated Tasmania's best Chinese for dynastic ages. Once you're past the stone lions that hold the suburban shopping court at bay, you're ensconced in a polished space. Crisply attired waitstaff dispense advice on the menu and the encyclopedic wine list. Tasmanian ingredients hold sway: perfect Scottsdale free-range pork belly is enhanced with hoisin; crisp wonton pastry puts the crunch on roasted Marion Bay free-range chicken. Me Wah is famed for its luxe rock lobster and long-braised abalone, but sautéed king prawns, which meld perfectly with lustrous Tassie sea urchin roe, reward going off-piste. It's a place to savour – even the weekend yum cha is silver service.
Suite 16, Magnet Ct, Sandy Bay, (03) 6223 3688, mewah.com.au