Franklin encapsulates much that's likeable about Hobart. It's a celebration of local culture and nature held against a backdrop of industrial surfaces worn to smooth warmth by time and use. It's the finest diner in the Tasmanian capital, but you're as likely to be seated next to a bunch of wind-burnt wanderers zipped and toggled tight in The North Face as you are a couple in their Friday-night finery. And perhaps this is fitting. The arrival of a new chef, Analiese Gregory, opens a new chapter for the restaurant.
David Moyle, Franklin's first chef, said his job involved as much time driving around to track down produce as it did working in the kitchen. When Gregory was Peter Gilmore's second-in-command in the kitchen at Quay, their meat supplier would drop things over personally in his Porsche if they needed them in a hurry. If the pace in Tasmania is slower, it doesn't seem to trouble Gregory. She has said that her time cooking at Bras in Aubrac affected her profoundly, and while Hobart might not be quite so ruggedly windswept as the Massif Central, it's proving fertile ground nonetheless.
I enjoyed Bar Brosé, Gregory's last stop in Sydney, but felt like I was waiting for a penny that never dropped. She has been at Franklin since last August, and it's clear she's in her element. Maybe that should be elements, plural. She plucks abalone from the icy waters of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, dives for urchins off Fossil Cove, presses local market gardeners for skirret and medlars, and has mastered the moods of the Scotch oven.
She uses it to coax elegant texture from zucchini, which she sets on whipped ricotta and satsivi, a Georgian walnut sauce, and showers with lovage and basil. Garfish emerges from the oven split down the middle, rearing out of a sea of oyster butter scattered with chive flowers. The flavour of the fish gets lost, but it's cooked with enviable precision.
The scope and style of the room are immediately arresting, but it's little details – the heated floor, the kangaroo hides thrown over some of the chairs, the copper dispenser for the paper towels in the toilets and perfectly placed flashes of INXS and the Divinyls (circa "Boys in Town") on the soundtrack – that seal the deal.
Service is in sync with the kitchen, the waiters clearly very much on board with Team Gregory. Manager Forbes Appleby is a gentle presence on the floor, but his wine list is written with bold strokes. If wine that is local or priced under $70 a bottle is what you want, you'll be better served by other cellars in Hobart; if your tastes lean natural you're in for a treat. In any case, the likes of Owen Latta's "Precarious" oxidised sauvignon blanc blend from western Victoria, and Valentin Morel's unfiltered, unsulphured chardonnay from the Jura, both poured by the glass, make fine foils for all the butter and cheese.
They're not allowed to light the fire before 3pm, so the wood-roasted Cape Grim beef dressed with walnut and smoked fat, say, or the glazed pork neck with a whey butter sauce only appear at dinner.
This is not to say the lunch menu is a place of desolation and despair. Far from it. Milky swatches of pork loin that Gregory cured herself melt on the tongue, a dusting of horseradish and smoked paprika dissolving into sweet fat. Chicken liver parfait is creamy, paired with yeast crisps, slices of a dense, nutty rye loaf and a cruel few pickled cherries.
An anchovy sauce, much like what you might find in vitello tonnato, brings fitting intensity to hand-cut tartare of Littlewood lamb, framed with peppery leaves and horseradish. Smart.
Hobart's weather can have you looking for something a bit more warming than charcuterie and raw sheep. At lunch, the house-made pasta of the day fills that gap: linguine swimming in butter with sea urchin folded through it, perhaps, tuned up with wild fennel.
The one dish Gregory brought with her from Sydney is a tribute to Michel Bras rendered in crisp leaves of potato teamed with salted caramel and a brown butter mousse, while the last cherries are celebrated in a golden clafoutis topped with a honey-kefir cream.
A recent GT profile questioned whether Tasmania would be the move that saw one of our most promising young chefs realise her potential in the kitchen. More than six months into the job, all the indications are positive. In Franklin, Analiese Gregory has found a fitting stage for her talents, and in Analiese Gregory, Franklin has found one of the most talented chefs of her generation finding her voice. Right now, Franklin is a restaurant in its moment, a place on the up where a diner feels blessed to be part of the dance rather than a mere spectator. Get amongst it.
Words: Pat Nourse