The return of Luke Burgess to Hobart has a distinct touch of the prodigal son. Now appearing at a two-month pop-up at Dier Makr, its first night was dominated by die-hard fans of his trailblazing restaurant that put Tasmania on the map well before any of that Franklin and MONA business.
"Well, yes, some people were a little effusive and emotional… it's nice to know people still remember us fondly," says Burgess.
A collaboration between Burgess, his chef partner Deborah Blank and Angus Burton from aromatic spirits specialist Spirit People, Dier Marisqueria has a short, sharp menu of seafood and vegetable dishes matched with natural wines and original cocktails.
Burgess says Dier Marisqueria (a marisqueria is a Spanish seafood restaurant) heeds some of the determinedly locavore lessons of Garagistes. "It's not just going to be Tassie-focused," he says. "It's really not as easy to procure good seafood here as people think, and we're using the best seafood we can find from Tasmania - abalone, sea urchin, oysters - but this time I'm not going to be scared to use some great bonito or King George whiting from Victoria. Let's call it Greater Tasmania. We're connected by power, so there's already a tethering there."
Vegetables are also a headliner - Burgess has, say, Taiwanese eggplant when in season and Japanese turnips sourced from local organic farmer Tony Shearer, as well as locally grown rockmelon, on the tight eight-dish menu.
Taking over natural wine flag-flyer Dier Makr every Sunday and Monday, a time when eating and drinking options in Hobart are notoriously thin on the ground, the pop-up will run until June 19. The trio intend it to be casual and fun, with all three running the food and Burton in charge of drinks that range from natural wines to "playful modern bartenders' takes on old-school daggy drinks that you'd find in French bistros that work really well with food" (case in point, the pét-it-punch, with lime, coconut nectar, rhum agricole and bonal aperitif topped up with a dash of pét-nat).
Dier Marisqueria also marks something of a culinary lane change for Burgess, whose chef partner Blank hails from Brazil. "She's imparting her style on things," says Burgess. "There are a lot more South American things involved, and a lot of influences from around the world and our visit to 22 countries over the past year."
Looking further ahead, Burgess acolytes will be thrilled to hear he's looking to settle down again, and Dier Marisqueria is doubling as a scouting exercise ahead of their slated return to the island state.
"We're definitely in the process of opening something and thinking about where we'll be," Burgess says. "You could say we're testing the waters. It'll definitely be country, and if you're going to do that kind of thing, Tasmania is a pretty good place to pick. Hobart is only 25 minutes' drive from the country, so we're pretty sure it's going to be Tasmania. We know enough people now we can work with; it all makes sense. Maybe we'll wind up with a 20-seater on a farm with a shop … It's all chatter at the moment."
Dier Marisqueria runs from May 7 - June 19, 123 Collins Street, Hobart, open Sunday from 12.30pm - late; Monday 6pm - late. diermarisqueria.com