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A taste of living the high life
ALL good journeys carry a degree of distraction.
It's often the distractions that give you the best anecdotes. No one wants to hear about the time that your plane took off on time, your driver met you at the right place in the airport and took you directly to the hotel, where they knew about your booking and had the room ready.
It's the attractions you miss, the wacky detours, the mechanical breakdowns, the emotional implosions that ultimately define a travel experience.
A recent trip to Hobart had a couple of splendid detours, one to Oatlands and one to the Museum of Old and New Art, so good that they both earned repeat visits the following day.
But the main game was a night at the Hotel Grand Chancellor for a chance to snoop at its fitout.
Overlooking the waterfront in our state's biggest city, the Grand Chancellor's 243 rooms are a crucial part of the state's tourism infrastructure. The hotel has been upgrading rooms, three floors a year, for the past few years.
On arrival, there's a message to meet a writer friend in the bar. No surprises there, so I drop in carrying luggage to make sure he's not sitting solo, nursing a lonely beer.
The mate is far from lonely. He's actually entertaining two stunning beauties and toasting their good health with sparkling wine.
My mind runs through several possible scenarios, all inappropriate for married men, and the mate's giving nothing away because he is enjoying my befuddlement. Eventually I realise the stunners are my friend's colleagues having an after-work drink.
The felicitous distractions depart and we head into Restaurant Tasman for a degustation.
We find out later that sous chef Sam Steel has heard that a couple of writers are in and is working on his day off to make sure everything is just right.
"We live and die on every single plate we serve,'' he says. We learn that Steel is a chef with a mission: his priorities are winning return customers and breaking the notion that
hotel restaurants are somehow inferior to dedicated eateries.
The degustation begins with sashimi-grade tuna tartar with capers, shallots, croutons, avocado and sweet wasabi dressing. There's also saffron-infused ginger in there somewhere and a 2010 Goaty Hill Riesling to wash it down.
A Josef Chromy pinot gris accompanies the next dish, crayfish cannaloni with king prawn, asparagus and citrus butter. (Writing this several weeks after the event is making my mouth water.)
The third item is heritage pork belly and seared duck breast with beetroot puree, watercress, pistachio and apple candy. A Tasmanian Icon 2008 Chardonnay completes the delicious combination.
The fourth dish is a duo of Cape Grim beef: eye fillet and braised cheek with spinach puree and mushroom glaze. Stoney Vineyard 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon completes the slice of omnivore's heaven.
Dessert's finale is a Derwent Valley raspberry parfait with chocolate curl and almond sponge. It's all ridiculously scrumptious. Chef Steel says they live and die by every dish; it seems Restaurant Tasman lives, and lives very well.
IF YOU GO
Restaurant Tasman is open seven days a week for breakfast 6.30am to 10am and dinner 6pm to 9.30pm. See tinyurl.com/3do95a5
The writer was a guest of Hotel Grand Chancellor Hobart.