PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
Having secured its place in the top 100 Australian Restaurants by Gourmet Traveller, Hobart's Gararagistes is causing serious hype. Chef and owner Luke Burgess, Katrina Birchmeier (sommelier) and Kirk Richardson (co-owner) have turned an old, barn-like CBD motor garage into a chic, open-plan wine bar and restaurant that lets guests in on the secrets of its past life. A bar fronts the open kitchen while communal tables and Bauhaus-inspired timber chairs beckon diners to stay a while. The clever acoustics allow easy cross-table conversations above the palpable buzz of many conversations.
Whilst Gararagistes has established itself as a wine bar, with a 50+ page wine list, the food is equally as important as what's on offer to drink, yet choices pale in comparison. The wines are sourced from artisan growers that push the biodynamic envelope and labels have been collated from reputable European wine growing regions as well as Australian ones. The prices are at the pointy end of the spectrum, but the list is original and the wines have personality. The orange tinged, Vin de France ‘Mama Rose' Cabernet Franc Domaine Mosse 2011 is a particular highlight.
A daily-changing menu is designed to share as part of a progressive meal, however, the word "share" is ambitious, given the petite portions of each dish. That said, the food is pretty spectacular and arrives delicately plated on beautiful large ceramic plates. A dish of salt-baked parsnip with fried buckwheat, crisp saltbush and hazelnut crumble turns an underdog vegetable into a hero, whilst char-grilled leek with fresh curd, garagistes' pancetta, toasted pepitas and vibrant purple chive flowers is enchanting and texturally apt. From a list of about 12 items, seven is a good number for a table of four, but even then we leaf wanting more but were aware that our pockets were already ablaze.
How does the saying go? It's the quality not the quantity that counts? The saying rings true for Garagistes, perhaps a little too perfectly.