The Old Wharf

The typology of hotel restaurants goes like this: mass bain marie, primacy of the tourist, and feature restaurant. The growing trend for higher-end hotels is to move away from the functional bistro to a more unique dining experience, offering something for both visitors and locals.

After an extended period of publicity, Hobart’s story-telling hotel, Macq1, opened. It was The Other Girl’s birthday and time to investigate Federal Hotel’s take on a high-end hotel restaurant in Hobart.

Each of the hotel’s 114 rooms tells a unique Tasmanian story. The hotel is stunning and noticeable efforts have been made to ensure the stories told include Tasmania’s first people. Exquisite fibre baskets, water carriers and shell necklaces take pride of place.

At the entrance is a grand fire pit, reminiscent of the place stories were first told. Tours and tickets are available for experiences with the hotel’s Master Storyteller – his actual title – either around the fire or on foot around the city.

The Old Wharf restaurant comes next and at the rear is the bar. The design includes a kelp forest ceiling sculpture, whaling weapons and ship ropes, and stylised newspapers with the city’s historic hopes and highlights. Tasmanian books line shelves for tourists to peruse. It is dark and warm, an intimate space. Floor to ceiling glass allows a different perspective across Constitution Dock. The foyer, restaurant and bar are all very gorgeous. It’s beautiful here.

The Lovely Deputy and The Two Girls designed ourselves into the space on Friday night and considered how expectations and market segmentation matter in hotel restaurants.

Observations 1, 2, 3

The first thing we noticed was the restaurant’s high staffing ratio didn’t translate into responsiveness, with many aspects of the service left in a void. We had some charming interactions and there were also some surprising gaps.

Notwithstanding, a lot of effort went in to the front end of our experience with the role of staff including story-teller.┬áStory telling is the major attraction of the hotel so it’s unsurprising that it’s been woven into the restaurant experience and one of the things that puts this restaurant in the ‘tourist’ classification for us. For a group of local friends out to enjoy each other’s company and looking for a more intimate experience, the initial introduction and story regaling was sufficient, the unsolicited stories that followed might be better suited to visitors or the solo diner.

Our final observation was that the three courses we each ate were highly respectable, with no earth-shattering moments. Each dish was beautifully plated with solid attempts and contrasting colours and textures with gorgeous fresh ingredients. Each plate asked for something bolder which consolidated our view of the Old Wharf as ‘tourist’. The menu had enough local produce and contemporary ingredients to provide modern offerings without the risk of offending any palates.

From the main menu we ate:

  • Bruny Island oysters with salmon roe, pickled cucumber, dill, $26, half dozen
  • Fregola, citrus fruits, silken eggplant, mint, mozzarella, pomegranate, $16
  • Spring Bay Mussel chowder, Pink Ling, local scallops, spec and winter vegetables, $26
  • Confit duck, winter vegetables, black barley, $35
  • Roasted carrots, almonds and Persian feta, $9
  • Goat’s curd panna cotta, Bothwell rhubarb, pistachio ice cream, $16
  • Roasted Huon Valley pear, whiskey cream, dark chocolate sorbet, $18
  • Roasted quince, organic oat and quinoa crumble, lemon and bay leaf ice cream, $18.

From the specials we chose the grilled octopus and the Moo Brew flathead and chips.

The menu’s strengths were in the mains plates, specifically the octopus and the runner-up, confit duck. The flavours were most successful in these dishes. Desserts were on the savoury rather than the sweet-side which happens in dessert menus from time to time (see our post on Franklin). The aromatic flavours and rose hues of a well roasted quince were absent. However, there’s a time and place for everything and this dish would be perfect at the breakfast table.

The Old Wharf is a restaurant that might best be enjoyed by visitors. Locals will enjoy a drink in the bar and on the wharf when it warms up. For other Federal Hotels’ restaurants don’t forget to try the gorgeous Landscape and Peacock and Jones across the road.


Find out more about Macq1.

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