A white Art Deco building with huge arched windows sits just off the A1 on the edge of a quaintly-named town called Sassafras.
The former greenhouse is now a restaurant. I can’t say I ever paid it much notice and I’ve done my fair share of travel to the North West coast. But pulling off the highway I felt like I was always aware that there was an unusual building not far off the road. There’s something surreal about such an impressive structure in such an understated location.
I was travelling with The Bone on a sisters go north tour of Tassie. The Lovely Deputy had waved us off earlier. ‘Have a fun time!’ he exclaimed, ‘Like Thelma and Louise!’ We blinked. ‘Well not like the end OBviously.’ Me, ‘Or the beginning?’ ‘Oh yeah,’ he agreed. ‘And then in the middle there’s armed robbery and sex with a stranger <who incidentally is a young Brad Pitt>,’ I returned. ‘Okay, maybe just the bit in the car, and have fun!’ he said fisting the air. Roger that.
The Bone is from Sydney and she’s an artist. She was less inspired by the building describing it as precise and deliberately pristine, but we agreed on the interior, a 1950s Caribbean parlour. Ferns feature, leafy fronds and patterned upholstery. Cane chairs, a baby grand and large fans that circulate air in the same tempo as a Cubano going about his business in the island’s humidity.
The bar is a shrine to Tasmanian gin. A product well and truly in a boom. Having sampled a great deal of the State’s offerings at the recent Gin-uary, I navigated the bottles with ease. Not bad. You can choose a tasting board of three for $24. I was driving. Instead, I chose a glass of the West Tamar, Wines for Joanie Chardonnay ($15) from the broad list of local wines, beers and ciders. The very best gourmand supplies were available too: Wellington Apiary honey, Lark whisky BBQ sauce, Spreyton apple cider, Coal River Farm chocolate and a great deal more.
Goods aside, the feeling of being in a greenhouse pervaded with the high ceilings and the massive infusion of sunlight through the extraordinary windows. It was overwhelmingly elegant and in a predictable pairing with the ambience, our table attendant was young and French. She was also vegan. So when I couldn’t decide what I wanted, the only thing she could recommend was the falafel. It was on my shortlist. Hell, I can make chicken curry at home (the other option) and I don’t have time for all that falafelling.
Six petite refried chickpea balls sat on a tzatziki bed accompanied by a salad of red onion, capsicum and hummus ($27.50). The Bone chose the ricotta and mint filled, thickly battered, zucchini flowers on a vivacious aglione of Brandsema tomatoes ($27.50). Brandsema is a local supplier who’s been growing greenhouse fruit since the fifties and the tomatoes were bursting with colour. I also had the tiramisu, a generously, coffee-saturated savoradi enveloped in cream ($12.50).
Mains are $27.50-$32.50 or platters of premium, Tasmanian produce of around $35 per person, are arguably a significant investment at lunchtime. The front end of the sweets start at a daily baked muffin with cream, $7, and the desserts of cheesecake, crumble, tart and brûlée are $12.50.
The Conservatory requires deep pockets for modest-sized plates of nice food that are beautifully presented. If you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit to spend time in the location.
The Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory is located at 9 Conservatory Road, Sassafras. It’s good to make a reservation. Call them on 0499 888 544.
Find them on Facebook.