Who is Tom McHugo?

I made a lunch reservation and the email came back with ‘Thanks, Tom’.

Was the former Montgomery’s Hotel now named after the proprietor? I desperately wanted to reply. In fact I wrote the email, but for once sense got the better of me and I deleted it.
But who was Tom McHugo?

I’ve been in for a wine once or a dozen times in the last 18 months and I can say the old pub has never looked so good. It’s amazing what a decent paint job, a good selection of craft beer and smiling staff can do for a place.

It was once karaoke-central and I’ve been to my fair share of drunken functions upstairs in the past. It’s always been popular but now the pub on the corner of Macquarie and Argyle Street also has personality.

Each visit I’ve given the menu a curious once over and wondered about what was going on in that kitchen – it was contemporary, affordable and a little adventurous.

The farewell lunch for Ms Aquamarine was a good enough reason to make a reservation.

What we ordered:
• Chicken parmigiana with chips, $12 (by 4, the menu was more adventurous than my work colleagues).
• Warm baked delicata squash dressed with whey and aged cheese, $7.
• Wallaby terrine with green tomato chutney and toast, $14.
• North West Tasmanian 200g sirloin steak with chips, $12.
• Roast Long Name farm pork loin with apple and potato cream, onion jus and chicory, $24.
• Roast Littlewood lamb leg chop, kefir curd, spigarello and honey kunzea jus, $28.
• Chips, $8.

This Girl discovered that Tom Westcott and Whitney Ball have been operating Tom McHugo’s for the last 18 months. Whitney has serious Hobart hospitality credentials, having worked in many, many local establishments over the last decade or so.

Tom Westcott writes the menu with a focus on vegetables, fruit or animals grown or raised in Tasmania, by people the couple know and share ideals with.

My casual observation of the menu was that there were less common cuts or types of meat and there was an equally representative focus on vegetables. On our visit there was beef tongue and steak and kidney pie. A previous menu cited pork heart.

They’re not so unusual but they’re not common either. They’re the sorts of meals my parents ate when they were growing up post-war, and they’re making a come back. They ate them because they were affordable, tasty and because that’s what you did, used as much of the beast as you could. Now we’re eating them again, for all the same reasons.

“Where possible, we buy animals whole and utilitse everything out of respect to the animal. It is also our belief that the less common cuts can be the most delicious as well,” Whitney said.

The other thing that’s obvious about the menu is that there is a wide range of price points. If you’re hungry, order one of the bigger meat dishes. Vego or counting the dosh? Take a friend and order a couple of the vegetable plates. The delicata squash for example was a terrific dish – more than a side, a meal in itself. In our circumstances, half the table was able to enjoy it along side their order.

“Our menu is designed to be price approachable, making good food accessible to everyone,” Whitney said.

The delicious delicata squash was served with greens and a garlicky sauce rather than the whey indicated by the menu we were sent the day prior.

“We change the menu daily to keep regular customers interested but also to reflect the growing patterns of small producers. It also keeps the staff on their toes!” Whitney said.

The crew all enjoyed their lunches. New and noteworthy was as follows:
• Parmigiana was good value for the price. In a world where the parmigiana has come to represent excess, served bigger than your head, this crumbed chicken comfort food suited the plate.
• On the basis of the successful squash, we recommend further exploration of the vegetable dishes.
• The wallaby terrine also had a little something somethin quince on the side along with the chutney – plenty on this plate to make a decent lunch without the chips and squash I also ordered.
• The additions kunzea, kefir curd and apple and potato cream are the sorts of ingredients that bring a little je ne sais quoi to this menu.

Tip: Spigarello is an heirloom variety of broccoli.

So regretting not giving dessert a go.

Tom McHugo can get busy at lunch so we recommend you make a reservation, particularly for a larger group.

They also do functions – 25 people for sit down and between 25 – 60 people for a standing function.

Tom and Whitney are fully immersed. When they get to eat out it’s likely to be with like-minded folk who share their ideals.

“We also enjoy buying vegetables from Harvest Feast and Provenance Growers at Salamanca Market, using condiments from Rough Rice and just eat at home,” Whitney told us.

Owning a business, it’s hard work right? Lucky these guys enjoy it so much.

And guess what?

Tom McHugo was one of the original proprietors of the hotel in the 1940’s and a well-known publican of the era.

Find Tom McHugo’s at 87 Macquarie Street.

Call them on 03 6231 4916.

Find them on Facebook – Tom McHugo’s Hobart.

In the area? You might also like Franklin, here’s our post – Franklin Restaurant.

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