Potato skins loaded with sour cream, cheese and bacon pieces; they’re (one of) my dirty little secret(s). I’ve always loved them and have fond memories of margaritas and these tasty starters at the Hog’s Breath of my young adulthood. HB might not be on your radar but they have staying power- the first restaurant opened in Airlie Beach over 30 years ago and our local edition not that long afterwards.
When new restaurant manager, Marcus Sorbello, invited us to see how he was mixing things up in Hobart’s version of this American-style venue, nostalgia led the way.
Regular readers will know that Hog’s Australia’s Steakhouse is the first chain we’ve reviewed. Regular readers also know that we don’t often do paid gigs (this was) and that we only blog about places we would recommend (we can).
So why Hog’s Breath?
There are three universal truths about this chain:
- The potato skins are without a doubt delicious!
- The restaurant caters for families, couples or groups seamlessly. There’s a kid’s menu, colouring in and their signature, fun, curly chips. There are cocktails and snacks. Later into the evening, there’s a party-vibe.
- The meals and menu are humungous. An extensive menu means there are options for everyone. Meal sizes tend towards the large like their 500 grams of massive ribs. The more petite appetite might choose a more circumspect starter as an alternative to a full main.
The music to our ears were the following words from Marcus, “We are releasing a new menu with a different approach; a stronger focus on local produce.”
Okay you’ve got our attention.
Changes are afoot in HB-land with greater flexibility in sourcing produce and menu design and Hobart is off and racing. Marcus told us that about 80 per cent of their fresh produce is now locally sourced and he is introducing specials which are a little more gourmand than regular items like the roast beetroot and feta salad or the grilled chicken and asparagus in garlic cream sauce on offer when we visited. I was feeling pretty chuffed at the HB Australian-glass of Chardonnay for $8.50, particularly since I spent the following weekend in Sydney convulsing at the idea of a $20 glass.
In line with their evolving approach, Marcus told us that he is introducing Tassie wines in coming weeks. And about those big meals, “We found we were throwing away a lot of food. There was just too much waste so we have reduced the amount of sides that come with the mains,” Marcus said.
Struggling to decide, we asked our wait staff what they liked about their menu. We found they were positive and enthusiastic with good menu knowledge. BTW they checked in with us at appropriate intervals and made sure we were fed and watered. Service is definitely on the up and up which is unsurprising given Marcus’ experience managing high profile hotels in Brisbane before making Hobart home. What’s his customer service ethos? “Customers come first. It’s important to me that our service helps make customers feel at home and relaxed. It’s also important that staff are interested in them having a good time,” Marcus said.
Marcus said that he supported staff from the ground up ensuring they got to know the product they were serving, “Staff get some time in the kitchen, helping prepare desserts and salads for example.”
The Hobart restaurant is laid out in precincts which really supports a mixed clientele base – a space for kids, quieter couples and bigger groups. Or you can sit around the fire enjoying a Tassie beer or a HB cocktail. They also have a $9.90 lunch menu with about a dozen options, do breakfast or even a takeaway coffee. The capacity to drive in and park is a real advantage. They also walk meals over to local businesses and homes!
Okay, so what did we decide on?
- Boss Hog mushrooms, $9.95, crumbed deep-fried button mushrooms.
- Loaded potato skins, $13.95, potato skins dusted in blackened seasoning, topped with bacon, melted cheddar, sweet chilli sauce and served with sour cream.
- Chicken and ranch salad, $17.95, crispy panko-crumbed chicken breast over grilled bacon, fried potato chunks, cherry tomatoes, rawslaw, cos lettuce, rocket and shredded cheese dressed with Hog’s ranch dressing. With advice we went for an avocado side, $3.95.
- Avocado and vegan schnitzel wrap, $16.95, avocado, crispy vegan schnitzel, cos lettuce, rawslaw, tomato salsa and zesty coriander and lime dressing.
All meals were tasty and fun – it’s a HB hallmark. The weakest link was the actual schnitzel which couldn’t compete on the same level of the other meals. There was more food than we could comfortably finish and we chose smaller options. On our Thursday night, early sitting, the restaurant had a comfortable occupancy of mostly couples and a few families. HB bucked the norm of seating everyone on top of each other and we had plenty of space between our table and other diners.
Why would I return?
- Young, vibrant service.
- Easy-eating, tasty food treats and an affordable drink.
- An increasing local-produce profile.
A menu that can meet everyone’s needs. I’m going to book a work groups in ASAP.
Thanks to Marcus and his team for their hospitality and generosity. The Two Girls would be pleased to come back and pay our own way next time.
Find Hog’s Breath at 2 Macquarie Street Hobart.
Check out their menu online – Hog’s Breath Cafe.