Friday, October 22, 2010


Shop 9 Salamanca Square Hobart

It's not often you get 28C in Hobart of an evening, especially this time of year. It is a lovely stroll down along the waterfront to Salamanca Place early on a Friday evening with the town coming alive, the tall ships moored alongside crowded seafood restaurants, the lights beginning to twinkle across the bay.... and a stinking cold.

Never mind.

Salamanca Place is buzzing. It appears you have to be male, under 35 and wearing a brand-logo teeshirt to get into Irish Murphy's - or at least to be permitted drink a pint outside on the pavement. The Aurora Australia - the big red Antarctic survey vessel - is gone for the summer, the gap on the quay filled with gleaming white motor boats. Gangs of students congregate beneath the trees along Salamanca Place, drinking god knows what from polystyrene cups and otherwise being incredibly civilised.

I wander past the crowds outside Barcelona and James Squire. It's amazing how the young Taswegian women take advantage of a rare balmy evening: most of those outfits would result in hypothermia on most other nights of the year.

Despite the warm evening I am convinced it cannot last. A friendly waitress Ciuccio finds me a table for one inside, tucked between a strangely-matched American couple and a more conventional Australian one. I settle in with a glass of d'Arenberg The Footbolt and my Kathy Reichs novel.

My cold battles with my appetite. Virtually nothing stops me eating as most of you will know, but for fifteen minutes I flick backwards and forwards between gourmet pizzas and a predictable but enticing list of pasta and primi dishes. I have been told the gamberi pizza is off tonight. Contrarily, it is the one thing I crave.

I settle for a rocket, pear and parmesan salad to start, and a prawn risotto to follow. In the end my choices are directed by what I can eat with one fork as I hold a large paperback in the other hand.

The rocket salad is huge but very well balanced. I jab forkfuls of ripe pear, slices of parmesan and rocket leaves drenched in a blue cheese dressing. Most of the walnuts are a casualty of my
clumsy forkmanship and get left behind. So far, so Friday night.

A second glass of The Footbolt heralds the arrival of my main course. I hadn't thought the risotto would be tomato-based and I am immediately disappointed, but convenience triumphs over first impressions and I dig in.

The risotto is... fine. More than tasty. Rice pretty well perfectly cooked. Decent number of prawns. A good smattering of wilted spinach. It lasts me four chapters and I can't complain.

The sights and aromas from other dishes passing by to other tables indicate that this is a decent place. I can only conclude that my cold has numbed my taste buds to the point where everything just tastes ordinary. Everybody else looks thrilled with their food.

My waitress hits just the right balance between pleasantries, eye contact and efficiency. Despite the growing queue at the bar waiting for tables, I never feel rushed. I wander back out into the warm air of the evening, and marvel at the people still dining outside on the square, apparently unaware of the latitude.

The fairy lights on the trees twinkle as I saunter back to my hotel and an early night. As I leave Salamanca Place, the first raindrops start to fall. By tomorrow morning it will be back to more normal Tasmanian spring weather, and we shall have to wait quite a few more weeks for another Friday night like this.

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