A cold Hobart night (what's new?), rugged up and hungry.
AJ and I had been waiting weeks for good friend to return from the US so we could visit a favourite Hobart restaurant: Monty's on Montpelier.
When we arrived we were seated at the bar - the wood fire and a glass of Shiraz was all that was needed to forget about what was outside. The restaurant has a genuine homeliness with open fires, welcoming (and knowledgable) staff, a collection of artworks and decor that makes you feel like you may be eating at a friend's place.
When our friends arrived we found our seats and waited to receive our menus. Our selections were the following;
Entrees: Mt. Gnomon Saddleback Pork Belly x 2, Truffles of Tasmania, Wild Venison with cherries and pommes gauphrette.
I ordered the 'Truffles of Tasmania' - I enjoy my truffle oil at home so I thought I'd give it a shot to see expertly prepared truffle fare.
The first method was a reconstructed truffle (there was a french term offered but I failed to remember it) with truffle labne. It was served on a little garnish of arborio rice. The texture was moist, rich and full of flavour. The second method was house made fettucine served with truffle butter - amazing. Pasta was perfect, butter was rich and the truffle was subtle. But, the combination of flavours bound to the fat and elevated rather simple elements (pasta, butter) to a dish that could have been a main in it's own right. Finally (not pictured) was a egg truffle custard - served in a little egg with crispy wavers to enjoy it with. Overall an excellent way to enjoy local black Tasmanian truffles.
I tried some of the Pork Belly which was beautiful; moist and had a unique pork crackling that was light, translucent and crunchy. It was served with a rich pork jus that was rich in flavour.
While I didn't taste the Venison I was told it was beautiful. It also had a garnish of pommes gauphrette which is a latticed potato crisp. Very good way of adding texture to the dish and made for some visual contrast with juicy red cherries and baby beetroots on the plate.
Mains: Bruny Island Lamb Noisette, Harpuka in a thai curry, Chargrilled Rib Eye of Black Angus and a Smoked Baby Chicken.
The Lamb was somewhat disappointing. Not in the flavour, but in the serving size. Two pieces of lamb with some fresh brussels, radishes and potato pave and hazelnut cream. The flavours were there - there was just not enough of it.
I didn't have a try of the Harpuka, but I did manage to steal a piece of silken tofu from the rich Thai curry. I can only imagine that the fish would have been as flavour packed as the little cube of tofu I devoured. It's always difficult to take a good photo of a curry - so here's a bad one.
Mr T was eager to tuck into his Black Angus char-grilled Rib Eye. He asked for it Medium Rare but when it was served was probably more a Medium. In the chefs defence it was a rather thick cut. However, the char-grilling created a beautiful crunchy crust and added to the deep beef flavour. The dish was served with a steamed egg, gnocchi and a black mustard but you could not really taste the mustard I admit. It would have been much better served with a jus or even a side gravy to add a bit of moisture.
I ordered the 'hero' of the mains. All 'ordering modesty' had to go out the window when I enjoyed a juicy, well seasoned and aromatic chicken. The skin was reduced to the minutiae, the dark and white meat was incomparably moist - it was really just a superb way to cook chicken served with baby beets, potatoes, radish and a homemade stuffing of herbs and bread crumbs. My fellow diners agreed this was the main of the day.
Dessert: Mrs. Henderson's Donuts & Chocolate Fondant
These light and crispy sugar-clouds just disappeared in your mouth. They were served with a rich lemon curd, chantilly cream and jam.
The fondant was warm and exploded like a Chocolate Mt Vesuvius when the spoon broke into its fluffy and rich cake surround. Adding some Pedro Ximanez gel, some blue cheese ice cream and rich chocolate sauce to each mouthful made it an absolute delight to eat. The chocolate popping candy was a bit of fun too.
The first time we'd been to this restaurant was as a gift - but the real gift was being told about this inconspicious gem that is hidden behind the usual restaurant spots around Salamanca.
We've come back twice since then and will come back time and time again.