Tonight AJ and I are travelling up from Hobart to the Northern Tasmanian city of Launceston. With an engagement party to attend in the later hours of the evening we thought we'd sneak in a bite to eat at a restaurant called 'Bellini'.
Situated in at the Launceston seaport, the restaurant shares it location with Silt, Mud and a few other Launceston gems. Being a rather chilly Tasmanian night, there weren't too many folk about - regardless, there were a few in Bellini and surrounding restaurants.
Walking around the seaport you are surrounded by boats and a view of the North Esk river. Through the restaurant's glass doors you enter a contemporary fit out. Polished concrete floors, exposed wood walls, local artist's paintings on the walls and a seasonally decorated theme throughout. The floors do create a reverb effect and it could be noisy so it would probably not be the best for an intimate dining experience, however I'd expect the restaurant would be excellent for a whole venue experience for a special occasion.
After a 2hr+ drive and AJ having worked most of the day we came prepared with our appetites. We were seated promptly and handed our menus.
The Drinks list: a very limited selection of tap beer. However, this is contrasted by an extensive bottled selection from Australia, Italy and New Zealand. There are also traditional cocktails, wine by the glass, a great red and white variety including a solely Tasmanian Pinot selection.
The Food: Being a 'Contemporary Italian' style restaurant there is much on offer including the traditional pizza, pasta, antipasto and main courses. Tonight AJ and I decided to go for an entree and a main.
We began our evening with the Bellini antipasto platter.
Marinated black olives, toasted bread, red capsicum, capers, cured beef with horseradish sauce, smoked salmon, steamed mussels in tomato broth, pickled octopus, artichoke, salad.
The platter was a great start to the night. There is really nothing else like rich antipasto to get your tastebuds going and this was no exception. The beef was tender and left you wanting an entire plate of it. The salmon was moist and flavoursome. The other components were tasty but weren't so amazing to be set apart from the others.
The next course AJ had was the Pork Belly.
The skin was crispy like any pork belly should be. The flavours were nice, but unremarkable to me. AJ thought it was amazing - moist and delectable. The fennel salad was neither here nor there - did not elevate the flavours in the meal. The sauce on the plate detracted from the richness of the pork.
I had what I thought would be a rather boring Chicken Parmagiana. And boy was I wrong.
On my plate was a succulent breast of herbed chicken with ham, cheese and rich tomato sauce. Underneath lay olives, mushrooms and roasted tomatoes. On the other side of the plate was a neatly stacked pile of golden and crispy polenta chips resting in a pesto sauce. This was accompanied with a salad of lettuce, tomato, red onion, capers and red marinated capsicum.
This was definitely not your ordinary counter meal 'Parma'. The attention paid to the careful cooking of the chicken was immediately noticed. This was easily a 250+ gram piece of chicken that would have taken care to get right. It was seasoned with pepper, herbs and bread crumbs and presumably deep fried to a caramel brown colour. The chicken was placed on a selection of marinated olives, roasted tomatoes and mushrooms that added to the rich tomato flavour.
The polenta chips were amazingly crisp and light gold in colour. The green pesto was a welcome addition to contrast the rich tomato from the chicken. It was tangy but not overpowering - a well balanced construction.
I was very happy with the service, the front of house staff were friendly, genuine and welcoming. The quality of the food at Bellini is definitely worth trying. There are plenty of other options if you want a more traditional Italian dining experience - pastas, risottos, pizzas, etc. We left full and satisfied.
If you're ever in Launceston - be sure to give these guys a go - I know we'll be back.