I’ve always wanted to visit Tasmania. From tales of friends who have hiked Cradle Mountain, to those who have visited Bruny Island for the food, to those who have loved the modern art at MONA, Tasmania seems to be a state that has something to offer everyone. Hence we chose to spend our anniversary weekend in Launceston sampling just a little bit of what Northern Tasmania has to offer.
I feel like Launceston is just the right size for a weekend visit. While we were only there for two days, we managed to visit quite a few of the local attractions:
Harvest Community Farmer’s Markets
The Queen Victoria Art Gallery
The Queen Victoria Museum
The Tasmanian Design Centre
All the attractions were just the right size for a taster of what Tasmania has to offer. The round-trip trek around Cataract Gorge only takes about an hour, and even the ‘hard’ trail is quite manageable. The art gallery only has a couple of rooms, but manages to cover local Tasmanian/Australian art from colonial to modern. The museum is small, but covers everything from the history of transportation to science experiments. The farmer’s markets features local producers from right around the Tamar Valley.
Of course, you can spend longer than a weekend. If you want to really trek into the Cataract Gorge National Park, you can spend a whole day doing that. You could also spend a whole day driving around the Tamar Valley visiting dairy farms and olive farms. But if what you’re after is a taster of Tasmanian life, Launceston is an excellent destination for a weekend visit.
We stayed fairly close to the centre of town in the Mercure Launceston, which happened to be right opposite the City Park. This proved to be a fantastic location for the sunny spring weekend we were there – we would stroll through the park to reach the art gallery, the design centre, the museum and the centre of town, enjoying the greenery with other local families.
One particular highlight of the City Park was the enclosure featuring a large family of Japanese Macaque monkeys. There were a number of baby monkeys in the enclosure at the time, and I made a point of going past the enclosure twice a day to watch their antics!
Food was a highlight of our trip. We had an excellent breakfast at the Harvest Community Farmer’s Market, thanks to an excellent bacon and egg roll from Meat Bread Cheese and a pastry from Manubread, before finishing with a hazelnut ice-cream from Hazelbrae Hazelnuts. Lunches were at smaller cafes with sausage rolls, toasties, and local tasting platters (the marinated octopus was a highlight!), as well as an amazing dinner at Geronimo Aperitivo Bar & Restaurant.
As we returned our rental car at the airport and checked into our flight, I said to K “Next time we come to Tasmania, let’s do it properly.” And by that I mean taking at least two weeks to see more of Tasmania, potentially even renting a motorhome so we can properly travel around the state, simply stopping and staying wherever takes our fancy. There’s so much to see and do, and we’ve only scratched the surface of what Tasmania has to offer!
K and I recently celebrated our second wedding anniversary with a quick weekend getaway to Launceston. I also celebrated by cracking what I still think is one of my funniest jokes – “Two down, two to go!”. Unfortunately not everyone gets my sense of humour…but my husband does, and he laughed at the joke. I guess that’s why we’re married!
I booked our anniversary dinner at Geronimo Aperitivo Bar & Restaurant, a new(ish) addition to the Launceston scene which first made its way onto my radar in an article published by Qantas. It was the description of the connections to the family farm that drew my attention. Would you find many other restaurant owners who would say “We are trying to create as stress-free an environment as possible where the animals can grow and be happy. I want my chefs to come out here and touch them because we want a relationship between producer, land and animal.”?
We were greeted, seated and presented with our menus by our friendly waitress who was just superb throughout the evening. She was helpful and friendly without being obtrusive, and was able to explain each dish to us well. We made up our minds fairly quickly about drinks – it was deciding on food that would prove to be more difficult. We started off our meal with a cocktail each.
K chose a Southside, a much fancier version of one of his go-to drinks of gin and tonic. Mixed with the tang of lemon and the freshness of mint, it was just the right drink for the uncharacteristically warm Tasmanian spring day.
Following my one single birthday drink at The Dispensary in Bendigo, I had the same drink at Geronimo – a refreshing Aperol Spritz. This version was much lighter than that at The Dispensary, indicating slightly less Aperol and slightly more Prosecco in the mix which suits me well.
We got some House-Baked Rolls to start, crusty and warm, perfect for dipping in the rich and full-bodied olive oil.
K had to order the Jamon and Manchego Brioche Toastie as soon as he saw it on the menu. It’s the type of dish we would eat when we were in Spain last year – just a simple ham and cheese toastie, but amplified and made a million times more delicious. This version was incredible, with the brioche literally melting on the tongue as soon as you took a bite.
Who orders a single Oyster? Me, that’s who. I would have ordered more but K recently had yet another bout of gout, and had to swear off shellfish for a few weeks to get his uric acid levels back down to a less risky level. While I wasn’t able to cut out all seafood in solidarity, I did at least just have a single fresh, briney, oyster rather than the two or three I wanted.
The Pan Seared Scallops and Cauliflower Three Ways was a surprisingly good dish. I was a little doubtful when the dish first came to the table as the scallops were much smaller than I had expected, and looked almost like the tiny anemic frozen scallops you can get from the supermarket. Instead, they proved to be remarkably soft and tender, with a delicious almost caramel glazing.
I bet you’re also wondering how there was ‘cauliflower three ways’ on this dish as well…there’s a spiced cauliflower puree, roasted cauliflower florets, and crispy cauliflower leaves as well!
We continued with the Angel Hair Pasta with Calamari, one of my choices even though I didn’t know what ‘longaniza oscura’ was. Luckily it turned out to be a delectable salami-style sausage, rather than something far less palatable like tripe! Flavoured with squid ink, the longaniza oscura helps to add additional seafood flavours to the pasta, complementing the subtle calamari flavours.
K finished his Southside cocktail quickly, and ordered the Old Spiced Old Fashioned to get him through the rest of our meal. Smoky without being over-smoked, a slight hint of citrus, smooth and amply spiced, this cocktail is much more suited to slow, savouring sips.
We ordered a Mixed Leaf Salad to go with our shared main course. Lightly dressed with a vinaigrette and mixed with some light puffed grains, this salad was simple but did the job well with beautifully fresh baby salad leaves that almost looked hand-picked.
This was our main course – lightly seared Lamb Rump for K the meat-lover, and beautiful Baba Ganoush and grilled eggplant for me the eggplant-lover. K enjoyed the tender lamb, but my highlight was the rich and smokey babaganoush. It made the perfect accompaniment for the crispy crunchy fried chickpeas. This is one dish that is best shared between two as it is quite rich and could be overwhelming if eaten alone.
Onto dessert, despite our already full bellies! K chose a rather unusual dessert, using an ingredient I would never associate with sweets – parsnip! His Star Anise Caramel Cake was served with confit parsnip and parsnip ice-cream. I tried a little bit and wasn’t a big fan as it didn’t quite hit that sweet dessert note. K enjoyed it as a change from the usual type of desserts, as the flavours were quite subtle and not quite as rich or heavy on the palate.
I chose the intriguingly named Kitchen Sink which fulfilled its name as it was served in a metal tub not unlike a kitchen sink! This dish included much more traditional dessert flavours, and resembled a deconstructed lemon cheesecake with its use of lemon curd and white chocolate. The crunchy honeycomb and macarons were almost like a cheesecake crust. The only downside to this dish is that it was difficult to get a good mix of all ingredients on the spoon at once.
Geronimo Aperitivo Bar & Restaurant isn’t really the type of restaurant you would expect to find in Northern Tasmania. Exuding a cool yet relaxed atmosphere, with a comprehensive drinks list and a superb menu, Geronimo wouldn’t be out of place in the laneways of Melbourne or streets of inner-west Sydney. A wonderful place to have our second anniversary dinner – thank you Geronimo!
Geronimo Aperitivo Bar & Restaurant is located at 186 Charles St in Launceston, Tasmania.