Tom McHugo’s Hobart Hotel
Whitney Ball and Tom Westcott had some serious restaurant credentials before they took the lease on the Hobart Hotel some two-and-a-bit years ago. The couples’ last stint before self-employment was at the revered Franklin, with Ball manging the front of house and Westcott on the pans. The move to a pub that has long been known for loud music, karaoke and general raucousness was certainly a break from the narrative, though Ball was somewhat more familiar with the inner workings of a public house. Not that the duo were going to carry on the rowdy legacy of the establishment, even if they were emphatically going to maintain the pure pub-ness of the place.
Built in 1842, the building has operated under different monikers over the years, with Tom McHugo’s name added by the pair as homage to days past (he was the proprietor back in the first half of last century). Today, their focus is on the local, with produce suppliers’ names chalked up at the entrance, and an overwhelming island presence suffusing everything from the food to the wine to the beer and the spirits.
While the beer taps – a couple of Two Metre Tall handpumps and nine regular fonts – only flow with Tasmanian brews, the wine list extends to the mainland as well as internationally, with a cant towards the sustainably farmed and lo-fi, think Made by Monks, Dr Edge or cherished Adelaide Hills producer Manon. The list is compact but ever-changing, offering approximately 65 bottles across both working and reserve lists, with 15 available by the glass. The lists are quite fluid, with at least half of the by-the-glass listings changing weekly, while the bottle offer rotates organically.
Westcott very much takes a nose to tail philosophy with the menu, only receiving whole carcases and using all the parts, including the offal, with tongue and blood sausage features of the menu. This approach is born out of paying respect to the animal, and a belief by Westcott that real cooking is about making use, that resourcefulness is key. This carnivorous feature hardly dominates, though, with an equal focus on dishes highlighting organic vegetables from tiny local farms.