Tasmania’s Gourmet Paradise
Despite Tasmania’s dark history, the state is flourishing- especially in its food. Nothing but fresh, local produce is used or needed…they seem to have it all, including the perfect climate to make their own wine! Stephen Metcalf of Travel and Leisure shares his divine culinary experiences at some of Tasmania’s best restaurants among the sheer untouched beauty of the island.
“Our summer pudding is the best in Tasmania,” the proprietress assured me. I had pulled off the highway to eat at Eureka, a tiny fruit and berry farm a half-mile or so from the Tasmanian coast. The sign promised an array of bests—the best ice cream, the best fresh berries, and the sign didn’t lie. When I visited in November, early spring in Australia, the strawberries had just come in. They were small, but piercing in their sweetness, and easily the best I had ever tasted. Eureka, it turns out, is blessed with its own perfect berry-growing climate, a little eucalyptus forest consisting mainly of blue and white gums. Here Ann and Denis Buchanan plant and harvest, and make their own jams and chutneys. Ann clucked over me as I greedily downed their pudding, a tart mash of berries and bread; then Denis, a prickly graybeard in overalls, showed me around. “We’re the real McCoy,” he tells me, in contrast with some other outfits that sneak in outside fruit. “It’s a boutique operation, alright. Our advertising is hopeless. We live by reputation alone.”
The stop came as a relief. Driving up the east coast of Tasmania, I worried my senses were leaving me, so hallucinatory was the beauty of the landscape. To my right flowed softly undulating dunes covered in banksias and bearded heath. Beyond these lay catchments of water sheltered from the open Tasman Sea in dune swales and coastal lagoons. As I pushed north, toward Great Oyster Bay and the Freycinet Peninsula, there were long, deserted stretches of pristine white-sand beaches, broken up only by looming granite outcrops, by the pates of massive boulders protruding from wet sand. At dusk, the rocks, dusted in orange lichen, glowed like pink lanterns, and wallabies lined the empty highway. Proceed with caution, I had been told; they are known to spring into oncoming traffic.
Eureka, it turns out, is a classic Tasmanian story. A modest DIY foodie utopia, deposited in its own microclimate, run by interlopers—Ann and Denis sailed down to Tasmania from Sydney in 1991, with no idea they’d stay—selling to a devoted clutch of locals. Lately, though, what Australians call “the Big Dry”—the worst drought in a thousand years, some say—is taking its toll. Freakishly unseasonable weather, already a Tasmanian specialty, has been increasing in ferocity, a trend locals blame on global warming. “It’s been exceptionally weird the last couple of months,” Denis told me, and he worried about his latest crop.