The Stackings, Peppermint Bay

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3435 Channel Highway, Woodbridge
03) 62674088
Open: Lunch Thurs to Mon.

In culinary terms, Peppermint Bay was resting on distinctly tarnished laurels when Bruce and Penny Neil took ownership three years ago. And despite the efforts of some excellent chefs in the duration, it’s been something of a roller coaster ride to bring it back to anywhere near its heyday best. “That’s the reason”, says the new general manager and owner’s son-in-law, Ben Lindell, “that we haven’t done any promotion or advertising in recent times. I wanted to come in quiet, get the feel of the place and the product and build a team for the long haul”.

Last July, he appointed chef David Moyle to help do just that. From Byron Bay’s Pacific Dining Room and Circa in Melbourne before that, Moyle says their first decision was to concentrate on food and wine and return Peppermint Bay to the culinary destination it once was rather than the general tourist attraction it had become. So the trinkets and tack have gone from what was previously the providore, a much more modern and appetising bar menu has been introduced and, of course, The Stackings restaurant has been re-invigorated with Moyle’s exciting new menu. Not least, they’ve also appointed the highly respected and experienced Victorian wine consultancy team of Ben Edwards and David Sims to upgrade the wine lists and, shortly, to convert the providore into a regional Tasmanian retail wine cellar.

Moyle’s principal brief however was to put together and train a kitchen team that would continue to maintain standards as he stepped back to a consultancy role sometime around mid-year. Accordingly, young Woodbridge chef, David Halliday has responsibility for the bar menu and most of the dishes at our lunch last week in The Stackings restaurant were prepared and presented by Moyle’s sous chef, Richard Gunther, from Cygnet.

The menu sparkles with aromatic herbs and fashionable garnishes such as nasturtiums, radish, sautéed cucumber, salted turnip, smoked onion, sea lettuce, faro, nettle, goat curd, pollen and sorrel supporting an array of local seasonal produce of such quality that Moyle says the chef’s main job is to not mess it up.

At lunch, a roasted marrow bone came resting sarcophagus-like atop four nails in a wooden platter, the marrow beautifully just set with its jelly-like texture and richness cut by a sharp, finely chopped parsley and onion topping.

Dried scallops and shavings of black lip abalone were cooked to just warm in a golden, delicate Chinese-accented chicken broth poured at the table. Bar cod is gently poached in crayfish stock with sea lettuce. Well-flavoured blood sausage was crumbled through a beautifully presented salad of soft-boiled quail eggs, shaved radish and parsley while a salad of sautéed wild mushrooms, faro and Jerusalem artichokes was lifted and freshened by the mild astringency of goat curd and a nettle dressing.

A perfectly cooked, aged scotch fillet from Cape Grim was classically accompanied by horseradish and a red wine sauce while the only disappointment on the day was a too sweet, almost dessert-sweet, and salty sauce of preserved lemons dressing a beautifully cooked but less-than-generous main portion of pan roasted, locally caught snapper.

The desserts were good as was the selection of Bruny Island cheeses. The wine list, with its Tasmanian focus and interesting international selection, is among the best around with 14 wines by the glass and a good spread of reasonable prices.

Oysters $3.50 each; entrees $18 to $24; mains $27 to $39; desserts straddle $15; 14 wines by the glass $7 to $19.

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