Hope and Anchor Tavern

Licensed $-$$
65 Macquarie Street, Hobart
03) 6236 9982
Open: Seven days 11.00am to 11.00pm.

After limping along for many years and then closing in 2010, what is claimed to be Australia’s oldest pub was bought by a Chinese developer earlier this year and re-opened in May with Glen Millhouse as licensee and Robert Wilson as manager. It is now, I’d been told, the hottest, happening-est spot in town.

And, early on a Monday evening when we arrived, the new management’s formula of interesting beers and cheap bar menus appeared to be working. The bar was full, there were tables of diners in the Oyster Bar and two large groups dining in the Macquarie Room upstairs.

Downstairs, a T-Bone is $10. Upstairs a scotch fillet is $30. You can have the upstairs menu downstairs, but not the downstairs menu upstairs. And whether you’re upstairs or downstairs, the décor is like an eccentric bow bird’s jumbled collection of antiques, faketiques, mounted deer heads, maritime memorabilia, sabres, daggers, chandeliers, carpentry tools, cast iron and china kitchen ware, blunderbusses and bayonets, Colonial settees and chiffoniers, lamps, clocks and more clocks – none of them working – and statuary, including a timber, Amazonian-sized mermaid welcoming patrons in from Macquarie Street.

Kitsch and chaotic it may be, but the decor combines with open fires, Persian-patterned carpeting and the polish and patina of the timbered surrounds and table seatings to create a unique and richly warm and welcoming atmosphere. Which might be one reason for the establishment’s current popularity. Another is the wide range of artisan and commercial beers on tap

And a third are the $6, $10, $15 and $20 bar menus offering selections running from wedges, to $10 fish and chips, those T-Bones and half chicken parmis up to $15 pizzas and, at $20, full-sized parmigianas and roasted pork belly with apple aioli and cider reduction.

When asked, a table of local diners in the Oyster Bar said they had enjoyed their meals.

Upstairs, things were a little different. Featuring such dishes as prawn cocktail with bisque sauce, fried camembert salad, carpet bag steak and blue eye in papillote, the menu was almost as dated as the décor. But retro can be fun and when the food came the chef had, on the whole, done a good job. The rare and medium-rare scotch fillets came nicely done as requested, the blue eye was beautifully moist, the carpet bag was chock full of oysters and one of our group thought his generous plank of crisped pork belly fabulous while another was less happy with his. The accompanying salads and vegetables were fine while the only real complaint were the limp chips that a few dabs of balsamic dressing failed to improve.

Overall, with a couple of good-value Tasmanian drops from the very short wine list, it was an enjoyable night. And Wilson says that business is booming with the place already attracting tourist group bookings into next year.

So it’s good to see history come to life again.

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