Franklin

Licensed $-$$$   Hat icon
30 Argyle Street, Hobart
03) 6234 3375 - www.franklinhobart.com.au (table bookings)
Open: Dinner Thursday to Monday - .

After months of speculation and much anticipation, David Moyle, the former chef at The Stackings at Peppermint Bay, opened Franklin last October. The Stackings was, of course, an award-winning, fine-dining restaurant, one of the very best in Tasmania. With Franklin, Moyle says he is aiming for something different. “I wanted to move away from the idea of fine dining to something more casual and pub-like, something that was very much inclusive rather than exclusive”, he says.

Perhaps in a reflection of its days as the Mercury’s old printing press room, the design of the cavernous space is what you might call minimalist industrial with bare concrete walls relieved by a glass frontage to Argyle Street, a few settee/lounges in the bar, designer wooden tables and chairs in the restaurant and stools lining the counter of the bar and open kitchen, the centrepiece of which is a massive metal Dutch oven which had to be specially cast to Moyle’s specifications here in Hobart. You can see Moyle at work at his bench and with the oven from all angles in the restaurant and it is the oven and the flavours of the wood-roasted, toasted and dried dishes he produces from it that is Franklin’s main point of difference.

But, apart from one particular rave review, the reports I’ve received since the opening have been fairly mixed. And on a Monday just before Christmas, the quality of our meals was a little mixed too.

The stand outs were a fat and briny, perfectly conditioned oyster that had been shucked only seconds before being served simply with a lemon cheek; seared mussels on a nasturtium leaf wrapper and a whole, wood-roasted Broadmarsh pigeon which came carved, the breasts juicily blood-rare and with the smoky char of the skin adding a beautiful savouriness.

Wood-roasted hanger steak with radish and mustard oil, veal sweetbreads with olive and onion and grilled black trevally with nettle sauce were each OK while grilled octopus was chewy and I thought rather mundane, and an interestingly conceived dish of smoked bone marrow rice enriched with celeriac fell way short of its promise.

The most creative dish of the night however was a simple iceberg lettuce and toasted wakame salad – an unlikely textural and flavour combination that was a delight.

Dishes we didn’t try on the night but that I’ll be back for include the beef heart mortadella; dried tuna broth with white turnip, clams and garlic; wood-roasted flathead, lemon leaves and miso; and, if the credit card’s not blown after Christmas, the wood-roasted abalone in kelp with dried oyster. Plus the desserts prepared by Head Chef Jessica Muir who formerly worked with the famed Christine Manfield.

As non-mainstream as many of his dishes are, the wines are even further out of left field, selected, Moyle said, simply because they’re wines he likes. Among the fairly extensive selection of natural wines – a term Moyle hates – orange wines and obscure, small-producer wines from Italy, France and Spain, the only two names I recognized were D’Meure and Domaine Simha, both natural wines from Tasmania. As it happened we lucked it with a very enjoyable 2007 Cannonau from Sardinia. There’s also a quite delicious grappa.

Overall I feel that with the minimalist decor, the style of the food and wines, the fact that you can only reserve a table by booking online, and that, after two months, the service is still patchy and the restaurant only serves filtered coffee, leads me to wonder if Franklin will prove to be as “inclusive”, as Moyle would like. “Franklin is still a work in progress”, he says, “We’ve pared back and put it out there a bit as a starting point. It’s not hardcore and we want to see how people respond to the experience”.

So, if you go, let them know.

Oyster $3.00, mussels $4.50, octopus $14.00, sweetbreads $18.00, hanger steak $34.00, pigeon $52.00, abalone $86.00, desserts $10/14.00

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