Licensed $
Visitor Centre, Royal Botanical Gardens
03) 6234 0606
Open: daily - Noon to 3.00 pm.

The Botanical Gardens is one of Hobart’s top tourist attractions. And, on a beautiful mid-week day with a cruise ship in port and a couple of tour buses parked at the gates, I found the Gardens was swarming with people strolling around or enjoying the ducks and picnicking on the lawns.

But, despite its beautiful location and such a ready market right on its doorstep, the food, service and general atmosphere of the Visitor Centre eatery over the years have failed to come up to the mark. Until now.

Prior to Succulent opening five weeks ago, the restaurant had been closed for seven or eight months, following a lease dispute with the Board of Management.
Then Niall Mitchell from the Hobart Function Centre took on the lease, installed a new, fully equipped kitchen, spruced up the dining area and appointed Johann Frais, then chef at Hobart’s Hotel Grand Chancellor, as Executive Chef.

And, for the first time in my memory, in Succulent they’ve created the sort of place that in all respects does the Gardens justice with a non-pretentious menu ideally tailored to its market.

Shortly after opening time on the day of my visit, all but one of the tables on Succulent’s expansive outside was already taken and, over the next half hour or so, the inside filled up as well. However, despite being flat-out busy, the welcome was pleasantly warm and smiley, service was informal, friendly and efficient and my lunch on the deck was very enjoyable.

From a lunch menu sensibly ranging in style and prices from toasted panini to slow-cooked scotch fillet and Asian-glazed salmon, I chose to sample a few lighter and fresher dishes more suited, I thought, to the warm sunny day.

A grilled zucchini, eggplant and red capsicum stack dressed with, according to the menu, a cashew nut pesto but what appeared to me more like a sharpish mayo, was nicely composed, presented and refreshing.

Even sunnier and more refreshing was a fabulous salsa of diced red and green apples, mango and that old favourite condiment from the 1980s, raspberry vinegar, providing a lovely, fresh counterpoint to pulled pork in soft pita bread pockets. Then followed a ‘succulent burger’ that did justice to its name accompanied by those modern curly chips that were nicely crisp and salty, a pleasant enough pumpkin and sweet potato soup and an excellent coffee.

At tables around me, people seemed to be very happy with everything from Devonshire scones and jam, delicious-looking desserts and generous portions of fish and chips.

As said, rather than trying to be cutting edge modern, it’s a menu for everyone, the food done well, flavoursome and appealingly presented and served.

And, with an adequate list of reasonably priced wines and drinks, that’s exactly what the Gardens has long needed

Soup $12.50; Pulled pork $16.50; Fish and Chips $17.50; Burger $19.00; Steak $32.00

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