The Bay Restaurant

Licensed $-$$$   Hat icon   Glass icon
Freycinet Lodge, National Park, Coles Bay
03) 6256 7222
Open: 7.30am – 10.30am, 6.00pm – 9.00pm.

Is it coincidence or not that, since the last time I ate at the Lodge, the business has changed hands and the menu and food have improved out of sight. Most of the menu items, especially the seafood, are local and the cooking is much more modern and innovative with many more Asian flavours than previously in response, I guess, to the recent changes in our tourism demographics.

While the night of our visit was Head Chef, Trent Thompson’s night off, the chef of the evening, Chris Howard, said that after a year at Saffire, he was attracted to The Bay by the opportunity to do more creative and adventurous work in such entrees as dashi-poached tiger abalone with black rice and ginger congee, Thai-flavoured flathead ceviche, smoked tofu with a puree of Tasmanian wakame and wasabi, black vinegar and sesame and a couple of different curries in the mains.

And the wine list is also much improved with the Food and Beverage Manager, Rene Bennett, saying it has taken him ages to get rid of the many unsuitable mainland wines that littered the previous list and compose one that celebrated Tasmania, particularly the nearby vineyards of the East Coast. So we took our wine outside to enjoy the magical views of the water and the sunset colouring the Hazards but came quickly back in before we became the mozzies’ main course.

First course for us however was a dish of freshly made gnocchi in a savoury sauce that would have made any Italian nonna proud. Then followed the afore-mentioned dashi-poached tiger abalone which, with white shavings of tender abalone topping the black of the rice and congee was as dramatically presented as it was original and beautifully flavoured.

And the same could be said of the main-course dish of wild clover lamb rump. Beautifully pink-cooked, rested and sliced, the lamb was moistened and flavoured by an amalgam of lamb bacon and coarsely pureed pumpkin, spiked by a scattering of small, oval-shaped, dark green pumpkin seeds of the sort widely used in Mexican food where they’re called ‘papitas’. The sweetness of roasted pumpkin is one of the best accompaniments of all with lamb and, with the crunch of the papitas and in its rustic simplicity, the dish was very enjoyable. A scallop and leek tart, while more mainstream, was also well executed and nicely flavoured.

The service was attentive and knowledgeable, in our case provided by a young American who had managed five restaurants in the States and was now on a working honeymoon around the world with his wife who in turn was working at Saffire.

Like Freycinet Lodge, the RACT today owns the Cradle Mountain Hotel and Strahan Village. If the food, wines and service in the other two have improved as they have at Freycinet – and they needed to – the RACT is to be congratulated for lifting standards to meet tourists’ expectations of what Tassie is about.

Oysters $3.80; entrees $18 to $26; mains $28 to $42; desserts $16; 2014 Milton Pinot Noir $14/$68

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