Pearl + Co

Licensed $-$$
Victoria Dock, Hobart waterfront
03) 6231 1790
Open: Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.

It’s always sad to lose an institution such as Orizuru along with chef Shige who introduced Hobart to the simple joys of the freshest sushi, sashimi and other Japanese exquisitries, food that gave so much pleasure to so many for over two decades.

The loss left a big gap in the Mure’s Victoria Dock complex. But, after six months and three changes of chefs, they’ve finally got it right with chef Josh Mathewson introducing his first menu a fortnight ago.

His menu is much more appealing and contemporary than previously, the flavours and combinations more enjoyable and the cooking of both seafood and meats is first rate. While there’s no attempt at pretentious cutting-edge, Pearl + Co, under Mathewson sets a whole new standard for Mures that we can only hope inspires the Upper Deck to follow. And I find it interesting that Mathewson should have spent more than three years as Chef de Partie in the Upper Deck kitchens – where his talents were obviously wasted – before being set loose to now do his own thing in Pearl.

Like the menu, the re-jigged restaurant space is much more attractive and welcoming with guests welcomed on entry by an ice bath of unshucked oysters, a comfortable lounge setting, high-backed stools fronting a well-stocked bar, two high, central tables for larger groups and tables for two along the full-length window framing delightful views of the harbour and fishing fleet.

On a sparkling autumn day, we started with a shared plate of cold seafood featuring freshly opened oysters, a smoked salmon roulade, excellent house-made gravlax and octopus in a sweet/sour pickle all positioned around a central bowl of hot smoked trout salad. Accompanied by a generous dollop of crème fraise, the dish was nothing too out of the ordinary except for the fact that each of the different ingredients was fresh, properly done and deliciously sauced and flavoured.

Next came grilled South American-inspired king prawns with heads on to suck for those who wanted to enjoy the full lingering tingle of the spicy chimichurri dressing followed by a generous bowl of crisply fried whitebait with a side dip of jalapeno aioli and lemon.

Then a real surprise, a single large cluster of tempura oyster mushrooms which looked a little gothic on the plate but tasted superb with its hoisin Cantonese dressing and fresh pea shoot salad. . This was followed by a salad of ceviche scallops, chilli, rocket, tomato and red onion nicely dressed and mildly spiced.

By way of checking the kitchen’s skill with meat we then ordered lamb cutlets. Beautifully tender, cooked rare and dressed with a finely composed salsa verde, they really couldn’t have been bettered.

Given The Upper Deck’s mixed and often disappointing performance over the years, Pearl + Co came as very enjoyable surprise. The service was spot on, the view is as gorgeous as ever and the food is much better now than it has been in the months since Orizru’s closure, finally doing the restaurant’s privileged position justice.

Marinated olives $6.50, whitebait $10.50, oysters $3.50, tiger prawns $24.00, cold seafood selection $34.00

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