The Whaler

Licensed $-$$   Hat icon   Glass icon
39 Salamanca Place, Battery Point
03) 6200 1854
Open: Daily from 11.30am.

Ask people to nominate Hobart’s best steak and you’ll find yourself shuffling names like Rockwall, Ball and Chain, Roaring Grill, Landscape, Astor Grill and so on. Few if any, I suspect, would ever mention The Whaler. And yet, after a serving of their Whaler Grill of wagyu rump at a recent lunch, I’d put them up there with the very best in town.

After the change of operators in November 2015 and reversion to the pub’s original name from 180 years ago, Knoppies regulars stayed away in droves.
Manager Ben Hickey says “Early on it wasn’t unusual to have only two or three at the bar. Now we’re starting to get our mojo back”.

To say that wagyu is responsible for the turnaround is probably stretching things a bit. For, as good as it is, The Whaler has a number of other attractions.

There is still the atmospheric, historic bar itself with the open wood fire, a dozen Tasmanian and international boutique beers on tap, a couple of ciders and a wine list with prices that would put many restaurant lists to shame.

The list also includes nine Tasmanian whiskys and 15 Tasmanian gins which, along with their selection of beers, are available for punters to taste and compare in flights of four.

With wines prices running from $38 to $120, Hickey says that instead of the common practice of marking wines up by a certain percentage, he uses a fixed price mark up across the board which very sensibly pulls the price of his top wines back into much more affordable territory. It allows him, for example, to pour one of Tasmania’s best pinot noirs, the Apsley Gorge, by the glass at $15.50, put on the Grant Burge’s Meschach Shiraz at the same price as at Dan Murphy’s, Hardy’s Eileen Chardonnay at just $10 more than you’d pay at Dan Murphy’s, a Josmeyer Pinot Gris from Alsace at around $20 less than you’d pay for the same wine at Dan Murphy’s and the Domaine Fourrier Gevrey Chambertin Vieilles Vignes from Burgundy some $70 less than I could find it at retail anywhere else on line.

Mathematically of course, the price differential becomes greater the more expensive the wine. But the same enlightened policy applies across the list and, as Hickey says, “It allows people to afford and enjoy better wines or perhaps a second bottle with the aim of enhancing their drinking or dining experience”.

And a good bottle of red is just what you need with that grade 7 wagyu, either as a sirloin at lunch or the rump at dinner. Chefs Daniel Toone and Paddy Prenter char crust the meat on a flat plate leaving it pink-rare but at a ‘done’ temperature internally and then fully rest it. Without doubt my rump was one of the most enjoyable pieces of meat in a long time, the enjoyment enhanced by a lovely house-made sauce of Sriracha, miso, shallots and mirin emulsified with cultured butter, the Asian influence continuing with a side serving of pickled daikon and crisply fried seaweed.

The rest of the lengthy menu is a collection of snacks and dishes with plenty of contemporary touches of chilli, pickles and tang, designed to be enjoyed with a cold beer.

The tacos, for example, are filled with smoky pulled pork braised for 24 hours in Willie Smiths cider and crisp red slaw spiked with sweet jalepeno while the brined and double-crumbed Whaler fried chicken is given a spicy lift with buffalo hot sauce, mustard mayo and fresh chilli and comes beautifully presented in six portions to share.

Hickey says their philosophy is to “under promise and over deliver”. Accordingly they spent three or four weeks testing bread buns from bakers around the city before deciding on the best ones to use for their pulled pork bun and their excellent cheese and juicy beef burger flavoured with house-made ketchup, onions, mustard mayo and pickled Polski Ogorki cucumbers.

In most respects, Hickey’s ‘over delivering’ is right. But the absence of vintage years on the wines is a lamentable shortcoming.

Chips and gravy $8.00, Tacos 2x$12.00, Cheese Burger $14.00, Thai squid salad $19.00, Whaler Grill 250g $28.00

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