There’s something about the rural Australian landscape that strikes a chord with me. I may consider myself a city boy, but it’s when I’m out of the big smoke that I feel very much at ease; yearning to explore the landscape and look under every stone. Perhaps there’s a piece of me that’s also a country boy.
When we approached Stanley along the highway, we couldn’t help but notice how similar it was to Mount Maunganui in New Zealand. Not so much the town, but the towering volcanic plug that juts into the sea.
You can’t say you’ve visited Stanley unless you’ve put the effort in and climbed The Nut; that unmistakable 143 metre massif looming over the township and surrounding azure waters. The walk up to its plateau takes about ten minutes, or twenty if you’re in no hurry.
It has to be one of the steepest walks we’ve done; and I immediately compared the grade to parts of the Inca Trail and Everest Base Camp walk we did years ago. But don’t be put off as there’s a chair lift that’ll take you up there for $7. Not that it was working when we took the stroll early one morning; and the hardest part was walking down!
The views from the top are truly stunning, offering outlooks up and down the coast. And you can even spot the local pademelons grazing and hopping about amongst the native ferns and shrubs.
Our first night was spent at Cable Station, tucked in the cosy Exchange Room overlooking the open fields that surround the property. A few other sleeping options are up for grabs – such as the Telephone Room and the Technicians Cottage Spa Suite. Or if you want to go all out you can book the entire four bedroom Technicians Cottage complete with lounge, kitchen, laundry, ensuites and a fully stocked fridge.
The location is peaceful, comfortably isolated, yet close enough to Stanley village if you need to get in your car to grab a coffee or go exploring.
Staying somewhere with a history that spans back almost eighty years makes it a little more special. It was here that Tasmania was first connected to the mainland via a submarine telecommunications cable. An advancement that replaced the telegraph cable that went down in the late 1850’s. Although today neither of them are in use thanks to Telstra’s optical cable and all of those satellites orbiting the planet. How times have changed!
Stanley village has a light scattering of breakfast options for those that feel like hitting town for the days first meal, rather than staying in at their hotel or B&B.
The main drag of Church Street features a bunch of shops and restaurants, plus the local pub, and tucked at the back of the Touchwood Craft Gallery is somewhere worthy of their breakfast, lunch and homemade cakes.
Touchwood Café has a perfect hillside position that takes in views over town and Sawyer Bay. A hearty sounding international menu features a lot of local produce, with a decent selection for lunch. The breakfast menu may not be huge, but there’s enough on there to fill the void for anyone with the a.m. munchies.
The Touchwood brekky (15.5) is a home-style cook-up of eggs, bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes. Surely big enough to get anyone through to lunch. And then there’s the rather enormous savoury buttermilk muffin (8.5), house-made and loaded with feta, sun-dried tomatoes & herbs. Served warm with butter and their own tomato relish. The macchiato goes down a treat, as well.
My stomach may have been full of bacon and creamy scrambled eggs, but I couldn’t leave without trying the Persian love cake; a deliciously moist almond-based cake spiked with nutmeg and crowned with a pink tuft of pashmak.
Down the road at number 5 is another brekkie venue that also takes advantage of its hillside possie. Moby Dick’s Breakfast Bar has quite a few eggy offerings, even one that includes a Scotch fillet steak. You’ve got to love a farmers’ breakfast!
Steak at breakfast was considered, but something was telling me I’d want to lay down afterwards and take a nap. Canadian breakfast (13) it was; some dainty heart-shaped waffles with runny fried eggs, bacon and maple syrup. A couple of rolls and a breakfast burrito join the egg options, and a simple-yet-satisfying BLT toasted sandwich (6) for those that can’t face a cooked breakfast that early in the morning.
Heading down to the end of Wharf Road brings you near where The Nut plunges into the clear waters around Stanley’s wharves. Fishing boats bob about and fishermen/women cunningly stake out their favourite spot to hook a trevalla, mullet, cod, or whatever they’re hoping to take home for dinner.
In what was once a crayfish processing shed, the Stanley Seaquarium is an interactive showcase that allows visitors to get up close and discover a thing or two about Tasmanian sea life. From its hands-on rock pool to the six-foot long conger eel, there’s enough going on to keep the kids busy and learning.
Heading north out of town from the Church Street shops takes you along the virtually deserted sandy beach, and up Green Hills Road to the solitary ruins of the Convict Barracks. Forty one convicts were assigned to the Circular Head outpost, half of which stayed in these barracks in the 1830’s. Not a lot remains of the stone structures, but they are worth checking out; even if it’s for the stunning views over the fields to the Stanley township.
It was time to head back to Old Cable Station and join in on the Producers Luncheon, an event that celebrates the rocking produce that comes out of Tasmania’s food bowl, here in the north west.
Guest chef Paul Foreman, currently executive chef for Tasmania’s Kalis Group, took over the kitchen and produced a 7-course lunch that kept us busy for almost six hours. Producers, foodies and locals filled the Cable Station dining room; seated at tables made from repurposed cable spools.
Guests sipped on Pagan Cider and sparkling Bay of Fires Cuvée Brut, swapping travel stories or learned about the processes from the bunch of hard-working producers representing the variety of food we were about to enjoy. And thanks to Bay of Fires, located north of Launceston, each dish was matched with one of their fabulous wines.
The smell of freshly baked ciabatta filled the air as it sat by the wood-fire oven, keeping warm before being sliced and distributed. Platters of “nude” Bolduans Bay oysters sourced from nearby Smithton land on the tables, served with an Asian-style sesame, chilli, black vinegar and kecap manis sauce. Next to them are local Stanley abalones, tinted with saffron and done “beignet” style with a ginger and fennel emulsion.
As a glass of crisp sauvignon blanc is poured, we get a plate that gives a slight nod to Americas south. Polenta fried green tomatoes, Red Cow Persian feta, olive crumbs and a crispy shard of parma ham. Every tomato was deliciously sweet and far from the tartness you get from a green tomato, and sadly the white anchovies the menu specified didn’t arrive at all. It would have gone beautifully with the sugary tomatoes. Fried basil leaves were a nice touch.
A glass of pinot gris is next, with a Stanley Fish southern rock lobster mousse, sweet corn, fried tortilla, micro coriander and coconut lemongrass foam. A nice crunch came from the tortilla, very mildly spiced with a light-handed addition of chilli.
A chardonnay comes ahead of another seafood dish; the Southern Shark Seafoods blue eye “pancetta“. It was more gravlax than pancetta, but that didn’t matter so much as it was beautifully fresh and delicious, garnished with a stuffed white onion, ribbon of pickled zucchini and a cheffy smear of red pepper rouille.
The only meat from our four-legged friends came from Mt Gnomon Farm, located in the foothills of Mt Montgomery State Reserve. Here we have some intensely-flavoured pork loin, fried kale, pear noisette, salted pineapple bavarois and a shattering piece of crackling. It all came lubed-up with a tamarind caramel sauce; lightly sweet and sour. A delicious glass of pinot noir helped with the lubing.
Cheese, glorious cheese. A Pyengana cloth bound aged Cheddar, to be precise. Just crowned as the country’s best Cheddar-style cheese. The firm, slightly crumbly wedge of cheese is nutty and tangy and is flecked with tiny spots of calcium. A disc of Pagan Cider jelly leans on the wedge, along with some puréed peach and hazelnuts.
And finally, a white chocolate, confit orange and poppyseed soufflé takes care of the dessert course. A divine salted caramel lays on the rim of the bowl, garnished with gold leaf and a couple of fresh raspberries. A dusting of freeze-dried raspberries brightens the plate and a glass of Late Harvest Riesling brightens the palate.
Five and a half hours and we couldn’t help but be the first ones to leave this deliciously decadent long lunch. We had an apartment to check into, and lucky for us it was a few minutes down the road.
The Horizon Deluxe Apartments have one of the best views in town. Hillside, overlooking green pastures, the Stanley township and that whopping great rock in the distance. There are just two apartments located side by side; open-plan design with a lounge area, king bed, in-room free-standing double spa and a private deck.
We had just two hours to kick back and relax before we headed into town for dinner. Yes that’s right. Dinner, two hours after a 5½ hour lunch.
Neither of us had an appetite, but somehow our stomaches allowed a little more food action to take place.
Here we are at Brasserie at Xanders, yet another place in the region that makes good use of the local produce. It’s difficult to put a finger on the style of food they dish up, but the words gastro pub come to mind. As does “international”. There are stuffed mushrooms, chicken schnitzel, spare ribs … hell, there’s even a crayfish po’ boy and a goat rogan josh éclair up for grabs. They sure like to mix it up.
The sound of Escoffier’s prawn cocktail (18.90) had me intrigued. More so the unlike anything you have ever seen statement. Granted, it doesn’t resemble the glass filled with shredded iceberg, prawns and thousand island dressing I remember from the 1980’s. Instead it’s presented on a long dish with mixed leaves, several gorgeous king prawns, quite a lot of cocktail dressing and just as much raw spring onion.
The other half struggled with the pork belly (18.9), thanks to being completely full from lunch. No reflection on the pork as it was beautiful. Tenderly braised in herbs and garlic, perfect crackling and a rich pan jus. An asparagus, lettuce and brie salad lightened the load a tad, and I did my best at trying a few bites.
As for my plate, it was loaded with The Brasserie Henhouse (32.9). A large breast of Nichol’s chicken, sauced-up with garlic, prawns, squid and nubs of fish. Some gratinated potatoes lay like fallen dominoes to the side and a salad came separately. Very simple flavours, which was just what I needed.
What we didn’t need, however, was the coconut cream panna cotta (13.5) with passionfruit & iced riesling sauce. I was expecting a small serving, but there was none of that here. The glass it’s served in is enormous and large enough to share, but somehow we managed to polish it all off.
Thanks for a great stay, Stanley. One thing for sure is you’d never leave hungry!
And take a look at my short video below.
hnf & co. travelled, ate and stayed courtesy of Tourism Tasmania