Stalls bursting with fresh produce, from bundles of organic vegetables, crisp Tasmanian apples, a variety of fresh mushrooms and herbs foraged from local forests, fresh honey and mead, a variety of cheeses and freshly baked sourdough bread, single origin coffee, pork, beef and salmon with people queuing in front of aromatic coffee and kimchi stalls. Expert dancers twisting around to salsa music , mothers with babies in prams, children in raincoats and families- the volunteer run Harvest Launceston Market on Saturday in a big parking lot opposite the Albert Hall in Launceston, Tasmania’s second biggest city, is a heartwarming community scene with a happy vibe, where locals mingle, do their weekly grocery shopping, and enjoy the best of Tasmanian food and produce.
Stall owners and farmers are friendly and waiting to chat about how they make or source their produce and invite you to sample their wares. Food trucks sell everything from bagels and rosti, brekkie pancakes and Kimchi and veggies. I taste an Afghan samosa from a food truck, some cashew cheese with black garlic, Vintage cheddar with wasabi and pickled ginger, Tasmanian hazelnut butter and leatherwood honey and sample some local gins as I make my way through the stalls.
Launceston ( called Launnie by locals) with its Georgian, Victorian and Federation style architecture and rich history of flour mills, is a valley city and was for long just considered as a gateway city to tourist spots like the Cradle Mountain, but in the last few years Tasmania’s second city has become famous for its foodie culture and fresh produce, as well as its wines and gins. It was named by UNESCO as a city of Gastronomy in 2021, under its Creative cities program.
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Today, it’s a hotspot for farmers, creative chefs and paddock- to- table restaurants, cellar doors in the Tamar Valley, close to town, and artisanal producers making honey, butter, cheeses and meats. From Bass strait abalone and Pacific oysters to wild wallaby, Mount Gnomon pork belly to saltgrass lamb from Flinders Island, this is all about fresh, local produce. Launceston is also home to northern Tasmania’s biggest food and wine festival Festivale.
Our local Tasmanian guide Anthony Cowles, says that Launceston has always been a food basket and used to feed the First Nations much before the Europeans arrived here. Our first dinner is at the award winning Stillwater restaurant, housed in a rustic 1830s flour mill with rough-hewn wooden beams and dainty light fittings, by the Tamar River, that serves what is billed as ‘contemporary Tasmanian cuisine with an Asian touch’ with a long drinks list. The menu is seasonal serving everything from Pacific oysters and black truffles to house made gnocchi. From beef tartare to salmon, and pork belly served with delightful Pinots from the region it is hyperlocal food at its best.
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I feast on steamed dumplings with a crispy chilli dressing paired with a Bream Creek Riesling wine. The Tapioca crusted tofu served with udon noodles and picked bok choy is delightfully spicy and Asian influenced, served with a Stoney Rise Pinot. By the time we arrive at the dessert of Yuzu ice cream with raspberries paired with a Riesling, I am already in love with Launceston through its plates.
My days start with hearty breakfasts with pancakes stacked with fruits, eggs and gourmet coffee at the ‘Grain of the silos’ restaurant at our hotel the Peppers Silo, located in a heritage building that once stored grain in four large silos, converted into a swish 9-story hotel with great views of the river from its windows.
Not far from Launceston is the Tamar Valley wine region, where fluffy sheep graze in pastures, with more than 30 wineries producing some of Australia’s best cold climate wines – Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and pinot noirs as well as sparkling wines. For a spot of wine tasting, we visit the award-winning Josef Chromy wines in Relbia, set in English gardens with old oak trees, just a 10 minute drive from town with its high-tech winery and cellar door sprawling over 61 hectares, gardens dotted with benches, trees decked with autumn colours and a picturesque lake, where we hear about the fascinating history of how Czech immigrant Josef Chromy rose from a penniless emigre to a famous wine maker.
The cellar door is situated in the charming 1880s timber homestead with a log fire and panoramic views from the windows. The winery offers various experiences from harvest brunches, a two-course lunch paired with wines to making your own sparkling wine and yoga with a vineyard view and a two-course lunch. It’s also a popular spot for weddings with a gazebo near the lake and also hosts a popular comedy festival every year on its grounds. The winery has been awarded among the top 10 cellar doors in Australia. We feast on local oysters, a new season potato and kunzea risotto with miso glazed leeks and roasted sweet potato and white onion galette with garden herbs and pickles paired with their red and white wines.
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Our last meal in the foodie city is at the charming Timbre Kitchen on the Tamar Valley Highway, with floor to ceiling windows, a wood fired oven, set in the vineyards of Velo wines, serving food made from ultra-local produce feasting over fried cauliflower, Happy Place ale, wood oven grilled cheese, sourdough breads and more. It has a happy, carefree vibe and simple decor and seems a fitting finale to our foodie adventures in Launceston.