If you had to pick one place that provided a good cross-section of Tassie in one day then Bruny Island could well be it. Bruny Island is a combination of farmland and national park, along with some tiny settlements. The short ferry ride across the D’Entrecastaux Channel was very relaxing compared to the dissembarkation off the ferry which ressembled the start of the Indie 500.
It was all we could do to get our van safely off the road and into the carpark of our first destination – the Bruny Island Smokehouse, or Bish for short. Thankfully tranquility returned once we were inside. A fine platter of smoked fish, fish pates and chutneys was put out for us to taste. There were also a wider range of smoked products available (but not on the tasting platter), and some additional local products available for purchase. In the end we settled on some smoked Atlantic Salmon, smoked mussels, a smoked Otto cheese (Bruny Island Cheese Co. makes the cheese Bish smokes it) and a bottle of pomegranate molasses.
By this stage we were desperate for a coffee so we set off for the Bruny Island Cheese Company (you will probably have seen the company’s owner, Nick Haddow, on The Gourmet Farmer on SBS) which is just a bit further down the road and hoped that they had the coffee pot on. We pretty much had the place to ourselves for our cheese tasting which consisted of two platters.The first platter was of several soft and washed rind cheeses and the second a selection of their hard cheeses.The c ulmination of the tasting was their C2 raw milk cheese, which was just wonderful.
We decided to settle back and have a coffee and a bit of cake before we made our final decision on what to buy. We were also lucky that it was a baking day so we were tantalised by the aroma of wood-fired bread coming out of the oven.
There were several books for visitors to browse, including Matthew Evan’s latest book Winter on the Farm (autographed of course). TB went straight for the well-thumbed cheese-making textbook – he knew he was onto a good thing when he noticed that the name written inside the cover was that of one W. Studd, who I understand was a mentor of Nick Haddow’s. In the end there was no going past the C2 and for good measure we also bought several rounds of the OEN cheese which is washed in pinot noir then wrapped in grape leaves to mature.
Cutting the C2 is a serious business – I think we can all agree ‘THAT is a knife!’
OK don’t drool. Bruny Island Cheese can be bought at the Saturday Salamanca Market or you can join the company’s cheese club or order the cheeses online. A few of their freshly baked baguettes made it into the stash and we picked up a loaf of their sourdough later in the day when we were returning to the ferry.
We drove south across the narrow neck between the north and south parts of the island. A rather nice national park campground at the southern end of the neck gave us access to the ocean side of the island. As we walked along the beach we noticed that there was no shortage of pippis in the sand – although they were rather too small for eating (notwithstanding that we were in a National Park).
The next order of the day was more food, of course. We’d taken the precaution of making a reservation at the very aptly named Hothouse Cafe, which is actually housed in a double width polytunnel. We felt right at home! This cafe is run from a private property, which also has accomodation (one for next time I’m thinking!)
We had to wait a bit for lunch, not a problem with a great view all the way back up the neck and on to Mt Wellington. What we were waiting for was this beautiful steak and guinness pie, one of the greatest pies I can ever recall eating. The meat was completely succulent and flavourful and was delivered straight from the oven of the lady of the house to our table.
BTW that is a dinner plate it is sitting on! so there was no need for anything other than a refreshing drink to go with this meal. I’ve also heard and read good things about the Hothouse Cafe dinners as well. This lunch certainly bodes well for people dining here in the evening.
After lunch we made a dash down to the far end of Bruny Island to see the lighthouse, which was built in 1836. The second oldest in Australia (South Head lighthouse in Sydney claims the honour of being first, built in 1818).
For once I was pleased to see that the lighthouse was surrounded by a heathland that was full of flowering native plants – a far cry from the devastated weed infested paddocks that surround many of our lighthouses.
But we couldn’t linger, well not too long. We had to get back for our final food encounter back on the northern end of the island. Get Shucked oysters may be rustic in appearance but don’t be fooled, these are great oysters at a really good price, a dozen oysters for $12. With an iced bottle of chilli ginger beer to wash them down it was a fitting finale for our Bruny Island food frenzy. Of course I couldn’t leave without getting my own ‘Frequent Shuckers’ card!
At the end of the day we met up with our travelling companions who’d also spent their day at Bruny Island. Unlike us they had donned red plastic wet weather gear and spent the day careening around the island enjoyed the scenery and wildlife on their boat trip. For dinner we had a ‘grazing’ meal that pretty much summed up our days’ adventure (with a bit of help from nearby farms as well):
From the top left: Basil flavoured sheeps curd and just below it Friesland Fog ash-coated cheese (both Grand Ewe Cheeses); baguettes, plain and with cheese topping and sourdough (Bruny Island Cheese Company); OEN pinot-washed soft rind cheese in vine leaves (Bruny Island Cheese Company);and smoked Atlantic salmon (Bruny Island Smokehouse).