Warning: long blog post with the prospect of middle aged people getting a bit frisky towards the end. Use caution.
It’s not often that my Other Half and I find ourselves sans enfant for the evening . So when visiting relatives kindly took our two away overnight during the school holidays, we wanted to mark the occasion with a hot date – or a nice dinner.
Geronimo Aperitivo Bar and Restaurant was my pick. I’d been there with girlfriends. A party of six, it took us twenty minutes to decide how we would order from the menu of ‘shared plates’, a concept new to Tasmania and us. Our mainland cousins may yawn with derision but we’re still getting used to the notion that feeding from a common platter might be de rigeur now. For my Other Half and I, it’s still something that our mothers did to embarrass us.
Despite all the flaffing about, which was nothing to do with the restaurant and entirely the fault of our group and some of its members’ insistence on having their own dinner and eating it, and using their Entertainment Book vouchers too, Geronimo made a lasting impression upon me. The food was spectacular, and the waiting staff were gracious and steeped in the food culture of Tasmania. Our waitress was the daughter of the man who started a major Tasmanian food company in the prime agricultural country just outside of Launceston. She knew her onions, literally.
I had resolved to go back – I wanted beef cheeks to myself – and my Other Half readily agreed.
Our aperitivo of mixed olives and paprika spiced fried chickpeas arrived quickly. How are we going to eat that many chickpeas, we wondered? Because they’re cloud light and crunchy, it emerged, as we forked them down. Apologies for the appalling iPhone photography.
Our two shared plates then arrived pleasingly pronto. Pan fried gnocchi with roasted pear puree, fresh pear, blue cheese, roquette and walnuts. It was a pretty plate, with tiny parcels of gnocchi shiny and bronzed as if they’d been sunbathing in the pan. They were a cute shape too, with a tiny waist, light and melting on the tongue. This combined with the slight tartness of the pear and the puree beautifully. The pear slices glistened with freshness and were bendy, maybe from a ceviche of lemon juice, I wondered. Whatever, we sifted our way through the roquette, attempting to be casual but each clearly seeking out the gnocchi with no thought for marital harmony.
For our other shared plate, we’d gone for beef two ways – char grilled skirt steak served medium, and braised brisket, with spinach puree and charred onion cups. Inexpensive cuts both, they had been wonderfully elevated on the plate. The skirt was in chunky squares and pull-apart tender, shredding into wonderful, juicy bites. The brisket was an altogether different affair, pinker and medium rare. What astonished us was the clear and distinct flavour difference between the two. Both were complemented by the spinach jus, pleasingly oily and coating the steaks beautifully.
Twenty minutes later, our plates were scraped clean, finger mark trails just visible in the viscous traces remaining.
Our impression now was of good ingredients, cleverly selected, and treated with respect and care by people who really know how to make them stand out on the plate.
Are we staying for dessert? Bloody hell yes. (Sorry, we don’t get out much.)
Middle age and our waistlines dictate that we must share. Actually our waistlines dictate that we should be on one of those 5/2 day starvation diets but life is too short and food too delicious.
Luckily we were in accord over the chocolate ganache with orange peel and candied orange slices, which my Other Half immediately propped up on either side of the ganache to form wagon wheels. Can’t take him anywhere. Then he proceeded to knock on the restaurant walls, which were pared back to the studwork, declaring as if scandalised at the deconstructed nature of the décor. He’s a former cabinet maker and can’t help himself.
The ganache was lovely. I’m not won over by the sticky puddles of citrus jelly but I was prepared to forgive chef Sam Pinkard anything at this point as I was bowled over by his savoury dishes.
Chatting about the beef brisket to the young man looking after us, it emerged that he was in fact the owner, Jeremy Kode. It hadn’t occurred to us that he would be anything other than staff, as he is one of those successful and enterprising people that my Other Half and I would somewhat churlishly describe as ‘revoltingly young’. He’s probably somewhere in his thirties, like all the teachers and policemen we put in the same category now, and is a veteran of global hotel chain management, resident of China for several years, and now returned home to put top-shelf international hospitality credentials to good use running his own show.
That encompasses a passion for whiskey and the art of the aperitif – that combining of spirits in ways which make life seem fuller with possibilities than ever before. If I lived in Launceston, I would make a point of dropping by Geronimo on my way home weekly and working my way through the repertoire. It would make for an exceedingly happy lifetime quest.
We’re reluctant to leave Geronimo’s stylish interiors and it would seem we’re not the only ones drawn there. The Australian’s restaurant critic John Lethlean has been to dine a fortnight before, and a photographer from the Australian has been photographing dishes there that very afternoon. Let’s hope Mr Lethlean’s review is a glowing drawcard for diners. It’s much deserved.
And now I’m going to avail myself, dear reader, of a narrative construct. Well I am a writer after all.
I have the privilege of being a judge for the Tasmanian Writers’ Competition this year. My pick of the entries was a short story of brilliant originality, and it had three alternative endings.
So here are three options for you. How did my Other Half and I round off our Hot Date?
Ending One. My companion and I chat amiably all the way home. When we arrive back at the ranch, the embers in the firebox are glowing low and the warmth of the house steals over us like the cloak of a lover. We slip back into its familiar rhythms, its yielding caresses like a rich ganache.
Ending Two. The car surges up the dark Tamar valley. Two people, an opulent silence. Fired by beef brisket and spinach, we pull into Tailrace and embrace beneath the swamp gums whose leafy tops form a swaying canopy above us. ‘Bet John Lethlean didn’t find love under the stars afterwards,’ I breathe into my Other Half’s ear. ‘No, he can probably afford a bed at the Sebel,’ he gasps.
Ending Three. We drive home having dined very well, get into our dressing gowns (me), make the usual cup of Rooibos (him) and fall asleep on the sofa in front of My Kitchen Rules.
You choose, dear reader, we’re happy whatever.