We’ve all seen those contests on Facebook and Instagram. They’re ever present. But do you ever sit back and think to yourself, who actually wins them? Would you believe it if I told you I won 3 in one week!
It all started with a raffle at artesian brewer Moon Dog. I had a couple of casual beers on a Saturday afternoon and before I knew it I walked away with a complimentary case of their intense annual brew Jumping the Shark. A few days later I had entered a contest on Facebook sponsored by local food guide The Urban List Melbourne and Crown Melbourne. I had won $200 to dine at world acclaimed Japanese restaurant Nobu. It was delicious of course.
But when my Instagram @Leeveca was pinged as the winner of The Ultimate Gourmet Escape presented by finedininglovers.com I couldn’t believe it. The prize included economy flights for two people to Hobart, Tasmania valued at $800, one night’s accommodation at MONA Pavilions valued at $700, MONA Gallery entry valued at $50, and dinner for two at Franklin Restaurant valued at $200.
When my friend Renee planned her visit from the US I gave her the ultimate ultimatum. In addition to adventuring around Melbourne, down the Great Ocean Road and across to Phillip Island, sailing the Whitsundays and snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, she had to make a hard decision. Visit Australia’s most iconic city Sydney, or go rogue by adventuring to Tasmania to cash in my Ultimate Gourmet Escape prize. It was a no brainer, Tassie won.
After stepping off a 24-hour flight to Melbourne from Philadelphia via LAX and traveling by Sky Bus into Southern Cross Station, I quickly ushered her to my apartment in Richmond to shower, grab a quick bite and pack a small bag. A few hours later we were back at the airport sipping wine in the Qantas Lounge awaiting our flight to Hobart. Jetlag would have to wait.
Franklin is one of the hottest restaurants in Hobart right now and deservingly so. The kitchen is the epi-center of this simplistic, cement and timber themed eatery. Dining at the bar, our favourite part was observing the chefs expertly prepare each plate individually; taking their time as if it was their first. I envied both their patience and precision as there was definitely no rush to get it wrong.
Everything bar one dish was awesome. We experimented with periwinkles, a small sea snail with a surprisingly long body and questionably mushy finish. Not your typical escargot. We fought over the last oyster, bite of kingfish and wallaby tartare. The gamey wagyu however let us down. Renee comfortably slept off her jetlag that evening in the picturesque Victorian era-restored hotel Hadley’s Orient.
Boutique Wine Tours Tasmania led us on a journey the next day through the historic town of Richmond and to sample the famed pinot noir of the Coal River Valley. Having been through here a few times prior, David who guided the tour exceeded my expectations as we visited the oldest church, goal and bridge in Australia (just saying the country isn’t that old), sipped quality pinot and sparkling at my favourite family owned winery Pooley Wines, and tasted chilli cheddar and more outstanding cheese at Wicked Cheese. The hospitality at Richmond Tasting House as Renee tried the local whiskies and I sat trying all the food samples on repeat, was a highlight.
That evening we were welcomed into MONA Pavilions, one of 8 uniquely designed apartments that are situated on the museum property facing the River Derwent, each named after a famed Australian architect or artist, going for $700 a night! Luckily it was my birthday at midnight so we celebrated with the complimentary bottle of Moorilla Estate’s Muse Brut while ensuring we made the most out of the place, the Beatles turned up through each modern speaker fitted in the wall units and sipped our sparkling on the veranda overlooking the river. Ours was coincidentally named Robin, which is Renee’s middle name.
The Source, the very upmarket and nationally respected contemporary, French-inspired restaurant at MONA was our biggest and most frustrating disappointment. While our server Alice was spunky and friendly, our sommelier appeared strangely depressed. The atmosphere, which seemed like a dated hotel function room, didn’t compliment the $200pp price tag for the 5-course degustation plus wine pairings. While I finished every bite of the Morton bugs with apple, wasabi and lime and the scallop gnocchi using a golden spork, I commented, “wow that was so interesting!” And “oooh, this is so weird.” But Renee said it right at the end, as we requested a cheese plate over dessert and found that to be one of the best bits. She said, “For $200 I don’t want an interesting meal, I want a delicious one.” So true, despite us both being very passionate about food, every dish definitely challenged by palette.
Before flying out we spent the morning nursing our hangovers with Xavier, the fantastic host at the Moorilla Estate cellar door while working through a tasting flight of both the wines and Moo Brew beers.
We then entered MONA – the wacky Museum of New Art. The exhibition featured the works of Marina Abramovic and it was weird and wonderful. Dark spaces contained videos of people screaming at the top of their lungs, of a woman frantically biting her nails, and a rice counting room where we had to leave our phone and watches behind after putting on a lab coat. Once we entered the room of complete silence we were separated, then a scoop full of rice was presented in front of us. We sat there for about 15 minutes and I thought to myself, to work here for hours staring at people staring at rice in silence would be insane. We then ended the day with a tour of Moorilla Estate, yes more wine.
On our journey home we watched the sunset from the airplane window all the way back to Melbourne. It was a memorable birthday with an old friend in a beautiful part of the world. A special thanks to finedininglovers.com for making it all possible.
For more ideas on what to do in Tasmania check out my previous post: My Tasmanian Secrets