A sign of Tassie times

Signal Station Brasserie
700 Nelson Road, Mount Nelson TAS

(Visited August ’18)

It was our last, FULL day in Hobart. The days were still sunny and calm (did we get lucky or what?) and after we discovered that traveling to the top of Mount Wellington from our accommodation would take us 40 minutes, one way, we decided to opt for the much shorter distance to Mount Nelson… we had driven to Port Arthur the day before and were getting seriously over driving. This was a holiday after all.

Mount Wellington would have to wait until next time.

We drove under 20 minutes instead, along winding roads with scenery that continued to grow and expand and show us snippets of what we were coming to see… far off mountains and valleys and endless greenery. After a couple of wrong turns we finally made our way up a residential looking street, and came to a dead end at what was the summit.

Not only did we find views… but we found a café (heart).

The signal station brasserie.

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Now those are my kind of views. 180 degree views along Southern Tasmania, thank you very much.

First, we had to take in some splendid scenery.

Breathe in with me…

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And breathe out.

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Ahhh.

The signal station was the first to be built in Tasmania, back in 1811… holey moley. Used back then for signalling and the reporting of shipping to the Port of Hobart and eventually to Port Arthur, it is now a place of rich history and fascination as tourists and locals alike come to feast their eyes on outlooks that were once used for very different means.

And to have a spot of afternoon tea, of course 😉

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Back then it would have been in operation every day as the café was now… 7 days a week. We turned our attentions to the few tables that were getting baked in the Winter sun, and grabbed one before anyone else beat us. Soon, an interesting looking chap walked over and gave us some menus before walking away and talking to himself as he had been talking to us – like he had known us forever.

 

There was both himself, and a woman making the inner and outer café rounds, and it was with the latter that we made our afternoon orders, before proceeding to sit back and enjoy the fresh and beautiful surrounds.

It is a most magical spot. There is also inside seating within a small building that would have most likely been a house, sitting opposite the signal station tower on the other side…

But on the day that we had, you would have been crazy to wanna miss those views, and that sunshine.

Soon we were very happily being attended to.

Hubbie was happy to receive his short black with James Boags

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Baby girl got a very colourful babycino

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And I got a cap, while she and I shared some Signal Station Lemon Scones – with housemade jam and freshly whipped cream (2 per serve. $11.50)

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Those scones were just sky high. They were a very decent serving, even for two, and baby girl enjoyed them as much as I did, applying lashings of cream… licking it off the scone… then applying more cream.

Ahh. Kid life.

Her marshmallows were forgotten but had been promised, so the man promptly called her into the café so she could pick up her never-ever-forgotten cushions of pillowy goodness from out of the jar. She was in heaven.

My coffee was great as was Hubbie’s short black, and he enjoyed it alongside his Sunday arvo beer, classic Aussie style. It was a lovely afternoon out in the sun and we felt particularly lucky to have been granted such pristine weather on our stay in Hobart, since we had definitely not expected it being Winter… being Tasmania.

When it was time to pay and go, I ventured inside to see the interior, and passed the most fantastic sign, that I was immediately compelled to capture:

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What a beautiful sentiment. It gave me ALL the feels, and had me in such a happy state, that when what happened later inside, happened, I guess it was fortunate for them, as I had already been buttered up like a sky-high scone before my massive letdown…

Like a pancake.

Because you see, I went inside to pay, and was standing in front of the register/coffee making counter, waiting to pay. The man who had tended to us earlier was busy making coffees and playing catch up, and there was a father and daughter duo who were ordering a specific drink for the girl… it could have been lactose, gluten free, almond milk perhaps, who knows. But the discussion as the man behind the counter made the drinks, was that she had a difficult order, the man had successfully made it, and they were now telling the man that they were appreciative of his efforts. The father and daughter walked off, the girl with her takeaway drink in hand.

Stay with me.

Meanwhile, as eccentric man as we’ll call him, was behind the counter playing catch up on drink-making, having his last of the conversation with the father and daughter duo, another couple walked up and were to the side, also appearing to want to pay. At this stage I did that thing where you move a bit closer to the counter, in an effort to say ‘I was here first,’ hopeful that surely, eccentric man would realise I had been waiting longer.

But then as the father and daughter duo exited, eccentric man started talking to the couple – they knew each other. Jokes were shared, inside convo, local lingo, things about the café, upcoming events… they mucked about and laughed and meanwhile I smiled profusely in the background as eccentric man made these drinks, thinking ‘any time now. Any time.’

Any time now, he will finish his drink making, turn to this couple and say “sorry I’ll just serve this young lady, she was here first.”

This young lady, tourist from Melbourne.

This young lady, first timer to Signal Station Brasserie.

This young lady, patiently standing and waiting.

This young lady, whose alias is SmikG and is a food blogger.

!!!

Then the UNTHINKABLE.

(Or perhaps, thinkable by now because I have been leading there).

He started to put through their order first.

(Mouth gaping open emoji.)

More unthinkable… the couple let him.

Sure, they kind of may not have known what I wanted… I was simply WAITING THERE TO PAY NOT DOING ANYTHING ELSE.

I enjoy just standing around doing nothing on sunny Sundays.

Majority blame, goes entirely to eccentric man. Making the drinks, ignoring me the entire time, and going ahead to let someone else pay before me.

In horror I watched as he unapologetically put through the other couple’s order, and as he did, and they paid, they continued chatting, and laughing, and taking their GOD DAMN TIME.

By the time they decided they had been there long enough, the couple walked off SLOWLY, talking to him over their shoulder, and I, feeling like a volcano about to erupt, walked hastily RIGHT UP to the counter and waited to pay. He made no apology, made small talk, I paid and was OFF.

I was gob-smacked.

Hubbie looked at me like ‘where the hell have you been?’

I said “don’t – I can’t talk about it now. I’ll fill you in in the car.”

And then we proceeded to verbally bash the unhospitable event for the next 30 minutes. Oh the story has even made its way to people back home, don’t worry. More in the below notes…

Food: I can only score on the scones, so a 7.5/10. Generous servings make for happy customers.

Coffee: 7/10. Pleasing and adequate.

Ambience: Unmistakably serene and chilled… a beautiful place to enjoy on a sunny day, with uninterrupted mountain and coastal views, and the cafe building a quaint interior, cottage-feel type place where you could easily hide away in and feel like you have stepped into someplace special.

Staff: Away from my comical exclamation marks and open-mouthed emojis, is this cold, hard FACT:

In Melbourne, this kind of queue jumping would not stand up.

Would not hold court.

Would not be acceptable.

The ignorance and blatant disregard would be dealt with, like a lion taking prey upon a stray zebra.

It is just not on. To be standing there waiting to pay, (busy or not busy) and then someone jumps in front you (their friend or no friend) is just so unprofessional and so unhospitable, it speaks volumes.

Hubbie told a workmate about this story, and his work mate said ‘that is not unlike Tasmania.’

No where else did anything like this happen. Everyone was wonderful in fact. So I don’t know how isolated this incident is, but if there are fellow travellers or Tasmanian locals who know of this kind of disregard for decency and order, please by all means enlighten me on what THE RULES ARE.

But, if I am waiting to pay, anywhere in the world, and someone else comes along and then jumps in front, the wait staff allows it and then proceeds to not even apologise or make any mention of it and there is no emergency to justify the queue-jumping?

Well in the matter of common global human decency, that is not on. In no language or country is that ON.

It just makes no sense. I am actually a very fair and understanding person, and I try to see both sides, but in this one I see only ONE.

Massive rant over.

People: Older couples (grrr) as mentioned, families, and kids. Tourists are onto this place equally as much as the locals are, yet it still remains quite secluded, private and unique.

Price: I paid, but got no receipt, or else I misplaced it in my overwhelming confusion and frustration. I have it on strong suspicion it was in the low $30s, which would make sense as we had predominantly drinks.

Advice: Despite everything said above, I urge you to visit this place… there’s nothing quite like enjoying a drink or a snack, and being able to see amazing vistas with your butt still firmly planted on a bench. Go early on a sunny day and enjoy the outdoors.

In a nutshell: Again, despite all I have vented about, I would come here again… and to eat, and coffee… I don’t know how I would be come face-to-face with eccentric man… but I would just turn my gaze towards the mountains, and Signal to myself –

‘something good will happen to me today.’

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Signal Station Brasserie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Got us by the ball and chain

The Ball and Chain Grill
87 Salamanca Place, Battery Point TAS

(Visited August ’18)

Woah ho peeps. On official day 3 of our Hobart adventure, and at the end of a long day travelling to Port Arthur and being absolutely wowed by the scenery, well, we were still yet to be wowed by a dinner option.

It was an ongoing, intense search to find a restaurant that had red meat for Hubbie… kid-friendly food for baby girl… and then I wanted to be happy too you know… and yet finding a happy medium for all seemed almost impossible.

It would be easy if we all loved seafood. Oh how easy it would be if we ALL loved seafood (like me!) But alas life isn’t easy like that my friends.

Not with a fussy butcher and 5 year-old child.

We needed pasta, or carbs for her. Meat for him. It had to be mid-range. Not a party place, not the poshiest restaurant, but we didn’t want to be led down the back of an alleyway either.

The options that we found fit the bill were unfortunately closed. Some for renovations, some just for that night.

Oh the drama!

Oh the holidaying first world problems!

😭

So when I came across the online menu for this one I had to have a second look. It appeared ok. We had to check it out.

We went to Salamanca Place, again, and discovered the menu was deceiving…

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Oh, how the menu was deceiving…

Because it was so much better!

The current Ball and Chain Grill building was built in the 1800s by convicts, and what started out as offices dealing with the stock of wool, whale oil and food, has grown over time into the traditional dining establishment we have today.

The online menu explained to me the extensive dinner options, which is why I was so confused on arrival. Sure there were the appetisers, entrée and mains, the grilled section and also the kids meals. But then as we arrived, walking past the traditional wood panelled rooms, the open-view grilling section at the front, and were seated in this multi-layered, multi-roomed establishment which was filled to the brim with people, we saw, a kind of salad bar in the middle of the venue.

Curious, yet not sure what to think, we followed our waitress to our seats, and lucky for us she had since spied our out-of-town status a mile away and proceeded to explain to us their concept.

Which is when we had our “ahhhh!” moment.

We could order as we liked from the menu, but the salad bar was their free, all-you-can-eat addition… you could go and choose from a variety of salads and vegetable-type side dishes, with sauces to choose from too, take as many away as you liked, and that was FREE.

It was FREE.

Considering he is a butcher, this excited my green-leafed guy immensely. He could fill up on as many greens as he could muster, and then spend his hard-earned cash on the things that pleased him most:

Meat, and Alcohol.

😉

After getting a spot of drinks, a local red for me and a Moo Brew beer for him…

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And then soon after observing some interesting pics on the walls around us and looking up at the glass ceiling…

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We ordered with our friendly waitress, and then proceeded to take turns at the ‘salad bar.’

😯

Just to clarify, these were cold salads. We got things like lettuce, cucumber, noodles and chickpea salads alongside beetroot…

(Many apologies for the crap photos, dim lighting was my enemy)

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And then our meals came. Kids meals are $15 and the pasta option was pasta bolognaise, but our girl being anti-sauce at the time, we were able to get her plain pasta with cheese:

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I got the 180g eye fillet with potatoes and satay sauce on the side

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While Hubbie got the 300g porterhouse steak with potatoes and tomato sauce

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And there were also seasonal vegies alongside that to share (in baby girl’s pasta photo).

I’m going to work backwards here. I say ‘potatoes,’ but as you can see there is only two potatoes. I know. I guess they figure that you get your sides from all the other free food on offer. Ok I can look past that, and my also smallish serving due to that fact. I didn’t walk away hungry.

Hubbie thought his medium steak was good, but slightly undercooked given it was meant to be ‘medium’… and having said that, my steak too was slightly undercooked for what I genuinely preferred. Although our waitress was lovely, she had suggested we get our steaks cooked to a ‘medium,’ rather than ‘medium to well’ as we wanted, so it was a case of we should have just gone with our inner-most thoughts… after all we know US best, right?

I thought baby girl’s pasta presentation was pretty average, you may probably disagree and say what else can you do with plain pasta and cheese, and I will say, LOTS! I am the plain pasta expert here! But alas, she still ate most of it so I won’t complain much.

The wine was great, the beer was satisfying to Hubbie, and once we had eaten all our meals and sides and taken in the Saturday night Hobart surrounds, we figured it was time we headed off to rest before another sightseeing day.

Food: 7/10. Good food, good variety, your traditional type of fare.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Bustling and busy, happening and loud, though there were intimate places about, so you could be private if you wanted to be… it was a Saturday night though.

Staff: Our waitress was wonderful and warm, and tended to our every question.

People: Family-friendly, older groups, couples, friends, you find them all here, though I do think the focus is the settled family crowd.

Price: $106, which is mid-range, considering we had all those salads we didn’t have to pay for. Our steaks brought the price up too.

Advice: If you are hungry, your friend will be that salad bar. 😍 Save yourself, then eat it all later.

In a nutshell: It’s a traditional type of restaurant and one I would go to again when in Salamanca Place… there is great variety, plenty of room, and an old-school, vintage feel that is hard to create or emulate elsewhere, as it comes with the experience and history of the town and the buildings within.

And just like the restaurant, I have to say, many things nowadays aren’t created to the high standards that they once were. Head on down to check out the expertly crafted building and subsequent food, of equal stature.

Ball & Chain Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Going Retro in time

Retro Café
31 Salamanca Place Battery Point TAS

(Visited August ’18)

What a different experience our proper day #2 eating out for lunch was compared to our proper day #1.

Oh the drama!

It was all about the freaking parking meters.

THE FREAKING PARKING METERS.

This was because we had to book our afternoon trip over to the MONA museum via the ferry, but finding parking to do that, and then working out where to go was a feat in itself…

I will do a Hobart post about our adventures which will recount ALL the fun – both real and sarcastic. Really, we DID have a ball. You just need to know a thing or two about parking meters if travelling there (especially if you have a hire car and have to you know, occasionally ‘park’ or something crazy like that).

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But what we also had to do apart from book the ferry tickets, was of course, eat.

We needed no drama. No fuss. Baby girl was cranky and we were going to find out later it was due to her getting increasingly sick (note to self: do not plan a birthday party for your child to be infected with other kids diseases, only days before embarking on a family holiday. Repeat, DO NOT).

Well we eventually parked in a 2 hour slot at Salamanca Place, so we literally went to the closest café on the corner. The Retro Café.

We were sitting outside, and to be honest most of the time we were preoccupied with parking woes so we didn’t see anything retro about it. But it was a simple café, with a simple menu, some specials on the board out front, and on that cold and sunny day in Hobart, we cracked on to the task of ordering.

We had a ferry ride waiting, after all.

It was a clearly visible spot amidst some weekly foot traffic. It was interesting to observe the locals about, mainly work people and friends meeting for lunch, and I wondered how clearly it looked to them all that we weren’t from those Kansas quarters?

 

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(The Whaler, which we went to on our last night)

With an increasingly sicker baby girl, we plopped the ipad in front of her and hoped to salvage some shred of this holiday ($$$), breathing a sigh of relief as the food arrived.

Thank God.

Baby girl got (keeping in recent dairy theme), a toasted cheese sandwich.

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I got one of the specials: Grilled vegetable bruschetta topped w/ grilled haloumi and hummus

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While Hubbie got a vegetable salad roll

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I realised how unwell baby girl was by her inability to show interest in any sign of food there… but I slowly and surely through persistence and strong willingness to cure her of any ill health during our trip, got her to finish most of it.

My haloumi was really good. I mean bruschetta. You know what I am getting at here… it was a satisfying yet still light lunch option, a perfect in between of feeling healthy with vegie toppings, and then… well cheese and bread. Need I say more?

Hubbie felt just as healthy with his salad roll. It was a salad roll, and that was that, keeping him light on his feet as we had A LOT of walking ahead of us that day.

We didn’t dawdle there long, just due to, you know, afore-mentioned parking constraints (do people not hang around here long?), meter change issues, and a sick girl… 😦 I headed on in to pay, happy with the meal, hoping the day would lift just as the food had helped us do.

Food: 7.5/10. It was satisfactory café-style food, and did the job in making us less hangry in amongst frustrating parking meters.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: It was really quiet and calm, quite coastal-town like whilst on holiday… hold up, we were on the coast there, and it was mid-week and we were on holiday… it just seemed quieter than usual, considering the Salamanca Place locale, an area we would come to know quite well in the days that would follow.

People: People meeting for lunch, business-types on lunch… those who were actually from the area.

Staff: They were nice. Hard to flag down to grab our order though. We found this an increasing Melbourne vs Hobart trend. If you’re native to my Victorian parts, remember this one thing when going out in Tasmania… BREATHE. LET GO. RELAX. (That’s three things but you get my drift).

Price: $30.50… wait, what? Only $30.50? Here, the strike of the cheap Tassie was happening again. Wait a minute, we didn’t have any coffee or alcoholic beverages… still it seemed cheap compared to a similar meal we would have had in a similar region, in our old Morning-Town…

Advice: For the love of God, keep gold coins, ANY loose change on you. When you come to park you will totally get it.

Totally unrelated but also advice: if you are holidaying after throwing a kids birthday party (could happen) DO NOT actually throw the kids party. Throw it after your holiday when you don’t care about getting sick. In fact don’t see any kids, at all before your holiday for like, a month (other than your own child, but if you can avoid them, well…)

In a nutshell: A really cute and simple corner café that gives you some regular and fresh options beyond some of the usual café fare you might find. It’s close to shops and walking distance to other parts of the city… just don’t forget that change.

I just realised with the whole parking meter thing, how truly retro the place really is…

Retro Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato