In a pier-end attic space, Elspeth Callender finds new Hobart perspectives both outside the window and on the plate.
Brooke Street Pier, also technically a barge, was designed by local architect Robert Morris-Nunn and recently constructed upriver from Hobart.
Aloft occupies the type of top floor space an artist would choose to live out their days.
When I arrive for a late sitting at the kitchen bar – where the banquet menu is the dining option – the restaurant, almost at capacity, feels both roomy and intimate.
The place isn’t huge, but a wall of glass, open-plan kitchen and vaulted ceiling let you breathe. Charred wood that frames the kitchen is balanced by pale sails stretched above light timber floorboards and concrete tables.
Lighting is artfully subtle, side seating cleverly built into angled walls and no diner’s back is to either the cooking or the river.
This Nordic-named restaurant with Danish-designed black cutlery was steering towards a Scandinavian-style menu until Glenn Byrnes put a spatula in the works.
His Australasian menu seasonally shifts with local produce heavily represented. A keen forager, Byrnes substitutes Asian ingredients with Tasmanian-found alternatives.
Formerly of Hobart’s ground-breaking Garagistes under Luke Burgess, Byrnes is on his first holiday since Aloft opened late last year.
However, the kitchen runs smoothly under chef and co-owner Christian Ryan, who worked with Byrnes at Melbourne’s Taxi Dining Room and The Source at Mona.
Sommelier Alice Chugg, previously at Ethos Eat Drink, has built a wine list suitable for the menu with a focus on smaller sustainable producers – local and overseas.
Co-owner Heiki Stanley heads front-of-house and service overall is respectful and attentive with disarming casualness and care.
Dishes are passed to us as they’re prepared, starting with mouthfuls of poached spanner crab and crispy ginger in a savoury custard.
A bowl of sliced, deep-fried pig’s ears confirms this is no place for faint-heartedness. Perfection is achieved over the Asado grill’s open flame and we eat the prawns in coconut sambal and fig leaf cream on a soft taco-like turmeric wafer with our hands.
Somewhere between the pork belly and the mushroom dumplings – full of fungi sourced from Cygnet – I may have licked my plate.
Afterwards, like the pier, I too float home.
The Details: Aloft, Hobart
Where: Brooke St Pier, Hobart. aloftrestaurant.com
Verdict: Aloft has already found its voice and is singing high and strong.
We rated: Unpretentious people committed to achieving greatness.
We’d change: Not a thing.
Notes: Aloft is open for lunch on Fridays and for dinner Tues-Sat from 6pm until late. Banquet menu is $85 per person.