Delivering the complete old-school, low-key Aussie pub package while simultaneously being one of the best dining experiences in Tasmania is no easy feat. Tom McHugo’s is excellent.
From the multitude of worn, wooden perches, the long bar, the huge picture windows offering panoramic views over Macquarie Street, the strongly seasonal food menu through to the eclectic and keenly chosen wine and drink offering, there’s so much to like here.
Tom McHugo’s champions local farmers and growers of Tasmania for its food menu, particularly small-scale, artisan farms like Broadchurch Farm, Fat Carrot Farm and Provenance Growers. Most of them are within 30 or so minutes of the pub.
The produce that comes from these farms is skillfully dealt with by chefs Tom Westcott and Bianca Johnston (2019 Appetite for Excellence Young Chef of the Year).
They present a head-spinning menu that not only elevates pub classics but delves into seriously excellent and original dishes.
Snacks to holler about include the stupendous and near-iconic Scotch egg, locally sourced oysters and an array of beautifully done vegetable dishes and salads.
It’s also hard to pass up the Broadchurch Farm free-range chicken, done whichever way the kitchen decrees on the day, and the steak frites is way above standard.
The food is so compelling that it’s almost, but not quite, easy to overlook the fantastic drinks selection.
The drinks list ties gently into the local wine, beer and spirits scene but draws inspiration broadly from avant-garde wine producers across Australia and homes in on a selection of rare imports from natural winemakers.
It’s a brilliant, shape-shifting list that can have you drinking a seasonal, wild-fermented beer from local brewer Two Metre Tall along with eclectic offerings from Hobart-based wine importers Roger McShane and Sue Dyson of Living Wines.
Younger-generation wine producers get a solid look in, too. It’s a pretty smart roll call of Australia’s youthful talent, with the likes of Manon Farm, Travis Tausend, Momento Mori and Basket Range Wines, which can be found alongside some of the favourites of Tasmania, including Dr Edge and Made By Monks.
While many will decry limited support for local wine, the offering is never without Tasmanian product, and the stretch to mainland and international regions for a homely pub such as this is a huge asset for those visiting Hobart and locals alike.
Top Drinks: Dr Edge Dr Uggo Pet Nat – From local wine guy Peter Dredge comes his pristine, vivacious and energetic pinot noir-focused pét-nat sparkling wine. Thirst-quenching stuff by the glass. Two Metre Tall – Two Metre Tall beer enjoys near-permanent residence at Tom McHugo’s. Ask what’s available.
Drink + Food Match: Pyren Vineyard Little Ra Ra Roopa with whatever brawn or terrine that may be on the menu. The richness of the dish with the cut and pucker of this skin-fermented wine is ideal.
Best Dish: The Scotch egg with pickle at Tom McHugo’s is so perfectly formed, so delicious, so perfectly garnished and finished, that it sets the benchmark nationally. Simple hedonism.
OTHER HOBART BARS
120 Elizabeth St, Hobart, sonny.com.au
A pint-sized, narrow bar that delivers some of the best wine in the city alongside great handmade pasta and snacks. Charismatic drinking and eating.
100 Elizabeth St, Hobart, etties.com.au
Pull up at the bar and let the crew guide you around the ever-changing wine list, usually deeply invested in Tasmanian producers. A solid food offering completes the experience.
➼ Lucinda Wine
123 Collins St, Hobart
Another mini bar, though you’ll find prime footpath seating, too. It’s got a cracking, imported natural wine-focused list and offers delicious small plates to tide you over.