Located at Velo Wines near Launceston, Tasmania, Timbre may be hard to pronounce but its meaning is easy to discern in action. Creating something distinct and different is the goal of head chef and owner Matt Adams. Another factor that sets Timbre apart is the connection with the community – all working together to create something unique.
You grew up in Northern Tasmania. How has the local food and wine scene changed?
Since I first worked as a kitchenhand in Launceston, the scene has shifted, grown and changed dramatically, and I guess I have grown up with it. Having a restaurant based around shared dining was but a dream 15 years ago. Hobart has obviously seen a huge cultural shift with the ‘MONA effect’ and this also trickles through to the north. But Hobart and Launceston are very different and always will be, so it’s nice to pave our own way a little. Not only do we have great small producers, but great people within the small communities that add to, and are part of, the food and wine scene – whether they realise it or not.
What influenced your perspective on cooking, food and wine?
My perspective today is increasingly holistic, whereas early on it was more food-focused. I’ve always been interested in the delivery of the product as a whole. I go all-in with whomever I work for or with, to fully immerse myself in their philosophy. At some point you realise you have your own perspective and philosophies, but everyone I’ve worked with has guided me to that point.
As head chef and owner at Timbre, were you able to create a version of your ‘dream restaurant’ here?
Timbre has evolved organically. The only food idea going in was a jaffle made in a campfire jaffle iron, which I would cook in a wood fire. But the dream was always to have a relaxed, fun, local produce-driven, progressive menu, in a restaurant fuelled by fire. Being chef and owner is a great advantage. I now also work the floor, which has been a massive learning curve for the better – to see and understand how the cogs of the machine work together. We have a happy team with great longevity, who all contribute and treat the restaurant as their own. Timbre literally means ‘the distinctive quality that makes something different’ – something we’re only just being able to pinpoint now. Was I able to create my dream restaurant? I never dreamed it would be this good. The satisfaction of the guest community and the crew as a whole is incredible.
Is there one dish from the restaurant that epitomises the philosophy behind your cooking?
You’ll laugh, but it has to be the Grilled Cheese with Granny Jean’s Mustard Pickle – the ultimate in no-fuss cooking. When you break it down it says everything about us; it’s nostalgic, it’s simple, it’s homely, it’s naughty, and above all it’s incredibly tasty. The soda bread we make it with was born out of necessity, when I was almost running the kitchen singlehandedly and had no time for a real bread program.
Do you still operate your produce trading program with local growers? How did the concept arise?
I started the trading program on Facebook in our first year, to gauge the community’s response. Being semi-rural, I thought it might go okay, but I never expected the effect it would have on Timbre and the way we operate. It’s now at the heart of nearly everything we do, in our menu writing but also our community impact. Our menus change all the time based on what’s brought in, sometimes day-to-day, even lunch to dinner. It’s like working in reverse and is a fantastic way to go about things.
Having some parameters and being limited makes us creative. We also get the freshest vegetables and rarely say no to anyone. When we find ourselves with surpluses, and it happens, we get even more creative. Preserving is a constant. Having staff that have been on board for multiple years is great fun when we come around to a particular season again and finally nail a good way to use a product that we’ve struggled with in previous years.
Working almost exclusively with local farmers and backyard gardeners, you must get a diverse range of produce. Have there been any unique varieties that required some imagination to prepare?
Working this way ensures amazing produce, whether it’s an heirloom variety or a simple carrot. Being able to cook with ingredients within hours of them being taken from the ground or a tree or a bush means the purest flavour, and also a chance to use those parts that would otherwise be wasted.
Thinking back, the most obscure vegetable we’ve received was a yacón. It’s a South American tuber, and was similar to a potato that’s sweet. We battered it like a potato cake, but were partly glad to see the back of it, as it’s high in inulin. Gassy to say the least.
The Velo Wines vineyards are among the oldest in Tasmania and the winery maintains a strong history of acclaimed vintages. How do you see the restaurant contributing to this tradition?
In opening the restaurant, I wanted us to be there as part of – and for – the community of the West Tamar and Launceston, which I believe is key to being a great destination restaurant. If we can be on the map for expressing Tasmania and the area through our food and people in a genuine, heart-warming way, then I’m happy.
What lasting memory would you like restaurant guests to walk away with after a meal at Timbre?
Our names, an expression of the area, a desire to come back, the name of Aimee’s dog, being full, the smell of the smoke and fire, that they discovered a secret that was just theirs… and how to pronounce ‘timbre’!
What would be your ideal day trip around the Tamar Valley?
That’s a hard one – we would need to slow time down a bit. There are so many small producers who are just fantastic people, so there is no way I can list them all. For wine tasting, try anything from Beautiful Isle, Loira Vines, Swinging Gate, Moores Hill, Stoney Rise Wine Company, Marion’s Vineyard, Utzinger (coming soon), Delamere Vineyards and Sinapius… and finish with a drink with Ricky at Launceston’s Havilah.
Wagyu fat Yorkshire pudding, celeriac gravy
Wagyu fat, rendered
1 egg yolk, to serve
1 large celeriac, peeled
3 cups (750mL) chicken stock, reduced by half
½ bunch thyme, leaves finely chopped
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped
1 tbsp tarragon leaves, finely chopped
1 For the celeriac gravy, juice half of the celeriac, and finely dice the remaining half.
2 Heat the stock over a medium heat, add celeriac juice and bring to a simmer.
3 Add diced celeriac, cook until tender, add chopped herbs. Keep warm until needed.
4 For the pudding, preheat oven to 250°C. Preheat a muffin tray or small heavy-based skillet in the oven.
5 Combine eggs, flour, milk and a pinch of salt and whisk until smooth.
6 Fill skillet to one-third with rendered wagyu fat, and heat until smoking. Pour the batter into the skillet, and cook until risen and golden.
7 Position yolk in the centre of the pudding, and serve warm with gravy.