Spirit’s dispiriting dishes

22 Oct

If I were a connection of Petuna seafood or Nichols Poultry or 41 South, the first thing I’d do is remove my products from the Spirit of Tasmania’s ‘top’ restaurant.

A colleague and I ate in The Leatherwood Restaurant a few nights ago. Never again. And the dishes at the cheap buffet Captain’s Table just looked and smelled tired and terrible.

But the Leatherwood is supposed to showcase some of Tasmania’s best produce in a fine eating space. By the time it hit the table in front of us, a Petuna ocean trout fillet was ruined and a Tassy tenderloin overcooked. Moreover, the ‘red wine jus’ with the latter was grey-brown, a tasteless wash of pooling fat puddles in a non-lipid juice.

Petuna farms excellent seafood — Australia’s best-known chef Tetsuya Wakuda championed the ocean trout when I last spoke to him. The Leatherwood served my smallish fillet overdone — flaky and crumbly — part of the underside crusted, which suggested that it had been cooked before being ordered and parked on a hotplate to stay warm. The fatty skin, which is excellent if crusted, was left warm-raw; in that condition it’s far from appetising.

We’d begun with a Tassy tasting plate of smoked duck, pork and veal terrine, pastrami and so on. The elements themselves were fine, but were served far too cold (straight out of the fridge?), betraying any quality they might have.

And the cheapest red wine was a $38 house (boat) Tassy pinot noir at 12.5 per cent alcohol – a thin but OK drop a full percentage point below the burgundy-appellation requirement.

I don’t know who ‘cooks’ on the Spirit. But the team or caterer — probably Tasmanian — ought to be replaced immediately. It’s simply not good enough to be charging $56 for two courses of very lazy and unappetising food. The alternative, the buffet, appeared to be even worse. According to my colleague who has tried it, it is.

Owned by the Tasmanian Government, TT-Line makes a loss and has recently suffered a 16 per cent drop in passenger numbers. Mysteriously, the pay packets of senior staff and directors have bulged by 40 per cent in the past five years.

Several important things look slack and lazy about the ferry service, which runs between Melbourne and Devonport. Its food reminded me of the days when governments ran railway canteens. To book online requires a mastermind to find her way through the myriad qualifications, prices, amendments and specials. I did a trial booking and quit at a total cost of $1344 for a return trip for two with car. There is no seniors concession.

And the ads on telly and in newspapers are a disgrace, from the full stops after headings (very amateurish) to assertions such as ‘Fresh ocean air, not recycled air’. Most of the time passengers are inside the ship, smoking is allowed on most decks, and the air inside aircraft is constantly changed and filtered, perhaps more often than inside the Spirit.

Time to wrap it up, TT.

3 Responses to “Spirit’s dispiriting dishes”

  1. Timothy 22 October, 2013 at #

    It is a closed shop unionized disgrace and always has been.
    Never again!!

  2. Paddy 22 October, 2013 at #

    Same here….I checked prices for Qantas/Jetstar travelling 5 Nov return 11 Nov and airfare for 2 is $123 to Hobart and $159 back and $300 to hire car for the time. A decent motel for the night is $160. All up $800.
    To book the Spirit for the same time for 2 people return and take the car is $1736.
    Am I missing something?

  3. Elliot Rubinstein 24 October, 2013 at #

    I could not agree with you more. It’s hard to serve food worse than they do and, more’s the shame it could so easily be so much better.

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