Thursday, 10 May 2012

Launnie as the locals call her

Launnie CBD from one of the many hills that surround  the city
I've been out of the radar for the past ten days, and it's all been Launnie's fault.

For just over a week now, Launceston (or 'Launnie', as the locals call her), the second biggest city in Tasmania, has been my base. I'm here to collect some data for the research project I'm part of, and I have to admit, if it wasn't for work, I probably wouldn't have visited, let alone stay in Launnie for more than a few days.

Sorry to say but this city isn't exactly high on my list of places to visit before I die.

Launnie gets a bad rep for being a bit of a bogan town. I was told that Launnie's pretty slow in the up-take of fashion, food trends, entertainment, and general mod-cons (my hotel still advertises their 'free dial-up internet connection'), and that I shouldn't expect much from the place. It sounded like in terms of Tasmanian cities, Hobart takes all the shine while Launnie is like the less-pretty, boring sister.

Before coming here, I was also told that there isn't really much to do for fun at night apart from going to one of Launnie's not-so-classy pubs or stay in at the hotel and be quite bored. All sounded very grim indeed. But after spending some time here, I'm beginning to think that Launnie has some little-known charms up her sleeve...

Launnie's 'seaport' on the North Esk river
I've found Launnie to be a relaxed, friendly place with a few gems in terms of food, coffee and wines. It's no Melbourne or Sydney in terms of the scale of gastronomic varieties, but if you look, there are a number of restaurants and shops around town that serve/sell some really fantastic local produce like seafood from the East Coast of Tassie, pinot noir from the Tamar Valley wine region, or the many types of cheeses produced locally in Tassie.

There is also a growing number of restaurants serving really great food that you'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere, even in Sydney or Melbourne. For example, I had the best pasta dish I've ever had in my life at Novaro's Italian restaurant here in Launnie. No jokes. Their linguine with Tassie king prawns, burnt butter, apples, verjuice and spring onions was just sensational. It was out-of-body experience stuff, made all the more awesome by the local Three Wishes pinot noir I had with my pasta.

Of course, I can't eat like that every day (it was on the expensive side and I'll be morbidly obese if I keep eating like this), but my point is that I am pleasantly surprised by ol' Launnie. Not just because of the gourmet food and wine, but because I find the city to be charming. There are beautiful pockets all around the city and it's only a short drive out of the city to get to somewhere gorgeous like Tamar Valley.

I found myself slowing down and really enjoying the pace of the city, which is probably something really healthy for someone who lives in Sydney. I'll need to be back here again for work in four months' time, and I think that won't be a bad thing at all...

In case you happen to come here too one day, here are some of the more memorable places I visited in Launnie, most of them thanks to the recommendations of locals and friends who used to live here. As can be expected of me, the majority are food and wine places:

1. Tant Pour Tant Pattiserie on Charles St. in the city => Really good pastries and good coffee. Try their chorizo sausage roll.

2. Stillwater Restaurant and Wine Bar, near Cataract Gorge => Good place for breakfast at a pretty spot by the river. The Millhouse providore and gift shop is right next door and they sell lots of local artisan stuff. There's also a gallery upstairs.

3. Novaro's Italian Restaurant in the CBD => Where I had my life-changing prawn linguine.

4. Pinot Wine Shop, Patterson St. near Cataract Gorge => If you like pinot noir, then this place is heaven. They sell lots of pinot noir from the region, particularly from smaller wineries. They stock other varieties of wines too.

5. Flip Burger, York St. => They say that they make the best burgers in Tassie and they probably do. The best part is, they deliver! Very handy for those cold windy nights.

6. If you're after some quick food, then there's Morty's food hall on the corner of Wellington and Brisbane streets in the city. Nothing special, but there are some Asian foods there if you crave it. It is, however, part of a gas station complex. Nice view of people filling up petrol as you eat. Just what you want.

7. Davies Deli on Wellington St => You can buy local cheese, wine and other produce here too, but again, it's part of a gas station complex. What is it with food and gas stations here in Launnie?

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