2 Bridge Road
The good folk at Stillwater were curious and a little perplexed when we checked in to their lovely hotel with our cat Edward, back in the days when we were still considering the move to Launceston. They reserve one of their seven luxury accommodation options for those with a pet, you see, but I have it on good authority that 'pet' usually means ‘dog’.
Anyway, that night was our first experience of Stillwater’s restaurant for either of us in some years. We’ve since visited a few times, usually for dinner. I don’t think there’s another restaurant in the city that can match it for quality – but it’s also among the most expensive, right up there with Geronimo. One night we spent well over $300 between the two of us, including (a lot of) wine.
Currently you can choose between two courses for $75–$80 or three for $99 per person. That’s a bit of a shame, because as is so often the case the interesting dishes tend to be entree size. It would be nice to simply go nuts on the upper half of the menu – in the 'snacks' section – which tends to boast delights like hot-smoked salmon croquettes, a lobster and caviar snack, half-shell scallops, and tiger prawn and ginger dumplings. I want to try them all, not just one followed-up with a large serve of wallaby, delicious as it no doubt would be.
On one visit we did just that – chose only from the upper half of the menu – and no one minded because the bill came out higher than the set price anyway. Don’t be afraid to ask.
The hot-smoked salmon croquettes with a lemon aioli (only three out of four pictured – I was too slow with the camera again) are a fine example of the extra snacks you can order. The filling seems to have been passed through a drum sieve, which gave them a creamy smoothness you don't usually find in a croquette. Melt-in-the-mouth stuff. The charcoal-grilled quail and mushroom dish is an entree and we both agreed that it was one of the finest examples of that tiny bird either of us have tasted anywhere.
Stillwater holds a special place in my stomach because it’s one of the few restaurants I’ve seen who quite often has abalone on the menu. We Tasmanians all know that abalone is a delicacy available only to those who go diving or know someone who does. Many of us never get to try it. Not that it’s on the menu all the time, but that it’s there at all is a sign that these guys are looking to provide the diner with a unique experience.
This place is a Launceston institution that’s been around since the 90s (probably before, but I can’t remember). The history of the site dates back to the 1840s – it’s an old flour mill. You can’t really say you’ve experienced the food scene in Launceston unless you've been here.
Will we go back? You betcha. For the next special occasion.