Where we went: Hobart and surrounds
When we went: Early February 2019
So you planned a hiking trip to tassie but the wild weather forced the closure of some tracks? Don’t panic, this happens sometimes, and it is usually fairly short lived. Whether it’s snow, fire or flood (or all 3 in a week) there are alternatives. My personal coping mechanism is it eat my way out, but I like to insist that I walk everywhere that I eat (for fitness reasons #lifehack).
Sommelier and I had bushwalking plans for this weekend, but we had to cancel them due to the bushfires. Fires often prompt the closure of walking tracks, because a rescue effort in a remote area would be a drain on resources, because of the risk of arsonists getting into parks and creating a problem, and because we try really hard not to kill tourists when they visit. My parent’s home was also under threat from some of the fires, and my father (who is a beekeeper) has bees spread out over the state in need of urgent relocation due to all the fires springing up. So we did not want to be too far away from phone reception, should we be called upon to help. We switched or plans to a city walk instead, Hobart is a very hilly place, so fitness wise you can achieve a similar result to what you might see out in nature, but with the added benefit of not needing a national park pass, having access to wifi hotspots, and (I can’t stress this enough) places to refill your water bottle.
Still determined to challenge ourselves and push the boundaries of what our bodies can do we drew up a plan so daring that those with a sensitive stomach may want to stop reading now. The target: Shakes, both milk and thick. The objective: conduct reconnaissance and ascertain how many shakes a young couple can take before they can’t stand shakes no more.
In the interests of academia it should be noted that this article defines a milkshake according to Miriam Webster: a thoroughly shaken or blended drink made of milk, a flavouring and often ice cream. A term first used in 1886. Rather than its other known definition: a woman’s body and how she moves it. Recognising, a thick shake to be a more ice creamy version of the 1886 definition of a milkshake.
The rules of this culinary adventure are simple; we ask the wait staff (who will all be referred to as Wendy) for their recommendation and try what they suggest. After the calamitous sugar crash that followed the donut tour we also agreed to share one shake at each establishment, we’re on a wedding diet you see, so we have to make sensible meal choices. We also packed a pint glass, a dish cloth and two metal straws, because Hobart is taking steps towards being plastic free, but we have not yet fully realised this dream. We mapped out the public toilets along the way to wash our glass and straws in and set out on our strictly foot powered day.
We started our walk at our home in West Hobart, having packed sunscreen, sun glasses, and a bottle of water each, and headed to our first destination: North Hobart. The North Hobart restaurant strip caters to most areas of culinary interest, with a particular focus on brunch lovers and the quinoa-and-buckwheat crowd. First stop on our tour: Sweet Envy.
Sweet Envy –fourth favourite of the day, more like actual third.
Sweet Envy looks like the set of a rom-com where the hard-working, but extremely clumsy lady makes the best tarts and wedding cakes in the whole city and is somehow still single, but she knows, deep down, that the right man will find her if she just bakes really well and drops a bag of flour in front of him. Then the handsome man who is sent by an evil bridezilla to organise a five layered, ten flavoured, jewel encrusted cake with live butterflies on it walks in. He helps her clean up the flour she dropped, tastes her cake, and then stands up for her when Bridezilla is yelling that the
butterflies will clash with the table runner, and they live happily ever after to a cocoon of baking smells. Sweet Envy looks like the set of that film. They make wedding cakes, and I really enjoyed looking through their folder of wedding cakes while we waited for our shake to be made. Wendy recommended the chocolate malt, and because they do table service, we did not have to whip out the pint glass in my bag — however, they do use plastic straws – we had anticipated this and used our own metal straws (which was, frankly a better system as they are different colours and then we don’t get them mixed up because, while I am prepared to kiss Sommelier on the mouth, I am pretty freaked out by the thought of sharing a straw with him, even accidently). Sweet Envy makes their own ice cream, they churn it daily, and they have some gloriously inventive flavours. The well-known ice cream truck ‘Big Bessie’ is owned and operated by Sweet Envy (they also have their own recipe book which, as a woman who went through a pretty serious recipe book collecting phase, is something that I would consider a really brilliant souvenir). Their shake flavour range is short and simple, but their execution is brilliant. Chocolate and malt are the perfect match and home-made ice cream was the one who finally brought them together.
Renown – sixth favourite. One of the judges was biased against the ice cream.
From Sweet Envy we went immediately next door to Renown. The Renown milk bar looks like you’ve stepped into the olden days. It has that classic, dive-bar/ lolly buffet that Sommelier assures me was pretty standard in his youth (I grew up during food and sugar rations in Zimbabwe so I had to actually travel to another country to see a wall of lollies, and I have no recollection at all of ever having a choice in ice cream flavours beyond vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, and napolitana, so it was less a nostalgia trip and more of a brain explosion for my inner child).They use Valhala ice cream, who are a Tasmanian institution, but I don’t actually love them (I know! I’m a monster, how could I not like Valhala?!! Well, I don’t like the texture of vegetable gum. It makes the ice cream easier to churn and helps it to fluff –I prefer a denser, more silky texture) and there is a huge selection of ice creams if you just want to get a few scoops and not have to commit to all the extra dairy of a shake. Wendy recommended the chocolate. It was at this point that we realised the flaw in the ‘Wendy recommends’ law (everyone loves chocolate). We decided to go off script and ordered the cookies and cream because it was the main choice from their very wide selection that was a little unusual. Renown does not have any non-single use plastic options, so we used our pint glass and metal straws here and they were more than happy to accommodate our BYO container philosophy. We enjoyed our thickshake from the outside tables of Renown because, in summer (or winter if you have dressed appropriately) North Hobart is an excellent location for urban dog sightings (and occasional scratches). No day can be considered truly great until you have seen at least one dog.
Room for a Pony – fifth favourite, but a very tough competition to judge
We stopped in at the public toilets on the way to rinse our glass and straws before crossing the road to Room for a Pony. Room for a Pony is an award-winning brunch and dinner place that reminds me of the better cafes we have visited in Melbourne but with the flare and grace of Tasmania’s paddock- to- plate lifestyle. They serve modern cuisine made with premium Tasmanian produce, and a selection of wood fired pizzas by night. They are also a fully licensed café (so day drinking is an option), and they allow dogs in the outside seating-area so we saw so many dogs (one was an actual real puppy and it was so small!). Room for a Pony uses Silver Spoon ice cream, who use no preservatives, no gluten, only Tasmanian produce, compostable containers, and they only have 6 flavours. Our hospitality senses sensed that the Wendys were a little too busy to spend the time recommending a milkshake to us (on the best brunch day of the week at one of the best brunch places in Hobart you can’t really blame them, since we showed up at brunch time) so we completely abandoned the ‘Wendy recommends’ law in favour of coming to an agreement as a couple on a
flavour we were willing to share. Room for a Pony does the classic chocolate, caramel, vanilla flavours, and then 2 fancy flavours; snickers and mocha. We chose snickers and it had real bits of peanuts in it, which is everything I really ask for in a snickers flavoured thing. It was a relief that they actually had a small serving size option because it turns out thickshakes are super rich and a little difficult to stomach in huge quantities, even when sharing with your fiancé. They use reusable cups and paper straws so we enjoyed our plastic free, preservative free treat in the company of many dogs, and one very chubby sparrow.
After such a flurry of tasting we were grateful for the slightly longer walk to our next destination; Queens patisserie.
Queens – third favourite; more like equal second.
The walk from North Hobart to Hobart city centre is a fairly short, mostly downhill affair so if you are milk bloated and over-sugared it is not too strenuous. Queens is a brightly coloured café with donuts, croussaints, and, we only very recently learned, milkshakes (It is clearly displayed on the menu, but we are always distracted by donuts). They have a short, simple range of shakes, just the way I like it, and they get their ice cream from the supermarket (which brought us to an exciting new debate into whether it’s the ice cream or the syrup that makes the shake. It has been almost a month and we are still arguing about this). We couldn’t decide as a couple whether we wanted the chocolate-hazelnut, or the salted-caramel and we asked Wendy for her input. She admitted that those were her 2 favourite flavours but ended up recommending the chocolate hazelnut, because even Wendy has a *favourite* favourite, and anyone who tells you they don’t have a favourite anything is lying, even mothers. We drank our shake, served in a reusable glass, with paper straws, while staring at their unreasonably delicious looking range of donuts. We resisted the urge to buy any pastry (because we are on a wedding diet, and not because they aren’t worth it).
White Cow – second favourite; we exploited a loop-hole that meant we could count it as a coffee for the day.
Located in the Centrepoint shopping centre White Cow is my local, and I love them. They make their own ice cream and wholesale to a few restaurants around town but Sommelier hasn’t had the chance to get in on their milkshake action yet. They have all the normal flavours and then the weirder ones (spearmint, lime, banana etc.), the option to choose any of their gelato flavours of the day turned into a thickshake (hello pistachio thickshake!), shakes with a bar of chocolate/ oreos blended in, or my personal favourite, the espresso thickshake. White Cow is attached to and owned by a café that uses Tasmanian roasted coffee and this is where their espresso shot for the thichshakes comes from. They do not have non-single use plastic options but are very happy to fill a BYO container (also, if you don’t have your own reusable straw, the café has compostable ones that are a little too short for the milkshake cups so they don’t usually use them, but they will give them to you if you request them). The main draw back with White Cow is that it is located in a very central area frequented by the children of strangers (who can sometimes be the worst kinds of children). As they are a take-away place this issue is easily surmounted by simply leaving after receiving the tasty goods. Sommelier described the espresso shake as, “like all the best bits of an iced coffee,” as though there are bad bits of an iced coffee (I mean, I guess the gut stuff?). It is much lighter and more refreshing than one would think, and it was not the shake that broke us (even though we were fairly certain it would be).
We asked White Cow to refill our water bottles with their tap water, stopped for a quick food break, and made our way to the waterfront.
Van Diemen’s Land Creamery (VDL) –first favourite; we found a loop-hole that meant we could count it as a serve of fruit.
VDL is the newest player in the ice creams and milkshakes game. They make their own and have recently taken out the royal agricultural shows award for best product (White Cow won 3 years in a row prior to this). They are on a house boat on the waterfront in the Mures car-park. If you are lucky there is a seal who sometimes plays in the water outside (their name is Sammy), and there are always rather picturesque boats to look at (I do not know the distinction between boats and yachts and rafts and stuff, but you can probably find all three if you know what you’re looking at). VDL has a standard range of syrup flavours (but the gourmet ones that I haven’t seen anywhere else before) but we chose to pick gelato/sorbet flavour and have that turned in to a thickshake for us. We picked the wildberry sorbet, because then you can kid yourself into thinking it counts as a serve of fruit for the day (they use real fruit in their sorbets). We had to use our pint glass again, but we had washed it in Centrepoint, so we were all set to go. There is seating in the VDL boat, but it is cramped and very busy so we took our pint glass of fruit-for-the-day to go and sat overlooking the river.
The Hobart Waterfront is beautiful at any time of day. It is my personal opinion that it is the zone that is most representative of the city of Hobart as a whole. There are 2 green spaces nearby, the old buildings nestle comfortably beside the new ones, and the boats on the water follow suit with antique wooden boats harboured beside racing yachts. There are museums and art galleries galore, the food is some of the best in the city, Salamanca markets, Street Eats Franco, and the occasional Twilight and Food Van market fill the empty spaces. The Utas art campus turns the area into its canvas a few times a year, and it looks different every time you see it, but it never stops looking like a sleepy little country town, permanently buzzing with anticipation at the prospect of a new venture.
We conceded defeat at 6 thickshakes, it was a valiant effort, but we could take no more. We had originally planned on circling back to North Hobart to go to Burger Haus for one of their alcoholic shakes but agreed as a couple that it would be a bridge too far. We settled for quickly ducking into the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery to see the new dinosaur exhibition (because dinosaurs!), to say hello to my favourite painting (Cupid and Psyche by William-Adolphe Bouguereau), and laugh (hysterically) at the fact that someone went to the trouble of performing taxidermy on the Thylacine’s testicles.
It was after 4pm by the time we started heading home again. We stopped in Franklin Square to refill our water bottles at the refill station there before trudging back to West Hobart to learn that the pedometer that I had set up on my phone to tell us how far we walked had failed to register our steps from inside my handbag. I have no idea how many steps we took, but I can confirm that any more than 6 shakes in a single day is a lot, but if you just believe in yourself, and have a strong support-network you can push yourself to achieve the most extraordinary things. Also, a good shake requires BOTH good ice cream and good syrup. One cannot succeed if either element fails.