What a way to finish: A little wallaby, a little mutton bird oil

The Orion pulled in to Macquarie Wharf in Hobart while we were having our breakfast; we disembarked around nine this morning. I had to walk all of about a hundred yards to the Henry Jones Art Hotel where I’m staying for a couple of days. It just so happened that as I was checking in, the executive chef, Andre Kropp, came out of the hotel restaurant, Henry’s.

I introduced myself and asked if, by any chance, Ross O’Meara had sent over the wallaby he’d promised me. Andre said this was the first he’d heard of it. Which was kind of disappointing. I’d really been hoping to sample a little wallaby before I left Tasmania.

Hobart and the Henry Jones Art Hotel

Since my room wasn’t ready, I decided to just stroll sort of aimlessly around the harbor and downtown area. I got a map from the concierge and decided on a route that took me past some beautiful old wooden ships docked along the piers in Sullivans Cove and then up Murray Street, which is lined with historical old sandstone buildings that glowed the color of honey in the morning light.

Half way up the hilly street I passed a small vitamin store called Natures Works and went in to see if they had any mutton bird oil. There was a very nice young man working in the store. I told him about visiting Flinders Island, where millions of mutton birds migrate each year to hatch their eggs, and how I’d been told that the aborigine population still made mutton bird oil and I was anxious to try some. Naturally he thought I was a little crazy.

“A guy came in here about a year ago and offered to give me the Hobart distributorship for mutton bird oil but I didn’t take any,” he told me. “The truth is, you’re the only person who’s ever asked for it.”

I asked him if he could think of any other shop in Hobart that might have some and he shook his head. “I think it would be almost impossible to find.”

Well worth the wait: Wallaby tartare

So I thanked him for his time and headed back up Murray Street. I hadn’t gotten very far before I heard the guy from the store yelling at me and running up the street. “After you left, I realized that I still had a bottle of mutton bird oil in my samples cabinet,” he said. “You’re welcome to it if you want it.”

I went back to the store and offered to buy it but the guy refused my money. “I’d just throw it away if you didn’t take it,” he said.

So now I had my mutton bird oil.

Around noon I went back to the hotel. There was a note at the front desk from Chef Andre. It said: “Ross’s wallaby has arrived. Will prepare it for your dinner at 7 tonight in Henry’s.”

And he did. Not just once, but twice. My first course was wallaby tartare blended with chives, capers, smoked paprika and a little local olive oil. It was, I must say, fabulous. And for my entrée, Andre served me wallaby loin, rare-cooked little coins of meat the size of half dollars, as tender as fillet mignon but more flavorful — kind of nutty, actually. They were served on a bed of Jerusalem artichoke puree and lovely fava beans.

I passed on dessert. Instead, I swallowed one of the mutton bird oil capsules with my last little bit of red wine. A little wallaby, a little mutton bird — the perfect ending to a Tasmanian food and wine adventure.

Last of a series.


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