The Ball & Chain Grill located in Salamanca Place Hobart is one of the must visit places I had heard about when planning the Tasmania trip with mother dearest. An old stalwart venue of Hobart I was sold by the reviews, the history and the food. A restaurant that is all about fresh produce and famous for their meat all cooked on a charcoal grill.
BALL & CHAIN VENUE:
Ball & Chain is closing on 200yrs old – ok – to be precise the building, not the restaurant, is 187yrs old this year. That’s impressive! But then nearly everything in Salamanca Place is that old.
Construction of Salamanca Place and the Hobart wharf area commenced at the instigation of Governor Arthur in 1830 and took chain gangs of convicts some 18 months to build. An amazing amount of land reclamation around the waterfront was undertaken, and even today none of the splendid buildings constructed during that time has ever shown fault with its foundations.
Number 87 Salamanca, the present day site of the Ball & Chain, was originally called “Haig’s Store”, after the original owner, Captain Andrew Haig, and was used as offices by Shipping Agents dealing with wool, whale oil, food and grain stocks.
In 1842, the building was sold to Mr. George Reid for 2000 pounds sterling, and the property passed from his hands to the Kennedy family in 1891, again for 2000 pounds sterling.
THE VENUE NOW:
The venue is all old sandstone and a lot of wood on the inside. It feels old and there is a lot of history in the walls. We dined in an atrium styled extension that was slightly more modern but it had a more 70s/80s dating to it where as the older parts were historically timeless. The venue is HUGE and I imagine it seats well over 100 people.
The menu is impressive. Mostly old school seafood and meat and a large chunk dedicated to the charcoal grill. The wine list is as impressive and it truly embraces the best of Australian wine. Check out their cabinet of Grange – it nearly had me late night cat-burglering. It did have me drooling. I tried to drink as much Tassie wine when on the island so downed a Springvale Melrose Pinot Noir and mum partook in a delightful Freycinet Louis Chardonnay.
Mainly seafood all the entrees sounded impressive but we were taken by the originality of the special. Pigs in a Blanket – oysters wrapped in prosciutto served slightly warmed on ciabatta with homemade tomato relish. I am not a massive oyster fan. I generally only eat small oysters. At a dinner party last year I served massive oysters and had to excuse myself back to the kitchen to spit out the monsters. I mostly steer clear – however in Tasmania the oysters are from a seafood deity. They are perfection in a shell and I could eat them steak size. They were generally always so fresh I swore they were still alive. This Pig in the Blanket method of serving was divine. The oysters were superb on their own but prosciutto makes everything better.
Both mum and I could live off trout. As soon as mum saw the Whole Grilled Tasmanian Rainbow Trout on the menu it was already ordered. I had planned our dining for the entire week before we left home. I knew my steak night was going to be at Ball & Chain so I stuck with that. It appeared to be lightly crumbed and then cooked over the charcoal grill without seasoning. It was served naturally with a dollop of herbed butter on top and a side of spuds. Mum (and a few mouthfuls for me) enjoyed it but found it slightly lacking in flavour. She finished it off and said it was amazing but when she compared it to the rest of the food we ate in Tasmania it ranked quite lower for her tastebuds.
I wasn’t holding back on steak night. It was a medium sized medium-rare eye fillet for me with a plum and ginger sauce. It was buttery steak perfection and I moaned in bliss through my devouring. Cooked to a heavenly state it parted like the oceans for Moses and melted in my mouth. It is a steak I shall remember for a very long time. A lot of other venues will be judged on this piece of steak.
Mum had a pot of tea for dessert, she didn’t want to dive into all the food on the first night. But me, if it’s on there I will order it. Affogato and myself are a match like bacon and eggs. The was a unique affogato for me – my liqueur for this one was Galliano and the first time I have combined them for my affo experience. It was delightful, the aniseed flavour paired will with the coffee and the sweetness of the ice-cream brought them all together for a little party on my tongue. The old school after-dinner mint was the icing on top.
When compared to all the fine dining of Hobart and Tasmania that we dined at Ball & Chain faired lower down the scale. Mostly this was due to it serving more traditional food and not embracing culinary gastronomy. This is OK – eating in a 187yr old venue was impressive and serving more modern fare would have clashed with the venue. I will always remember Ball & Chain as the first place I discovered oyster pigs in a blanket and for that epic eye fillet cooked on a charcoal grill to buttery blissful perfection.
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 2/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets and 0/1 bonus
Ball & Chain Grill Deets:
PH: +61 3 6223 2655
LOCAL DELIVERY: No
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes
KID FRIENDLY: Yes
*** This meal was paid for ***