Fresh trout: One of Tasmania's tastiest exports to the mainland.
Fresh trout: One of Tasmania's tastiest exports to the mainland. Photo: Supplied

Bryan Martin

Unless you've been here, describing the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart is folly. Firstly I have no real experience in design, art nor geology. Yet I'm so intrigued by the place we find ourselves in that I'll give it a crack.

Mona is this subterranean labyrinthine museum sunk into a sandstone cliff on the banks of the Derwent river just outside Hobart. Successful local gambler David Walsh built this as a middle finger, raised high to the art world.

Well that's what it seems sitting in front of Cloaca by Wim Delvoye. The artwork, a so-called "poop machine", is apparently not working - which brings up an interesting set of circumstances. Who do you call, a gastroenterologist or a plumber?

Salmon: Firm, but not as tasty and delicate as ocean trout.
Salmon: Firm, but not as tasty and delicate as ocean trout. Photo: Supplied

Have to say I am enjoying this place, so strange, confronting yet captivating. My youngest son has always had an obtuse way of seeing the world so is totally engaged here. As a four-year-old we used to take him often to see his favourite piece at the portrait gallery, that being Dr Brown and green old time waltz by Harold Thornton. It's not that he is particularly environmentally aware, he just likes the weird detail, devoid of all perspective, in this work.

So it's not too strange seeing him standing in this room with a huge two-story white screen flickering what appears to be data signals (Ryoki Ikeda's datamatrics) in a pulsating rhythmic overload and seemingly getting it. I grab his shoulder firmly lest he disappears into the screen like Poltergeist circa1982.

It's well worth the effort to come all this way just for this place. Word of warning though, there are many graphic, verging on pornographic,  works so you need to be comfortable with all that.

Another place that is a must if you find yourself in Hobart town with some spare cash and a hunger on is a visit to Garagistes. Named after a term for experimental wine making in the garage, Garagistes is indeed set up as a shed, communal tables set alongside a very active, fully-open kitchen. Luke Burgess is the chef here, and without getting into full-cravat reviewing mode, the food is ridiculously good.

The five-course set menu, using the wealth of local ingredients that Tasmania alone has, hits us with some really neat food like char-grilled octopus,  'nduja, preserved carrot and native herbs and the intense beef cheek, smoked potato, juniper and truffle. Opting for the sake options, this was absolutely perfect, best match eva, with an aged inoue gomei junmai.

So worth the visit, very knowledgeable staff, great wine list and pretty good value seeing the experience the team has. But enough of city dwelling, we now head west to continue our terrestrial circumnavigation of the apple isle.

It's a fair and winding drive to a Strahan but once you pass barren Queenstown, you start to get fully immersed in the dense rainforest that strangles the west coast and inspired Bob Brown all those years ago to save it from the hydro-electric dam project on the Gordon and Franklin rivers.

The good news is that it's pretty well untouched over here, Strahan is a post card village in a state that is chock-full of this sort of thing. Sitting on the edge of the superlative inspiring Macquarie Harbour.

The sheer size is only overshadowed by just how remote it was when discovered back in the early days of white settlement in this ''un-settled'' place, as Tony Abbott PM puts the situation.

The main industry besides tourism is fish farming, mostly ocean trout and salmon. The nature of this harbour is that it has a layer of fresh water above the salt water. Because the entrance at Hell's Gate is so narrow the fresh yet tannin-stained water from the Gordon cannot escape fully.

What this ultimately means for these fish is that they grow much faster in fresh water than in salt water. The huge suspended nets that hold the fish dangle in fresh water. A fish will reach the required 4kg in under half the time, yet eat the same amount. I'm no economist but that sounds good financially.

The sad thing is that it seems you cannot have fresh ocean trout or salmon here. It's exported with an amazing thriftiness to all points within a day of slaughter.

The Gordon river cruise is worth the money, you get a great tour around the harbour, get freaked out when they leave the relatively quiet waters to head out through the gates. Next landfall, across the 8m average waves is Argentina. Then you cruise up the river see all the amazing trees that make up this UNESCO world heritage rainforest. A little rainforest walk, lunch and a theatrical interlude on Sara Island -  once one of the most severe convict resorts of its time. What is cool though, is the last 10 convicts, who were heading to brutal and newly opened Port Arthur after they built the boat to take them, took a detour via South America. Information overload but I came away with a real appreciation of this amazing area.

I'd always lean toward ocean trout over salmon, the latter is easier - as in firmer - to deal with but trout is superior in flavour and delicacy. Obviously look for spanking fresh fish, no excuse really as this is in plentiful supply and as we've seen they can have this in shops so quickly these days.

The dressing here was popular back in the '70's. Thought it would be perfect for this fish and being served with a shaved vegetable salad (buy yourself a mandolin for jobs like this) makes a painstakingly slow job so easy.

We wait for the Spirit again to take us back to the mainland and then on to exotic Geelong for yet another basketball tournament. Geelong where every night is parmi night.

Confit Tasmanian ocean trout

4 150g fillets ocean trout
1 tbsp salt
2 outer layers of fennel bulb, sliced
1 lemon zest finely grated
1 tbsp coriander seed, ground
2 stalks basil with leaves attached
10 sprigs thyme
6 juniper berries, crushed
500ml olive oil, maybe more

Make sure the trout is boneless and leave the skin on. Rub with salt and leave for 15 minutes, rinse and pat dry. In a bowl mix the lemon zest, fennel, coriander, basil and thyme, juniper and oil. Add the fish and leave to marinate for a few hours.

Remove fish and bring the oil with everything in it to a very very low simmer, 60C as maximum. Lower in the fish, making sure it is fully submerged, and hold at this temperature for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. The fish can stay there for another five minutes. Toss together the salad and dressing while this is all going on.
Remove and pat dry the trout and place on salad and drizzle with dressing.

Shaved salad

1 small fennel bulb
¼ head red cabbage
1 carrot
6 radishes
1 small celeriac
1 red onion
1 apple
Juice of 1 lemon

Using a mandolin or sturdy sharp knife. Shave the celeriac, fennel and apple first, toss in lemon juice, now shave the rest and mix everything together.

Green goddess dressing

1 bunch watercress, tougher stems removed
4 big anchovy fillets
½ bunch parsley, leaves only
½ bunch chives
6 sprigs tarragon
½ bunch chervil
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper 

In a blender blitz everything besides mayo and sour cream. Scoop this out and add the mayo and sour cream, season. Use water to thin out if it's too thick.