|The now-extinct Tasmanian Tiger|
|Wrest Point Hote-Casino|
|Launceston - and just up that small hill is where I received my first parking fine!|
|En route to Launceston|
As you can see, I managed to survive the disastrous imitation roast turkey; the insipid steamed potato, limp beans, the wan, tasteless gravy and doughy bread roll I was presented with that wintry Saturday evening in Hobart. Millions survive on much less.
Hobart is a lovely city; so not to dishearten you…I’ll take a few steps back to the day before the turkey landed…
On the Friday night before the Holiday-Travel Show opened to the public on the Saturday a special tourism industry awards’ evening was held at Hobart’s Wrest Point Casino. It was a very formal affair and all attendees and invitees, naturally, dressed accordingly.
The various tourism/travel operators, resort managers etc., representing their companies at the travel show, of which I was one, were invited guests to the awards’ night.
Wrest Point Hotel Casino was Australia’s first casino. Wrest Point was erected in Hobart in the hope it would awaken a languishing tourism industry in Tasmania. A license was granted and the 17-storey hotel that included the casino was opened in 1973 with much fanfare. Until that time no casinos existed anywhere in Australia. Wrest Point Hotel Casino drew interested tourists to Tasmania and Hobart; so it fulfilled its purpose, without a doubt. Tourism in Tasmania and its capital city boomed. Hobart’s Wrest Point Hotel Casino, Australia’s first, was the harbinger of more to come later in the mainland states.
The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, originally formed in 1948, performed throughout the evening. Set up on the large stage in the hotel’s main, massive function room, the symphony orchestra entertained the audience with finesse. The room’s acoustics were of the first degree; and the formal dress code of the guests suited the classical music the orchestra so expertly played.
To the right in the rear line of the orchestra members was the cymbal player. He soon commanded and held my attention. He reminded me of Rasputin. The likeness was uncanny; not that I’ve ever met Rasputin personally. I soon succumbed to the spell he cast.
To me he gave the impression he enjoyed having the controversial mystic as his doppelgänger. I’m sure many before I'd set eyes on him had pointed out his likeness to the evil monk, who, in actual fact, wasn’t a monk.
Every time his turn came to slam the cymbals together a cheeky glint appeared in his eye; and a wicked grin spread across his bearded face. Even from a distance, I could not but notice the sparkling glint of mischief in his eyes. It was obvious he enjoyed his job very much. His joy, alone, lit up the stage. I could tell when a clash of the cymbals was due because his face heralded the coming!
“Grigori Rasputin” was very entertaining to watch; a real showman. I thought so, anyway. His performance amused me, but it didn’t detract from the brilliance of the orchestra.
The first half of the evening, and the second half were interspersed with the award ceremonies. Not unlike those receiving an Oscar at Hollywood’s grand event well-dressed recipients stepped up to the microphone to gratefully receive their awards.
At the completion of first half of the evening and the presentations came an interval period. The break in proceedings allowed guests to mingle over drinks in a separate area adjoining the auditorium. In a professional manner befitting the evening suitably-attired waiters, bearing silver trays adorned with appertising hors d'oeuvres, wandered amongst the crowd. Copious glasses of champagne were offered; and accepted.
The symphony orchestra gave the alert the second half of the evening was ready to be unveiled. Once everyone was back seated in the auditorium the lights dimmed to almost complete darkness. Expectantly, we waited in silence. Suddenly, a group of dancers dressed in elaborate gowns of a past era, each carrying imitation flickering candles in their hands appeared out of nowhere it seemed. They danced along the aisles towards the stage where the orchestra had burst alive with the music from “The Phantom of the Opera”. A collective intake of breath could be sensed throughout the room. It was a stunning, surprising introduction to the second half of the evening. From the moment the curtains rose on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” at London’s West End in October, 1986, the “Phantom” held audiences everywhere in awe; helpless in the palms of his hands…the music of the night had taken over the world.
As soon as the introduction to the second half of the evening came to its wondrous completion, the auditorium was again illuminated. To everyone’s surprise, the orchestra seamlessly changed tack, without missing a beat. It swung into a medley of Beatles’ songs!
From one end of the spectrum....classical music during the first part of the night - to the Swinging Sixties in the second half. That certainly got the place a-boppin’!
A wonderful evening had been enjoyed by all; including Rasputin. The room was alive with happiness; and the smiles beamed across the faces of the departing guests at evening’s end were testament to a perfect night. Everyone left the auditorium reluctantly, not wanting the evening to end.
A line of cabs waited outside the entrance to the hotel’s foyer. Much happy chatter filled the air; the atmosphere was electric with it. I believe everyone realised they’d been part of a wonderful event; and one, probably, that few, if any, of us had expected; one none would forget in a hurry, if ever. We’d experienced a special, beautiful, enchanting evening.
The morning after the turkey disaster I woke, undeterred; refreshed and ready to face the new day; “determination” my middle name. I would find that elusive roast lamb if it was the last thing I’d ever do! And, unintentionally, I’d gathered together my little gang of lamb hunters who, by that stage, were as keen to have a roast leg of lamb dinner as I was.
Word was that Hobart sold out of checkered deerstalker hats and magnifying glasses as we each adopted our Sherlock Holmes’ persona to go in search of, not the elusive Pimpernel, but the evasive lamb.
Sunday was the final day of the tourism-travel show. A eager, excited crowd, brimming with questions and dreams rushed through the doors upon opening; a never-ending tidal wave of both dreamers and doers continued throughout the day until closing.
As soon as the last person left the building – and it wasn’t Elvis – a combined sigh echoed through the large expanse of the room; it was time to pack up our promotional material and our stands etc. Like a travelling circus troupe, a new town; a new venue beckoned. The lure was impossible to ignore.
I wasn’t flying out of Hobart until around 4 pm on the Monday. Some others I discovered were also not leaving the city until the next day. A few of us decided we’d get together and “hit the town” later on the Sunday night.
I may not have been successful in my search of the meal I’ve described so often so far, but after putting out a few feelers, I was told by a couple of reliable sources of a very good nightspot to frequent when in Hobart. Hobart had, and, no doubt still has, many excellent restaurants (even if they don’t offer roast leg of lamb)!
Those of us who planned to meet up for dinner returned to our respective hotels to shower and change after our busy day in readiness for our night on the town.
The good word that had been passed around, and then on to me, was about a place called “Molloy’s”. It, from all the excellent notices given, was the “in spot” to go on a Sunday night.
From memory, I think that was its name. I’ve searched high and low to confirm my recall of its title, but I’ve come up with no answers. However, I’m 99% certain it was called “Molloy’s”. Obviously, from all the searches I’ve conducted, it no longer exists under that name. Moving on…
Six revellers, including me, arrived at our designated meeting place; at the predetermined time. Our moods were frisky; our hopes and intentions for a fun evening were high and keen. It was time to let off a bit of steam. We’d all had a few hectic weeks behind us; leaving a trail of tourism debris in our wake as we travelled from venue to venue; city to city; and some, like me, still had another few days or more ahead before we could sink into the welcoming comfort of our own beds.
As in so many other structures in Hobart the eatery we’d chosen was housed in an old stone building. Its interior had been renovated without losing the building’s original personality or integrity. The façade had had a facelift along the way, again without destroying the authenticity; and a fresh coat of paint in the not too distant past completed the inviting image before us. Hobart’s past was intact; freshly made-up, but unimpaired.
The main dining area was split level. Our table was on the higher level; two or three steps up from the lower level, situated in a fairly private area. The lighting was flatteringly soft; music played unobtrusively in the background; the whole place buzzed. It was a Sunday night and the restaurant was alive, filled with happy people. It was difficult not to succumb to the ambience. The atmosphere was inviting. It was as if everyone was out to have a good time; and they were succeeding in their endeavour.
Our table didn’t need any encouragement. In fact, it didn’t take us long to become leaders of the pack!
It was a fun group of people of which I’d found myself a member; we misbehaved mischievously, but not in a bad or offensive way; not in a way that would draw the attention of security or worse.
We, were, after all, representing the tourism industry. Anyone witnessing us would’ve thought what a happy, fun industry it must be; and would have immediately run out first thing Monday morning to apply for a job in said industry! We were exemplary examples!
You do realise, of course, I have my tongue planted firmly in my cheek! And it would be worth your while to know not one member of our party was below the age of 40 years!
We were just filled with high-spirits; no harm intended nor done.
There may not have been any roast lamb on the menu that evening, but I had a plate of the best nachos with a side serving of spicy potato wedges this side of Mexico City! It was the most delicious nacho meal I’d had in a restaurant, before or since. The plate bearing the nachos was almost the size of Tasmania! It was a memorable meal.
I think my fellow party-goers and I felt as if we’d been set free. Our shackles had been unfastened and tossed into the Great Southern Ocean, never to be seen again; or for a little while, anyway. Our high spirits certainly showed it to be so.
One member of our party decided to prove his dexterity as a paper plane maker; and soon went about the business of plane construction out of the paper napkins. Howard Hughes would have been very proud of him. Soon we all joined in and one of the errant napkin missiles landed on a fellow at a neighbouring table who was quietly dining with a male associate. I went over to the gentleman under fire to apologise for our kindergarten behaviour. I explained to him who we were; where we were from; and why we were carrying on like a mob of kids at a four-year old’s birthday party.
He laughed; and, without hesitation, asked if he and his mate could join our table. How could I refuse his request after he’d been the innocent victim of our aerial raid?
Both he and his friend were around the same ages as those in our group. They were made very welcome when they joined our table. The fellow who’d been under attack sat next to me on my left.
Introductions were made. My surprise, and that of my fellow diners was impossible to disguise when we discovered the nice fellow sitting to my left was the owner of the establishment!
He was the Molloy of “Molloy’s”! I will call him “John” for good manners and gratitude sake. Unfortunately, I can’t remember his first name
Putting aside our combined surprise our group quickly became involved in friendly, animated conversations with our newly-met friends. The mood at our table was contagious, and the two newcomers soon caught the virus and joined in with our good-hearted, good-humoured fun.
Dinner had come to an end, and noises were being made around the table about it being time for coffees and liqueurs. Discussion over decisions to be made was in full swing when our Mr. Molloy asked if we had after-dinner plans. It was then he informed us that upstairs was a nightclub. It, too, was part of his business. He explained the nightclub was a new addition, and had only started operating a few weeks before the night of our visit. He urged us to venture upstairs; not only did he do that, but he escorted us upstairs and through the nightclub door as well, with no entrance fee charged. He had the doorman stamp our hands to prove we were patrons in case we had to, for whatever reason, leave the premises with the intention of returning.
When we approached the bar, our host beckoned the head barman over to where we’d congregated. Reaching into his pocket, “John” pulled out his wallet and placed $200.00 on the bar before the barman with instructions for him to let – “this group of good people drink it out”!
With that extremely generous gesture, he thanked us for the fun he’d shared at our table; and he bade us a good night and farewell!
We couldn’t believe what “John” had just done. What he did was incredibly kind and most unexpected.
I’ve never forgotten his generosity, his good nature, or his astute business acumen.
I hope his generosity was well-rewarded . I can only speak for myself, but I, for one, out of the group I dined and partied with that Sunday night advised everyone and sundry whom I met after our evening in “Molloy’s” - whenever they found themselves in Hobart they had to pay a visit to that wonderful eatery and bar.
To visit Hobart, was to visit “Molloy’s”; and while enjoying the eatery’s food, drinks and atmosphere, to make sure they passed on my very best wishes to “John” Molloy.
I’ve always hoped that at least one; at least one, did so; but I hope many, many more followed my advice and passed on my gratitude. I will never know.
Before going to sleep later that night, I rang through to reception at the hotel in which I was staying for an early morning wake-up call. My Monday plan was to drive from Hobart to Launceston to visit travel agents in that city, spreading the good word about Hinchinbrook Island Resort; before turning around and driving back to Hobart to catch my 4 pm flight out of Tasmania, en route to Brisbane; with brief landings at Melbourne and Sydney along the way.
I waited and waited on the line. No one answered. The phone rang and rang and rang. Finally, frustrated, I got an outside line and rang the hotel! Reception answered. Containing my annoyance, I explained, as politely as my clenched teeth would allow, why I was calling; that my previous call from my room to reception had gone unanswered for at least 25 minutes; that if I’d continued hanging on waiting for someone to acknowledge my call, I wouldn’t need a wake-up call because I’d not have gone to sleep…because I’d been hanging onto my phone waiting for an answer! I wasn’t rude to the person on the other end of the phone. I could see no worthwhile point in being so. I needed sleep; and I needed a wake-up call…job done, with the least amount of hassle incurred; and no rudeness involved!
Early Monday morning I loaded the boot/trunk of my hire car with my luggage; some overflowed onto the back seat; and then I headed north to Launceston.
Travelling through Tasmania, mist hung low over areas along the way. Smoke wafted out of chimneys of the farmhouses. Inside my car it was warm and cosy, but seeing the smoke wafting out of chimneys of the many farmhouses dotted across the landscape as I drove by I understood there must have been quite a nip in the outside air.
The distance between Hobart and Launceston is a little under 200kms (124 miles). It only took a couple of hours, give or take, to reach Launceston.
Having found a parking spot in the CBD area…on the left-hand side of the street; halfway up a low, long hill, I then grabbed my suitcase and went in search of travel agencies.
Finishing my business duties in record time, upon returning to my parked vehicle I discovered a parking ticket stuck under one of the wind shield wipers! It was the first parking ticket I’d ever received in my life! I couldn’t believe it!
So I grabbed the ticket; tossed it into my briefcase; jumped into the car, and headed southwards back to Hobart.
I arrived at Hobart airport with time up my sleeve before my flight was due.
On that one Monday – I’d been in Hobart; Launceston; Hobart, again; Melbourne; Sydney, and finally, Brisbane. I was to be in Brisbane for a week; booked in for the duration at the Hilton Hotel, in Queen Street, in the city centre.
And, in case you’re wondering…I did pay the parking fine awarded me in Launceston when I eventually arrived back to my island home.
The story of this adventure doesn’t finish here…however, it does for today. A further chapter will follow another later.
Spicy Potato Wedges: Preheat oven to 200C (390F). Line base of baking dish with non-stick baking paper. Combine 1tbs ground cumin, 1tbs ground coriander, 1tbs paprika, 1/2tsp chilli powder and 1tbs garlic powder in large bowl. Add ¼ cup light olive oil; mix well. Grab 1kg medium russet potatoes, scrubbed. Cut each potato into 6 wedges; add to bowl with spices; toss to coat well. Arrange wedges in single layer on baking tray; sprinkle generously with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Bake for 45 minutes until tender and crisp. Serve with sour cream and sweet chill sauce.
Nachos: Spread corn chips liberally over oven-proof plate. Dollop refried beans over chips; sprinkle liberally with cheese (or a blend of cheeses) and grated parmesan; bake until cheese has melted. Meanwhile make Guacamole – chopped avocados, 1 medium tomato, seeded and finely-chopped, 2tsps lime juice, about ½ cup minced red onion, two minced garlic cloves, 1tbs finely-chopped coriander/cilantro. Mash avocados; stir in rest of ingredients; season to taste. Serve Nachos topped with thick, chunky salsa, guacamole, sour cream and garnished with coriander leaves.