The bleached facade doesn’t give away much. A small light box in the window confirms the right address.
Franklin’s website doesn’t give away much either – one photo of a bearded bloke with his dog in a woodland and contact details. There’s no menu. No wine list. No food porn.
I look for clues inside the restaurant. It’s a vast industrial wilderness featuring concrete, steel and exposed remnants of the building’s earlier persona as a Ford showroom (c. 1923) sandwiched between the former Hobart Mercury newspaper house and a car park. Notwithstanding the modern inner-city interior, the muted dining space is warm and comforting on a gusty Hobart night. There is a simple, streamlined open kitchen featuring a wood fired oven. I spy animal hides too.
We’re guided to our front row seats at the servery overlooking entrée ingredients ready for plating. It’s the perfect place to watch food artistry and to discover what all the hype has been about since Franklin opened its doors six months ago.
Franklin is the creation of former Byron Bay duo Chef David Moyle (ex Pacific Dining Room) and his business partner Ben Lindell (ex Succulent). When Ben took on the role of Manager at Peppermint Bay in Tasmania a few years ago he convinced David to join him there as Chef. Fast-forward a few years and Franklin is their first restaurant business together.
Meanwhile, some soft sourdough from the wood fired oven arrives with salted butter and a glass of crisp, yeasty bubbles – a perfect pair. The wine list at Franklin is solid and there’s a balance of Tasmanian and international wines with several available by the glass.
The one-page menu arrives – although it’s hard to tear our eyes away from the well-oiled machine that is in motion in the kitchen. There’s nothing lacking.
I’m am not going to reveal the menu here. Instead, I will leave you with my interpretation; to keep you guessing just a little bit.
Starters – Integrity
The menu pays a faithful homage to Tasmanian ingredients and produce. As such, there’s a strong influence from the sea, use of local fresh produce and cool climate tendencies.
Mains – Nature
The wilderness features prominently. Think foraged ingredients such as coastal plants and herbs unique to Tasmania, mushrooms from the pine forest floor and roasted flavours from the wood fired oven.
Something Sweet – Simplicity
The menu is simple yet the flavours are delicately refined. You don’t need complicated dishes when you have superior ingredients used with integrity. There are smaller and larger sized dishes, perfectly designed to be mixed up and shared, although you could opt for a traditional three-course style too.
Towards the end of service we get chatting to some of the chefs, including David. A nicer, more humble guy you’d be lucky to find. By the way, that’s him in the photo on Franklin’s website. We reminisce about the halcyon days of finer dining in Byron Bay – Wild, Olivo, Dish…
We agree to be disappointed that it all changed – something to do with the global financial crisis – which encouraged David’s tree change to Tasmania. We also applaud Australia’s increasing interest in food provenance and food integrity in preference to overpriced fine dining that’s out of step with the seasons.
So, what is Franklin all about?
Franklin is simple and authentic. The menu borrows from nature and the Tasmanian wilderness. David and Ben are building a restaurant with a reputation based on integrity rather than expensive websites and marketing. Put simply, Franklin is leading the way without much ado. I get it now.
P.S. Byron’s loss is definitely Tassie’s gain