In Hobart, Tasmania's sleepy capital, you can be forgiven for thinking that all the action is clustered around its picturesque waterfront. Within a block or two of Salamanca Place, home to a bustling open-air market every Saturday, are enough bars, restaurants and shops to satiate most tourists for the duration of their stay.
But it's worth the uphill trek to North Hobart – cheekily called NoHo by some locals – for a different taste of Tassie cool. Once an underwhelming neighbourhood of tired storefronts and neglected homes, it has undergone a transformation in the past few years.
Young couples and families have moved in and brought with them an appetite for innovative cuisine and engaging nightlife. And there's definitely a more locals-in-the-know vibe here than in touristy Salamanca.
NoHo is a no brainer to find – just head uphill from the Elizabeth Street pedestrian mall in the central retail district. It's about a 15-minute walk, or a short bus or taxi ride, through a nondescript area of repair shops and offices to get there, but you'll be rewarded for your efforts.
With a few notable exceptions, most of North Hobart's restaurants, shops and galleries are located on a six-block-long stretch of Elizabeth Street between Burnett and Federal streets – keep walking until you spot the striking red and yellow post office, built in 1913. Try to visit on a day other than Sunday, when many shops and restaurants are closed.
NO RAINCHECK REQUIRED
Raincheck Lounge, 392 Elizabeth St.; 03-6234-5975; raincheck.northhobart.com
With a Sergeant Pepper-esque wall mural and comfy leather couches, the Raincheck Lounge has found its niche as a local hangout. A laid-back menu of brunch, lunch and dinner offerings includes tapas, soups, sandwiches and curry. Check your pretensions at the door.
REELING THROUGH THE YEARS
State Theatre, 375 Elizabeth St.; 03-6234-6318; www.statecinema.com.au
The State Theatre is such a North Hobart institution that it predates the talkies. Once a single-screen theatre, it underwent a massive renovation in 2004 and now houses six small cinemas, plus a lobby-level café where locals often meet up for a drink before the main feature.
Sweet Envy, 341 Elizabeth St.; 03-6234-8805; www.sweetenvy.com
Alistair Wise survived a stint as pastry chef to irascible star chef Gordon Ramsay and returned to his native Tasmania to open Sweet Envy this summer with partner Teena Kearney. With such treats as orange marmalade macarons and poached rhubarb madeleines, their tiny shop attracts hordes of dessert hounds.
PETALS AND SMALL PLEASURES
Flora Gondwana, 355 Elizabeth St.; 03-6231-3029; www.floragondwana.com.au
It started life as a flower shop, but Flora Gondwana has blossomed into a charming boutique featuring giftable items from around the world, from candles and scent diffusers to glittering coin purses from India.
FROM BOOTS TO BRUSCHETTA
Solicit, 333 Elizabeth St.; 03-6234-8113; www.solicit.net.au
The creaky wooden floors and tin ceiling of Solicit attest to its longevity in the neighbourhood – for close to 100 years, it was the home of the A.T. Bratt boot store. Now it's a cozy warren of dining rooms with a small but intriguing menu featuring Tasmanian seafood and other delicacies. Porterhouse of wallaby, anyone?
Bett Gallery Hobart, 369 Elizabeth St.; 03-6231-6511; www.bettgallery.com.au
Venerable art dealer Dick Bett moved his well-regarded gallery to North Hobart from the Salamanca area 11 years ago to provide a less tourist-oriented venue for serious art collectors. His small but airy gallery showcases contemporary Australian art, with a focus on Tasmanian artists.
WHERE TO GET YOUR GROOVE ON
The Republic Bar and Café, 299 Elizabeth St.; 03-6234-6954; www.republicbar.com
The Alley Cat Bar, 381 Elizabeth St.; 03-6231-2299
At either end of the Elizabeth Street strip are neighbourhood pubs that feature live music. The Republic is a laid-back local institution that serves food several notches above pub grub and showcases a wide range of local bands. The Alley Cat, at the top of the hill, leans toward alternative groups and attracts a slightly younger crowd.
WELL WORTH THE DETOUR
Garagistes, 103 Murray St.; 03-6231-0558; www.garagistes.com.au
From its stark industrial decor to its wildly innovative menu, Garagistes has been earning rave reviews since it opened in September. Dishes such as chicken liver parfait with puffed buckwheat and caramelized salsify in nettle sauce justify the walk of a few blocks from the North Hobart strip. Arrive early, as there's a no-reservations policy except for Sunday brunch.
Special to The Globe and Mail