Van Bone's small-scale approach to intimate Tasmanian dining

Tucked into the hillside of Marion Bay, with views of rolling pastures and a sweeping coastline, is a bespoke dining experience that serves, quite literally, the best Tasmania has to offer. Its name a mashup of Tasmania’s European origin - Van Diemen’s Land, and an infamous surf break in Marion Bay called the Boneyard, Van Bone is a fine dining restaurant with a small-scale philosophy. Catering to a maximum of 20 guests, the restaurant offers intimate long lunch and dinner sittings, with daring food combinations and an equally enticing wine list.

Van Bone’s four metre rammed earth walls provide a dramatic contrast to the meandering country road that leads us to the restaurant. We enter a narrow, lowly-lit room with a single window that looks into the heart of the kitchen, and immediately sense a transition in mood from the cold exterior. Further inside, a wall of glass frames a panoramic coastal view, and we are met by Laura Stucken, designer of the restaurant’s space and architecture, and one of Van Bone’s three founders.

The spectacular view from Van Bone restaurant, Tasmania

The timber-clad dining room is intimate and inviting, and we get a glimpse of the open kitchen as Laura leads us to our table. She pours wine from the Tamar Valley and shows us our personal cutlery draw, built into the Tasmanian oak tabletop of each place setting. Inside, bone-handled cutlery once belonging to Laura’s grandmother is lined up, each ready for one of the courses soon to come.

Our spring menu was dynamic and playful, beginning with a radish icicle pulled through whipped oyster potato and topped with ‘flavours of the sea’ - dehydrated oyster, urchin, sea salt, seabush and seaweed. Chef Tim Hardy is the mastermind behind the menu, cooking from the open kitchen in full view of diners. Working with fire and smoke, Tim creates a daily-changing menu that revolves around the restaurant’s unique location.

Head chef Tim Hardy collects fresh ingredients from Van Bone's kitchen garden.

Sourcing as much as he can within a 25km radius, Tim’s creativity goes beyond seasonality to include unconventional cuts and combinations in a hyperlocal and sustainable closed-loop philosophy. Most weeks, he tells us, even he is not entirely sure what will be served. The menu relies heavily on the relationships he has developed with local farmers, fishermen and primary producers, and what he can source from them each week. We discover that the leeks were personally dropped off just a few minutes before service, the salt was dehydrated in the wood fired oven from the bay’s salt water, and the beef cut we would soon be served, known as the Pope’s cap, came from a dairy cow just down the road.

Van Bone's locally-sourced ingredients have become a signature element of the restaurant's offering.

We are next served a Tongala curdy escargot and bulls blood beetroot cooked in duck fat, with wallaby pastrami from Bruny Island and an Angasi oyster, Rocoto chilli tobasco, coffee and a grilled duck heart. Tim combines distinctly Tasmanian ingredients with a unique selection of produce sourced from the restaurant’s market garden. Between courses, we were invited to take a stroll down the hill to have a look for ourselves at the myriad of herbs, vegetables and edible plants grown by Joe Nalder, the third founder of Van Bone. Immaculately presented and with an obvious continuation of the restaurant’s character, even the ‘girls’ (chickens) gentle clucking in the background highlighted Van Bone’s commitment to its small-scale philosophy.

We return to our table, and the warmth of the restaurant’s cosy interior, for five more courses - Bay Trumpeter, egg yolk with broad beans and pork, Pope’s cap with smoked eel, and Peking duck with braised leek before a crescendo of lemon, alpine mint and olive oil ice cream.

Story originally published in our East Coast Tasmania magazine.

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