Waterloo Inn – Introduction
The dining room at Swansea’s Waterloo Inn is a welcome arrival on the Tasmanian dining scene. Chef Zac Green and front-of-house Alex Sumner are, together, delivering a great dining experience in this East Coast town.
During our many years of travelling throughout Tasmania, we have often heard people say that it is not possible to run a restaurant in country areas as the locals don’t want to eat in restaurants. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, in the past this has been demonstrated in two locations on the east Coast including Swansea. One was the restaurant called Tidal Waters when it was operated by the late Imelda Burton and chef Don Cameron.
Imelda was the perfect host. You only had to be in the restaurant for a few minutes and she made you feel like you were old friends. Locals loved her and visited Tidal Waters regularly, as well as celebrating special days there as well. The food was an added bonus as it took advantage of local products and was cooked with skill.
The other place we remember fondly was Swansea’s Left Bank when it was operated by Subi Mead and Helen Bain. Subi was tireless as front of house and Helen’s cooking was artful and very tasty. Also in Swansea for some years was Terry Fiddler at Schouten House where his Crown of Hare was a dish worth a journey.
And now back to the Waterloo Inn. Zac has been cooking on the East Coast for a few years now, but circumstances including Covid meant that we had not eaten his food, although we had heard good things about it.
He and Alex have recently leased the dining room at the Waterloo Inn and decided to open without going through an expensive renovation. Perhaps they were clever enough to take a leaf out of the Tom McHugo’s in Hobart’s book. The dining room looks the same as it has for years with no changes to the bar and dining room furniture – even the drapes remain! The only change has been the welcome addition of a couple of extra tables outside.
The Waterloo Inn has instantly become one of Tasmania’s rare “destination dining” country restaurants, with the added bonus that it is beside the water in Swansea, a charming seaside town on Tasmania’s beautiful East Coast, where summer starts earlier and finishes later than in any other part of the state.
It’s super casual – more pub style order at the bar than full restaurant service – and the decor is so dire it’s funny (they have pretty much left it as they found it with the addition of fresh flowers on the tables) but the food is exceptional.
You might find a snack to have with your pre-dinner drinks brought to the table such as the bowl of spiced nuts shown below.
One of our meals recently started with stunningly delicious parfait donuts which are pictured below.
This was followed by a seafood dish that had been executed with skill. Local octopus and mussels were bathed in a piquant sauce and studded with chickpeas that cut through the richness. This was a balanced, well designed dish.
Next came a dish of blue-eye accompanied by white beans, leeks and greens. The flesh of the protein was cooked perfectly and the vegetables were a delight.
We had selected a bottle of the Jordi Llorens Blan 5.7 to accompany the food and it didn’t let us down. It is rare to find a wine of this complexity on a regional wine list so we were quite excited when we saw it. The wine is imported by our friends and fellow importers Campbell and Charlotte Burton. Jordi Llorens tends his vines in the village of Blancafort which lies inland from the busy city of Barcelona.
The wine was made from the Maccabeu white grape variety. They were hand-picked, macerated for a week, fermented with natural yeasts and then matured on lees for six months before being bottled without any additions of sulphites and no fining or filtering at any stage of the process. The result is a delicious wine that matched perfectly with all the dishes.
We went on to enjoy a potato galette and a gnocchi dish before deciding that we could only share one dessert!
The gingerbread pudding picture below was flavoursome and delicate with a spicy finish. It was a very good dessert and a perfect way to finish the meal.
The menu at the Waterloo Inn is substantial enough to need multiple visits, especially because it changes often.
Add to that a wine list (choose from the bottles at the bar and in the fridge not a printed list) that is a mix of local East Coast wines and natural wines, including from importers such as @campbellthomasburton, @giorgiodemaria_fun_wines, @vivantselections and yours truly. (It’s surely the first time anything like our Mosse Bisou was poured by the glass on Tasmania’s East Coast). It’s a mix that is going to keep everyone happy.
We made another trip to Swansea in late March 2022 and had two successive dinners at the Waterloo Inn that were both amazing. One of the dishes which is a variation of the blue eye dish described above was so good we felt we needed to explain it in more detail on our foodtourist Instagram site. Here is what we said:
Blue-eye trevalla, rice, broth, silverbeet with some structure and plenty of flavour, and XO sauce.
The chef at the Waterloo Inn is happy to acknowledge he found some inspiration at @hamlet_hobart and we recognise an antecedent. At Hamlet the food is nourishing and so is this dish, so much so we ate it two nights in a row.
It was surprisingly emotional to eat something so satisfying and nourishing well beyond our few mainly city haunts.
Since 1987 we have been documenting our eating around Tasmania and can count on one hand the restaurants beyond Hobart where we have eaten something as uplifting as this.
The reality of eating in country Tasmania, with a few rare but notable exceptions, rarely reaches the same heights as the marketing of it does. It’s hard getting and keeping people who can cook well and care and who are willing to engage in the time-consuming and challenging battle to get the produce that allows what might have been ordinary to become extraordinary. It’s hard anywhere but even harder in a country town.
We generally return from a few days of eating in the country, after having followed our own advice to stick with the often decent piece of steak and sometimes excellent fish and chips, craving for a dish as pure and deceptively simple as this to help our bodies recover.
It was a very satisfying moment to find it here beside the water in a small coastal town. This is not fine dining. It’s much better than that because it is a dish we could happily eat every day and after each time, having enjoyed its deliciousness, feel better for it.
This small team is working its collective butt off. Smother them with love Swansea – your town is lucky to have them.
We look forward to further visits to the Waterloo Inn.
Name: Waterloo Inn
Street: 1A Franklin Street
Town: Swansea, 7190
Telephone: 6257 8577
Opening hours: Dinner Thu – Sat, lunch Sun (set menu)
You can see some photos of the Waterloo Inn and surrounds as well as book rooms at the following Web site.
We have also included the Waterloo Inn in our survey of country dining in Tasmania. You can read the story here.