Hobart’s Creative Heritage at The Henry Jones Art Hotel
In 1874, the 12-year-old Henry Jones began his first job at a cavernous jam factory on Hobart’s Old Wharf. The humble son of convict parents quickly rose the ranks, and by the age of 27, Jones had purchased the factory – marking the start of his entrepreneurial journey which saw him go on to become Tasmania’s advisor to the Bank Of England and extend the jam factory to a workforce of over 11,000. Though he wasn’t a literate man, Jones was guided by the motto “I excel”, which he spelt IXL. This statement has inspired the current incarnation of the building, which now houses a hotel that pays homage to its eponymous founder, and the ingenuity and tenacity that informs the essence of this small island state.
While Henry Jones’s sister hotel (MACq01 – just a short walk down the wharf) has built its identity as Tasmania’s storytelling hotel, Henry Jones has taken a more of art-centric approach – Australia’s first dedicated art hotel, and a celebration of the creative culture of its location.
The rich heritage of the hotel and Henry Jones himself was explained to me by Tina Zucco – the Henry Jones Art Hotel’s passionate and astonishingly informed art curator, who took me on a tour of the hotel on the evening I arrived.
As we began our tour, Tina explained that over 400 pieces of Tasmanian art line the walls, with many pieces available for guests to buy – to take home a piece of Tasmania’s creative culture.
The tour alone was enough of a demonstration of the work that the Henry Jones team put into honouring Hobart’s history, but this level of care is compounded by the personalised welcome letter left in each room on arrival. As an ode to the city’s history, the hotel staff search the family names of each guest in a historical database, presenting guests with a list of potential relatives who found their home in Hobart as convicts.
This letter, along with the locally made chocolate, made the perfect welcome as we settled into our room – a spacious, wood-panelled space with abundant natural light and a statement overflow bathtub.
Though Hobart is home to several excellent independent wine bars – Sonny, Lucinda and Molto being three favourites that spring to mind – staying in-house won’t disappoint.
The hotel’s IXL Long Bar is an intimate, warmly lit space tucked behind the hotel’s main lounge. Alongside a Tasmanian-leaning wine list, expect craft beers, high-quality liqueurs and the occasional jazz set from live musicians. The signature cocktail list is an evolving curation designed by the bar’s talented team, and at the time of our visit, it featured an “autumn glow” made with butter vodka, Frangelico and black walnut bitters. The main event though are the blazers: a selection of flaming cocktails which take inspiration from a drink crafted by Jerry Thomas – author of the first bartending book – in the mid-1800s. The Island Of Fire – the drink I happily opted for on the recommendation of the charming bar manager – is a toasty mix of local whisky, whisky liqueur, aromatic bitters, cinnamon, orange oils and, crucially, fire. The drinks are set alight and stretched between two silver mugs – a theatrical and perfectly warming experience for cold Tasmanian nights. Allegedly, Thomas would only serve the drink if the temperature outside was below 10oC, or if the customer had the symptoms of a cold. In my case, it was 16oC and cloudy and I was a picture of health, but it was too good an offer to refuse.
Landscape Restaurant – the hotel’s restaurant – is worthy of a page-long story in and of itself: a uniquely old-world space serving a refined menu that celebrates seasonal Tasmanian produce through Asian-inspired takes on Australian classics. On the recommendation of the (remarkably knowledgeable) service team, we opted for the tasting menu paired with local wines. Dinner started with creamy oysters in a sparkling wine and mustard dressing, followed by silky kingfish sashimi with ponzu and tofu cream, and a perfectly cooked Blue Eye Trevalla served with spanner crab, woodfired greens and cauliflower all laced in rich dashi butter. Many dishes are cooked on the restaurant’s Asado Grill, which is fired up daily using sherry, bourbon and port casks from the Tasmanian Cask Company – infusing the food with a uniquely complex flavour. Though we were full from the army of sides that accompanied our main course – chunky, golden chips cooked in duck fat and roasted beetroot served with a smoky whipped labneh – we couldn’t forgo dessert and chose a dark chocolate cremeux with a red wine and cherry jus and a crown of black sesame ice cream. As we left, the couple next to us asked what we’d recommend, and we told them “all of it”.