His accolades include Australia’s Country Chef of the Year, but Red Velvet Lounge’s Steve Cumper hit a low ebb in November last year when fire ripped through his Cygnet restaurant. Distraught locals and visitors vowed to do everything they could to help re-open one of Tassie’s much loved lazy lunching venues. And so they did. Fundraisers were had, cards of support were carefully penned and in mid-July Cumper will swing open the doors to his new-look RVL.
Cumper talks warmly of the support Red Velvet Lounge received to re-build from the ashes. “It was the injection of belief we needed at our lowest ebb and validated our membership of the wonderful community in which we’ve chosen to make our lives,” he says.
Cygnet and the Huon Valley have long been a favourite destination for Hobart locals looking to get out of the city. And often Red Velvet Lounge was their lunch focus; building a relaxed day of cider sipping and cherry nibbling around Steve’s hearty menu. So it’s with anticipation that many return after more than seven months without their main-street haunt.
What’s the best way to explore the deliciousness of the Huon Valley? First of all, set aside a full day. Drop into the Apple Shed for a Willie Smith’s cider sampling and wander through the museum to get a taste of the rich apple heritage of this region.
Along the way, look out for roadside stalls where a few coins will be rewarded with freshly gathered valley goodness – apples, pears, seasonal cherries and of course sheep poop if that’s your thing. Let’s just say there’s plenty of farm fresh treats along this authentic trail.
Roll into the sleepy town of Cygnet, and see why it’s a favourite folk festival town. Tucked away from the city bustle, Cygnet moves at a gentler pace. Every January the main street comes alive with colour, tunes and all manner of dance moves during the Cygnet Folk Festival. It’s here along the main strip that you’ll find Red Velvet Lounge. Another popular lunch stop is the Lotus Café a little further down.
After lunch, head back to Huonville and turn left toward the township of Franklin if you’re feeling like a little more cider. Opened in November last year, the former St John’s Church Hall has been transformed into Frank’s Cider Bar and Café.
At Frank’s cellar door you’ll be likely served by a fifth or sixth generation family member – cider tends to taste better that way. Take a peek at history dating back to the 1830s in Frank’s museum before making the easy 40 minute drive back to Hobart. Of course there’s always Home Hill Winery for a cheeky wine and cheese platter on the drive home!
Words: Alice Hansen
Image Credit: Tourism Tasmania & Rob Burnett