As soon as we pass the Woodstock sign I get that song in my head, “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” This is the Woodstock on the Channel Highway, on the way to Cygnet. You can wear flowers in your hair at Cygnet. In fact, I think it’s actively encouraged. Cygnet, the township 45 minutes’ drive south of Hobart, is known for its creatives and artists, a hand-knitted community of every thread and yarn.
There was a yarn going on in the Cygnet Garden Larder, where they sell an assortment of just-picked local vegetables and dairy and some of the best made hummus this side of the Levant. The conversation over the till was what to do with dad’s cows. The rest of it was beyond my small knowledge of cattle requirements and my attention had turned to lunch by this stage.
The shop owners in Mary Street, Cygnet, don’t feel compelled to stand behind their counters. Some sit out on the street at the front of their shop and say hello to the community. This community does not rise early, and I suspect during winter doesn’t show much before lunchtime. Some might even lay dormant until the warmer months or until the January Folk Festival, which attracts folk lovers and musicians by the Kombi load. Every inch of Mary Street is turned over to music, food stalls and space just to hang out for families and anyone who enjoys a tune.
Cygnet holds its own as a tourist destination for those who want a look at something a bit different, or to experience a community of craftsmanship in food, music, boats and butcher.
Having something of a flower power-infused feel to it, it’s no surprise that The Red Velvet Lounge offers a not-at-all scary menu of vegan and vegetarian meals. In fact, when the food arrives with a smile at your table, you can take a lot of comfort that you are in for a crafted meal that will be plentiful and a little bit good for you, all without a single mung bean in sight. The vegan nachos are loaded with beautifully cooked pinto beans and a sufficient crunchy slaw, but the cashew nut sour cream on top wins the prize. It’s a watch-me-eat-it-all kind of dish, and well worth the trip alone.
A falafel burger is something I leave to someone more hip and able to stay up later than me, but the chipotle hot sauce with roasted capsicum is warming and makes me feel just a little bit more cool for having eaten it. Neil Young’s Heart of Gold seems fitting to be playing in the background as the shimmering gold curtain hangs quietly over the small stage in the corner draped with some yet to be fired up fairly lights that tell us open mike night is the real deal here.
I bet Janis might have stepped up after a few too many bourbons on a Friday night, and Jimmy would have a crowd of girls around him by the woodfire before someone handed him a guitar to take his turn. They would have liked Cygnet.
Having comfortable and clever food offerings in a small town like Cygnet was always going to be welcomed by the surrounding area. The fire that devastated this restaurant in November 2014 is a vivid memory for the community. In the restoration, all the with the old fittings were replaced with more old fittings, including pressed tin roof and wooden cabinets.
This meeting place on a Saturday caters for local tastes and producers with a blackboard list of ciders and beers including nearby Bruny Island ales, Huon Pagan Cider and Home Hill chardonnay.
*Due to coronavirus restrictions, some venues and events may not be running as usual. To learn more, contact businesses directly.