The heritage-listed Ritchies Mill complex commands one of the best views in Launceston. When the original owner – presumably Mr. Ritchie – had the flour mill built in the 1830’s, he definitely had a good real estate agent. Well, apart from the Tamar River flooding issues during the early years, that is!
Now redeveloped in line with National Trust heritage guidelines, Ritchies Mill is home to several business ventures. We met with Kim Seagram for a tour of the mill. Kim (the dynamic co-owner of Stillwater) is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about all things Tasmanian, especially the local wine industry.
Kim graciously credits her management team for the continued success of Stillwater (and another bistro in Launceston, the Black Cow), while she maintains a very hectic schedule of tourism and marketing duties. The staff we encountered were definitely efficient and friendly.
Stillwater Café, Restaurant and Wine Bar
At the heart of Ritchies Mill – Stillwater Café, Restaurant and Wine Bar. We drank excellent coffee and fresh juice in the wine bar section, admiring the view of boats on the Tamar River. A riverside boardwalk has been constructed alongside, connecting Launceston Cataract Gorge Reserve with the junction of the Tamar and North Esk Rivers.
However, nice as it was in the wine bar (with the windows open catching the breeze), the slightly-elevated main dining room steps it up another notch. With magnificent rejuvenated timber floors and beams, the tables are left bare during the day for a casual dining atmosphere. Then the staff scurry around with white linen during change-over to present a formal transformation for the evening service. All bases covered, really – including breakfast!
Kim’s promotion of all things Tasmanian extends to the Arts. Taking pride of place in the dining room was “Bubbles”; artwork belonging to David Walsh of Moorilla and Moo Brew fame. It did look right at home, actually – next to the kitchen servery windows.
The artwork might change, but fortunately for the head chef and his team, the view from the kitchen to the river will always be sensational. Don’t know how they focus on prepping the fresh, local produce. The specials blackboard indicates a seasonal menu, running to selections like… Tasmanian scallop and mussel linguine with roasted tomato and garlic puree, white anchovy & capers. Yum – I’m definitely going back for lunch!
And finally to reinforce Kim’s special area of expertise, she gave us a peek inside the cellar. Formerly a loading area (the old funnel to catch the flour produced above is still in the ceiling), the thick stone walls now provide an even temperature for wine storage. The cellar is attached to the main dining room and offers a private area for conference meetings or group bookings.
So from the bottom of Ritchies Mill to the top, we ventured on to meet Becky, owner of another of Launceston’s gems…
Ritchies Mill Providore and Gallery
Owner of The Mill Providore and Gallery since February this year, Becky has implemented a focus on Tasmanian products in the wine and deli lines. The aroma from the cabinets was very enticing and the display of chocolates, cheeses, breads and meats was quite impressive. Becky’s delightful son Joe was convinced the chocolates need a “warning” sign, and he might be right!!
Not just a providore, Becky also stocks a range of gift-ware combining local with interstate and imported lines. Since the take-over, she has introduced innovative shopping experiences to cater for local demands. On the day of our visit, Becky was preparing for a special evening-hours event. She is convinced local buyers, as well as tourists, are keen to purchase handmade Tasmanian produce. And when it smells so good – I think she’s onto something!
Preferring a casual style where shoppers are greeted and then left to make their own discoveries, the team at The Mill Providore and Gallery are friendly and welcoming. The front entrance of Ritchies Mill (opposite the Penny Royal Hotel & Apartments) leads either into the providore or up to the gallery space. Currently hosting an exhibition by David Lake from Longford (south of Launceston), the gallery is a huge open space, lined with recycled timbers, with great natural lighting.
On display until November 11, David Lake’s exhibition is titled Games with Stillwater and is a series of 20 paintings featuring the Ritchies Mill precinct. The opening of the exhibition attracted 160 guests to view the clever realist paintings, capturing the architecture of Stillwater while maintaining a humorous element. Each of the paintings contains an egg hidden somewhere on the canvas – something to spark the imagination and attention of both children and adults alike.
So there you have our take on Ritchies Mill: one of Launceston’s premier destinations for shopping, eating and drinking. And all served with a side-order of pleasant things to look at. Can’t ask for more than that!
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