Hobart's Dark MOFO vs Taste Festival


Publishedon 29/06/2014 - 08:20 am

Ok so Dark MOFO is now over and the deep, dark depths of winter are well and truly here in Hobart. And while we are still remembering the atmosphere, entertainment and the beautiful food that was on offer at the Dark MOFO Winter Feast, we are also looking forward to the amazing summer months and the festival atmosphere that Taste and other events bring as they happen around Tasmania.

Now while it mat not be really fair to compare the moody and often mysterious events that MONA has put on for us over the last couple of years to the week long summer time extravaganza that Taste is, the comparisons are inevitable, and the food part of Dark MOFO which the Winter Feast is. This year was the first time the Winter Feast has been held on the scale that it was, and there is no doubt it was an absolutely huge success. So much so that the organisers themselves did not expect the crowds that showed up in their masses and braved the cold to eat and drink away the winter blues.

Taste FestivalWe have been going to the Taste festival each of the past 7 years and have seen it evolve and spread further and further around the surrounding areas of the Princes Wharf shed at Salamanca. The recent redevelopment of the shed has allowed an increase in crowd numbers each year and as anybody who goes to Taste knows, if you are not there early enough to get seating it is very difficult to be able to sit down and just relax with a great bottle of wine and whatever food you choose. And herein lies one of the biggest concerns we had when we attended the Winter Feast - the water-side area of the Princes Wharf Shed was not open (obviously due to the cold weather) leaving a huge shortage of seating and mass crowding within the main hall area. The seating that is available on that side of the shed was simply not in use for the Winter Feast. 

When we arrived on the Friday night to the Winter Feast we were greeted with a HUGE lineup outside which literally took 30 minutes for us to clear and get inside (even with pre-booked tickets). Once inside it was clear that it was going to take a long time to get served at any of the stalls as the limited seeting also caused rather large crowds around any of the food stalls. Even with the water-side area opened up as it is at the Taste, the crowds are still difficult to push through at the best of times. Outside on the Salamanca side of the shed there was ample room, but due to the majority of the food stalls being inside, and obviously due to the cold weather most people still tried to stay inside the shed. Now don't take these as major complaints from me. It was very obvious that the organisers did not plan for or expect the response or crowd numbers that actually showed up. And this is not a bad thing - quite simply, next year they need to plan for the massive crowds and potentially expand the opening times from the 4pm it was this year to earlier in the day (as well as possibly run the event across more days). David Walsh and his team of organisers of the Winter Feast are in some way victims of their own success when it comes to the events they host around Hobart.

The Food


So what about the food and drinks on offer? How do they stack up against each other? In our opinion, the Dark MOFO Winter Feast has a slightly more "mature" and "grown up" set of food stalls and menus on offer compared to the Taste festival in recent years. Gone are classic Hobart Festival Mushrooms and kiddies (and grown up kiddies) favourites like pizza cones and Christmas Hill Raspberry Farm's sweet selection of cheesecakes. In are things such as the MONA BBQ hosted by guest chef Jared Ingersoll, formerly from Dank St Depot in Sydney. Walking around the main hall at the Winter Feast, you could smell the mulled wine at various stalls gently simmering away, ready for the huge lineup waiting for a glass or two. We got a sense that the food on offer at the Winter Feast was a slightly better representation of the quality of food that Tasmania produces. Don't get me wrong - we genuinely look forward to spending our days eating and drinking just about everything available at the Taste Festival each and evey year. But as food lovers, we appreciated what was overall a better quailty of food in our opinion, on offer at the Winter Feast.

The Entertainment


In terms of the entertainment at each of the two festivals, it is kind of hard to compare them. The gates to the Taste Festival open at 11am each day and the first day generally coincides with the first boats arriving from the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race. Part of the attraction of being at the Taste is the long summer days and the vibe that increased doses of sunlight brings to this part of the world. Every time a new boat arrives, the crowds along the water front stop and clap to congratulate the arrivees. There are stages for bands and other entertainment, our old favourite roving band of musicians using garbage bins and other interesting items to create the rythms and beats that keep the somewhat ennebriated, sunburned and often dehydrated crowds entertained throughout the day and night.

Dark MOFO Articulated Intersect

On the other hand, the darkness and moodiness that the cold nights provide for the Winter Feast are an atmosphere and vibe of their own. The roaring flames that occasionally shoot up 20 feet in the air scare the pants off of nearly all standing close to them, the ferris wheel providing an elevated view of party, the lights from the Articulated Intersect filling and roaming the night sky as if to call in Hobart's own superhero and guardian of the city. The lyrical linguists reciting their poetic genius, the violinist hoisted up above the crowd in the main hall or the acrobat dancing vertically on their curtain suspended to the framework of the shed. Dark MOFO Winter Feast again provides what we see as a slightly more adult, mature and even cultural set of entertainers. The two festivals are literally at seasonal polar opposites but each has its own unique feel and vibe. And each of them are well worth the effort to visit.

The Taste Festival has been running for many years and is well and truly ingrained on the festival and entertainment calendar. Well over 350,000 people visited the Taste Festival in 2013 and the expectations are for it to continue to grow. Anybody who has tried to book accommodation for Hobart in the last weeks of December and first weeks of January will know just how busy this city gets. The influx of boats from the Sydney to Hobart combined with the fantastic 7 day celebration brings with it many tens of thousands of people and is a hugely beneficial event for the tourism industry here. The Taste Festival probably suits families with young children more than the late opening times of the Winter Feast. 

What Dark MOFO in general has done is created a huge tourism and economic stimulation for Tasmania when they most need it - the long cold winter months. Any local will attest to the fact that they don't get out and about as much during winter as they do in summer. A festival of the scale of Dark MOFO is plenty reason for the crowds to flock to Hobart and Tasmania in general. In some ways we still find it hard to believe that place like Cradle Mountain Lodge need to run "locals" specials to draw in reservations during the winter months. Places like this are absolutely stunningly beautiful in the winter, and what David Walsh and his team have done has potentially highlighted Tasmania as a truly desirable tourist destination at any time of the year. Hats off to him for everything he has done for Tasmania. I doubt too many people would deny him some sort of award for what he has done for the tourism industry as a whole here. He truly deserves it.

So it's only 5 months until the Taste Festival 2014. And let me tell you - we cannot wait to see you all down there enjoying the beautiful Tasmanian summer days. For now we are still remembering the beautiful wallaby burritos and the smell of that mulled wine from the Dark MOFO Winter Feast!!